Claire Mildren knows that she has a rare opportunity to be part of history.
On Jan. 20, the high school senior will join classmates in Washington, D.C. and watch — in person — as Republican Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office to become the country’s 45th president.
“I’m excited to support the new president,” said Mildren, 17, a senior at All Saints’ Episcopal School in Fort Worth. “It will be a historic moment that I can reflect on for the rest of my life.”
Mildren and more than three dozen classmates are among the multitudes of North Texans preparing to journey to D.C. to attend the inauguration, inaugural parade or the many balls and parties held to celebrate the beginning of a new presidential term.
Mildren, who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in her school’s mock election, said she knows she will be front and center for a key moment in history.
“I’m expecting an eye-opening ceremony that will remind people of the unity of our nation.”
This ceremony follows what was an over-the-top controversial election year that touched on illegal votes, recounts, threats to the Electoral College and Russian influence as Trump won the Electoral College vote and Clinton won the popular vote.
Interest appeared to grow recently for Trump’s inaugural ceremonies — which involve Mark Burnett, the producer who worked with Trump on The Apprentice — as the president-elect traveled around the country thanking voters for their support in the election and continued making political appointments.
“I’m eager to see people come together to support the peaceful transfer of power,” said Eric Whitfield, another 17-year-old All Saints’ senior traveling to the inauguration with classmates and teachers. “I think this will be a good opportunity to meet politicians and other young people who have a professional mindset.”
Ann Baldwin, who heads All Saints’ history department, will be one of four teachers guiding this field trip, which will include the inauguration, inaugural parade, concerts, an inaugural ball and visits to the Capitol, museums, monuments, memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.
“Each inauguration brings its own experience,” Baldwin said. “But certainly this presidential campaign and election have brought rich discussion into the classroom and I expect that to continue throughout our trip and the rest of the year.”
All Saints’ students and teachers will spend around a week in Washington on what may be one of the school’s best-attended inaugural trips in years.
Students committed to the trip last spring, not knowing who would win the fierce battle for the White House.
This will be the third inaugural trip Baldwin has taken students on, having attended President Barack Obama’s ceremonies in 2009 and 2013.
“The other two inauguration trips I’ve made with students were well attended,” she said. “But this year, the level of interest was even higher. I attribute it both to word of mouth from prior years and the excitement surrounding this election in particular.”
She said she believes the trip will be a real-life history lesson for students.
“I’m hopeful that what we have learned in the classroom will translate into reality in Washington, D.C.,” Baldwin said. “I also hope this will begin a lifelong journey for them politically, whether they choose to simply cast their vote or run for office.”
More than 20 students from Southern Methodist University also will be in Washington to see the inauguration, attend an SMU alumni event and attend the Texas State Society’s Black Tie and Boots inaugural ball.
“You think about some of the great speeches in American history, and so many of them come from presidents on that inaugural stage,” said William Hagens, a junior political communications and political science double major who someday hopes to land a job as a political campaign manager. “I’m looking forward to seeing something historic.”
The SMU students will travel with Christopher Salinas, director of public discourse in SMU’s Division of Communication Studies.
“This is one of those unique experiences you want from college,” he said. “Years from now, students won’t remember everything that happened in the classroom, but they will remember this.
“For the rest of their lives, they will remember they were at a presidential inaugural address.”
A number of politicians plan on attending the festivities.
Among them: Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.
Price was already planning to be in Washington for the U.S. Conference of Mayors from Jan. 17 to 19.
She will extend her stay to attend inaugural events — and talk to Trump’s staff about important issues and needs facing cities like Fort Worth across the country — while representing Community Leaders of America, a group of conservative mayors.
She plans to see the inauguration and parade, as well as attend the Texas Black Tie and Boots ball, weaving in already scheduled talks with Trump’s staff.
“Hopefully it will be a good chance for Fort Worth to get some exposure,” said Price, who last attended former President George W. Bush’s second inauguration. “And it’s a chance to see history being made.”
North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino also will be at the inauguration with friends and family.
This is the fourth inauguration he will attend, having gone to both of Obama’s and one of President George W. Bush’s.
He didn’t learn until late December that he would indeed get tickets to the inauguration for his group, so then he scrambled to find somewhat affordable hotel rooms and airfares.
Once he booked everything, he started getting excited.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Trevino, who plans to attend the Texas ball and hopes to talk to Trump’s staff while in Washington. “I want to see where this goes.”
Republican Anne-Marie Birdwell of Fort Worth is thrilled to be heading to the inauguration.
“This was an historic election year,” said Birdwell, director of operations for the Republican Party of Texas. “The American people have suffered under eight years of failed leadership and broken promises by the Obama administration, and this election was a total repudiation of the Obama style of leadership.
“I would not miss the opportunity to see this change in leadership in person.”
Birdwell, 26, said she will spend a little less than a week in Washington and plans to see the inauguration and attend the Black Tie and Boots ball.
“I am looking forward to celebrating our new leadership with other Texans,” she said. “I think this is a new era for our country.”
Time to go
Candace Sandifer has had opportunities to go to presidential inaugurations in the past when she lived in the Washington area — for both George W. Bush and Obama — but cold weather and a hectic law school schedule contributed to her never going.
“The city is crazy during that week,” said Sandifer, 34, who lives in Colleyville with her husband and their three children. “It’s wild. There are tons of people in town and super high security.”
But now she’s ready to go.
She and family, including her husband, parents and brother, plan to head to Washington for the inauguration and parade and for the Black Tie and Boots ball. While there, they also will tour the Capitol and attend some cocktail parties.
Sandifer, who admits she isn’t the biggest Trump fan, said she’s excited about going and is grateful there will be a Republican president back in the White House.
She’s not quite sure, though, what to expect.
“It’s going to be interesting no matter what,” she said. “Everything Donald Trump does is interesting.
“I’m hoping we can look at this as a day to come together, watch the peaceful transition of power with the pomp and circumstance. Inauguration Day makes me proud to be an American.”
The Presidential Inaugural Committee has released an early list of groups planning to be part of the inaugural parade after President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence are sworn in to office Jan. 20.
“As participants follow in the footsteps of our new president and vice president down Pennsylvania Avenue, they will be adding their names to the long list of Americans who have honored our country by marching in the inaugural parade,” said Sara Armstrong, CEO of the committee.
The Texas groups in the parade include 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment from Fort Hood, Lil Wranglers from College Station and the Texas State University Strutters from San Marcos.