When we saw this news story about the Congressional Youth Leadership Conference (CYLC) planning to refund $1 million to irate parents for bungling their kids’ big trip to Obama’s inauguration, we wondered if that was the same trip that our correspondent Tess Langan had been on. Indeed it was. We asked Tess to tell about her CYLC experience:
To be honest I was not at all surprised that many parents were dissatisfied with the CLYC program and were seeking refunds. The group had a very impressive itinerary: captivating, distinguished speakers, and theatrical performances from Capitol Steps and a Shakespeare Company. But the program lacked the facilities, transportation and staff to accommodate the 15,000 students on the trip. It was because of the huge numbers on the trip that it took at least a half hour to find your bus every day in the cold, that my unlucky Polk group always ended up in the rafters, and that at the closing Gala we we waited in lines for about fifteen minutes just to exit the building.
I overheard many students warning of their parents’ wrath. One girl claimed that the information provided before the trip had been misleading, “They made it seem like we had tickets to the Inauguration and that we would be going to an Inaugural Ball where we could see Obama, ” she said.
I had heard many complaints throughout the trip and had formed a diplomatic opinion on claims of a “rip off.” On the one hand, poor organizing had led to missed plays, meals and speakers. And the meals were often not worth eating. My personal lowlights were when my bus arrived at our night of theater so late that we were just in time for a rowdy standing ovation. Not only had we missed the entire performance of a modern day Shakespeare interpretation, but the audience’s exuberance left us with little doubt that we had missed something good.
On another occasion, I ate a bagged lunch of a near petrified muffin and slimy turkey sandwich that would have had trouble passing any health inspector’s evaluation, and it did not sit well with my stomach. So while the first blind man to summit Mount Everest spoke I lay on a gurney in a closet of a room alternating between lucidity, retching and sleeping. These were the lowlights, but the highlights were in abundance.
Yes, problems arose on the trip because of the sheer numbers of people attending. But those numbers were also part of what made the weekend so exciting. Overall, my rumbling stomach and the biting air did little to taint the sweetness of being there to hear the stirring words of the Inaugural Address of the first black president of the United States of America.
Want to hear more? Pissed-off parents are blogging about the over-priced, over-hyped organizational fiasco, here.