Students seek tickets to Obama inauguration

Olivia Bobrowsky

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Weinberg junior Jeff Cao already booked his flight. He’s all set to be in D.C. for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, except for one pertinent detail: He doesn’t have a ticket to the event yet.

He’s contacted two congressmen for tickets to Inauguration Day events and is planning on calling a third.

“I’m hoping something will materialize,” Cao said.

It’s a frustratingly common problem for anyone who hopes to witness Obama speak on Jan. 20. Demand for tickets soared after his election, reaching unprecedented levels.

Since Nov. 4, Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s (D.-Ill.) office has received about 1,000 requests, said spokesman Peter Karafotas. Tickets will not be distributed until January, and Karafotas is not yet sure how many will be available. In 2004, the office distributed 140.

Schakowsky will wait to see how many people request tickets by January to decide who gets priority. It will not necessarily be first come, first serve, but constituents are Schakowsky’s first concern, Karafotas said.

“We’ve never been in this situation before,” Karafotas said. “In the past we’ve always been able to satisfy people’s requests. We’ve actually had tickets left over.”

This election’s historic nature accounts for that change, Karafotas said. Obama’s campaign energized new voters, and their excitement is extending well past November.

“I couldn’t live with myself if I missed out on the event,” said Weinberg sophomore Jordan Fein, who spent the five days prior to the election canvassing in Ohio for Obama. “I have a vested interest, and now that he’s won the election it’s really important to see what he’s going to do with his speech.”

Weinberg junior Matthew Fischler said Obama’s inaugural address is not just pertinent to students who have a vested interest, but to every young voter.

“I’m very interested to see how he calls on our generation and keeps us engaged,” he said.

Fischler and Fein are two students who actually have tickets for the inauguration. Northwestern’s American Studies Program secured 16 tickets for the weekend as a way to “put (their classes) into context,” Fischler said.

“It sounds pretty ridiculous to not go because they’re basically subsidizing the entire trip,” he said. “The main reason people are not going is because we’re missing two days of class.”

Cao said the trip’s cost would be an issue if he wasn’t from D.C. Otherwise, he would just watch it on TV.

“But there’s always just another element of it when you’re there in person,” Cao said. “Inaugurations are such significant events, and this is especially significant.”