A inaugural trip full of teaching moments

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 18, 2009 - 11:56 PM

Quiet time on a bus headed east to see Obama sparked education, reflection and inspiration.

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Ronnie Giles 13, a 7th grader at Harvest Prep surrounded by classmates make their across Wisconsin Sunday morning on their way to Washington D.C.

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ALONG INTERSTATE 94 IN WISCONSIN -- A slight ray of sunrise glinting through his bus window, Braxton Haulcy wasted no time using a trip to see Barack Obama's inauguration as a teaching marathon for his son.

It was just hours into their early-morning journey Sunday, and everyone around them was slumped under coats and blankets, asleep in their seats. Braxton and 14-year-old Bakari sat under a fluorescent reading light, paging through a glossy coffee table book: "Life -- The American Journey of Barack Obama."

They studied photos of Obama's childhood and his years in college and law school.

It is a trip full of teaching moments for the 23 students and 19 adults on board the Minnesota Coaches bus rolling east on the Interstate. Leaders at Minneapolis' Harvest Prep School, which chartered the bus, purposely included community elders who could share their slice of history -- their experiences of impassioned struggles against segregation and overt racism.

But like much of the conversation among the plush blue seats over the Midwest prairie, Braxton's message focused on what lies ahead. Obama is inspirational, he said, and he wanted to inspire Bakari, a Minnetonka High School freshman, as well.

"Whatever you do you need to put some effort into it," Braxton told his son, looking at Obama's photos of graduation. "If you end up being average, that's fine, but you always want to shoot for excellence."

Obama's presidency was unlikely, Braxton said. "I didn't think this would happen in my lifetime. I wasn't sure it would happen in your lifetime," he told Bakari.

So the two sat, Obama baseball caps on their heads, turning the pages.

They came to a section about Obama's days as a community organizer.

"It's important to look beyond yourself to doing things that are going to benefit the community," said Braxton, a market research vice president who serves on the boards of two community organizations in the Twin Cities. "We live in a larger universe than just our immediate family."

Their trip to Washington, he said, would be a chance to see how Obama will fit into the larger landscape of politics -- of making laws and developing policy.

"Didn't I, like, read that in my history book?" Bakari asked.

"Yeah, well, see, this is history," his dad replied, looking into his son's eyes. "This is history."

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102

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