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Obama Inauguration: Washington visit proves exciting

Kevin Lauderbaugh, 12, of Bemidji, traveled to Washington, D.C., Jan. 17 to attend the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference as a Junior Inaugural Scholar. In front of him are memorabilia from his trip. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

As President Barack Obama took the oath of office Tuesday, 12-year-old Kevin Lauderbaugh of Bemidji stood a couple of miles away, sharing the moment with crowds of people.

The Bemidji Middle School seventh-grader traveled to the nation's capital Jan. 17 to attend the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference as a Junior Inaugural Scholar.

As a part of the conference, he attended the presidential inauguration.

"It was fun and it was tiring," said Kevin, who returned to Bemidji Wednesday. "We were walking all over the place."

With masses of people around him, Kevin could neither see nor hear the inauguration on the large TV screens that were set up for the crowds.

"Everybody else was taller than us," he said.

Later that day, Kevin and the other Junior Inaugural Scholars - middle school students from across the United States - went to an inaugural ball.

"We had lots of fun doing that," Kevin said.

The president, he said, did not attend that particular ball.

During the conference, retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, former Secretary of State and founder of America's Promise Alliance, and Al Gore, former vice president and Nobel Prize winner, spoke to the youth.

Kevin said having Gore as a speaker was one of his highlights of the conference.

"(I) shook hands with him," Kevin said.

He said Gore spoke about global warming and its effect on the earth. He also said Gore spoke about a push to get the United States to move more toward wind and solar power.

Filmmaker, mountaineer and author Erik Weihenmayer also spoke to the youth. Weihenmayer wrote the book "Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther than the Eye Can See."

The conference also featured a private film screening of "The Third Monday in October" and discussion with the film's directors and stars.

Kevin said visiting the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum was another highlight of the conference. While in Washington, D.C., he also saw the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol.

"We saw lots of people," he added.

Kevin traveled to Washington in the summer of 2007 to attend the Junior National Young Leaders Conference after his fifth-grade teacher, Pat Reynolds, nominated him for it.

He noted that he wants to one day return to Washington to study more about history.

Kevin lives in Bemidji with his grandparents, Larry and Gail Lauderbaugh, and two sisters, Stephanie, 10, and Nikki, 9.