Capitol Presence

The valedictorian of Frewsburg Central School’s class of 2010 recently had an opportunity to witness living history.

John Nelson, who is now attending Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., was selected to attend the Collegiate Presidential Inauguration Conference – which included an invite to President Barack Obama’s 2013 inauguration ceremony.

The Jan. 21 ceremony was only one component of the conference – a five-day program that provides scholars with a deeper understanding of the history behind the electoral process and the traditions surrounding the presidential inauguration. According to Nelson, his selection for the ceremony was due to an experience he had had as a high school student.

“When I was in high school, I attended a National Youth Leadership Forum on law,” said Nelson. “I was originally selected for that by the high school teachers, and then based on how we did at the forum, we were recommended by our leaders there to attend the (Collegiate Presidential Inauguration) conference. So, I was aware that I would be attending it for the past nine or 10 months.”

The conference is a nonpartisan education event that is held in Washington, D.C. in celebration and recognition of the inauguration of the president and vice president of the United States. While the conference attendees participated in the inauguration event, Nelson said that he and the other inaugural scholars maintained a packed schedule throughout the five-day conference.

“We spent a few days talking about the inauguration itself and its history, the roles of the president and the U.S. government as well as the incoming administration and some of the issues it might face,” said Nelson. “We started out on (Jan. 20) having a discussion of the history of the inauguration, and then on (Jan. 21) we went to the inauguration,” he said. “We were there for most of the day, and then that night, we reflected on the president’s (inaugural address) and what he said. The following day, we continued doing that and talked about the future of the (Obama) administration.”

According to Nelson, the conference culminated in a ball for the attendees on the evening of Jan. 22.

“I was very glad for the fact that (John) was invited to go, and be so involved,” said Mary Nelson, John’s mother. “He got to watch history in the making, and be right up front to see the whole thing. His goal is to study law in D.C. somewhere, so hopefully that will work out for him.”

Nelson is currently pursuing two degrees at Allegheny College – double-majoring in political science and history. In his studies, his focus is on public policy and public law.

“I want to work on Capitol Hill and work with the government on legislation. And I enjoy litigation,” he said.

Nelson has a personal connection with the Washington area, having spent a semester at American University. Nelson said that attending the conference has strengthened this connection.

“I think the conference helped,” he said. “I had just spent a semester studying in D.C., and I was able to connect what I had learned during the semester with what I was learning at the conference. (The conference) didn’t necessarily heighten my interest in law itself, but definitely in the Washington, D.C. area and in American history.”

Additionally, Nelson is also acting as a student liaison between Allegheny University and the Robert H. Jackson Center, an opportunity which came about through a summer internship with the center last year. Nelson has a personal interest in Jackson and hopes to write about his legacy for a senior project.