Volume 125, Number 52
High school sophomore wrangles ticket to Obama inauguration
BY SHELL EYL
It took the youthful spirit of the "Yes we can!" mantra to propel Barack Obama to the White House. That same spirit inspired a 16-year-old from the Maddock High School to find a way to attend the Obama inauguration in Washington, DC. How does a teenager score tickets to the most popular show in the nation?
Well Preston Gilderhus, son of Eddy Gilderhus of Oberon and Renee Gilderhus of Maddock, is a pretty smart kid and has the grades to prove it. He’s a high honors student, co-editor of his school yearbook, works on the school newspaper, is student advisor to the FFA and co-president of both the science club and the student council. He went to the International Science Fair in 2008 and received a Gold Award at the National FFA Convention that same year.
But his intelligence isn’t nearly as impressive as his desire to learn and experience new things. And though he’s been following the Obama campaign since the primaries a year ago, he didn’t get swept away by Obamamania like many kids his age. He says he bases his support for the president on his views about education and foreign policy issues, not his charisma.
When Obama won in November, Preston, like millions of citizens, dreamed of watching the inauguration of America’s first black president live and in person. But he didn’t just sit around and dream about it, he figured out a way to make it happen. Apparently the senators and congressmen each get a limited number of inauguration tickets to distribute among the people of their state. So this kid, without his parents’ permission and with absolutely no political connections, called Kent Conrad’s office and got his name put on a list for tickets.
But Christmas came and went with no word. He thought it wasn’t meant to be. So when Senator Conrad’s office finally called back he told them he couldn’t go. But after discussing it with his dad he called the senator’s office back January 6 and got two different tickets to replace the ones he’d turned down. Then he went on Expedia.com and arranged the whole trip, right down to the rental car, in less than a week. Wow! Talk about determination.
Preston and his dad flew out Friday, Jan. 16. Their hotel was in Richmond, Va. so they drove 100 miles one way every day and rode the metro from Franconia, Va. into Washington, DC. They spent Saturday site seeing. They went to the Museum of Natural History and the National Archives, where the Declaration of Independence is on display.
Sunday they attended the Lincoln Memorial Inauguration Concert where Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor and many other stars performed a concert. They even saw President Bush’s helicopter land at the White House on his return from a final weekend at Camp David.
Monday they picked up their tickets and attended a reception for 600 North Dakotans attending the inauguration at the Raymond House Office Building in Washington, DC. They met and were photographed with Senator Byron Dorgan, Representative Earl Pomeroy, Ed Schultz and former Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer to name a few. What impressed Preston most about these guys was the realization of how hard they actually work in Washington. He said they go way above and beyond what is required to help their constituents. He is considering majoring in political science at college and maybe being a senator himself someday.
Tuesday they arrived in Washington, DC at around 6 a.m. and stood in line for an hour and a half only to be told they were in the wrong spot. They finally arrived at their assigned place behind the reflecting pool and stood for another 3.5 hours in 15 degree temperatures waiting for the festivities to begin. A local group led the crowd in aerobic dance exercises, keeping their blood pumping and spirits high while they waited to see history unfold before their eyes. An estimated 1.8 million people, more than 7,000 portable toilets, 27,000 chairs in front — were packed onto the mall. But Preston reports the crowd was ecstatic, the toilets were pretty clean and the only thing that froze were his feet. Like a typical North Dakota teenager, he wore tennis shoes instead of snow boots.
Preston said the thing that surprised him most about the whole trip was how nice everyone was to each other. He emptied his pockets in case he got mugged and braced himself for the rude, pushy people from the East Coast. But it turns out the blue states are just like the red states, only a different color. That kind of sums up America, too.
Some people sit around waiting for things to change. Kids like Preston are the kind of change we need. So when people say we can’t change America with just one election, our response should be YES WE CAN!
When asked to describe the whole experience Preston uses one word, expressed with the wide-eyed hope of youth, "AWESOME! It was just awesome!" So are you, Preston, and so is the future of America.
Preston Gilderhus of Oberon, center, is shown with Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer and his wife, Nancy Shafer at the North Dakota reception the day before the inauguration. Schafer is now the former secretary of agriculture. He is also a former governor.
US Congressman Earl Pomeroy visits with Preston Gilderhus.
Preston is pictured with US Senator Byron Dorgan.
A part of the huge crowd is shown behind Preston. An estimated 1.5 million to 2 million people were present.
Preston Gilderhus of Oberon is shown in the foreground with the Lincoln Memorial in the background.
Preston is shown on the National Mall with the US Capitol building in the background.
Approximately 27,000 chairs were set up in front of the US Capitol for VIPs.
The Benson County commissioners are shown at their second meeting of 2009 on January 20. Left to right are Curtis Hvinden of Maddock, Lowell Haagenson of Leeds, Michael Steffan of St. Michael, David Davidson of Fort Totten, Jason Lee of Maddock and County Auditor Bonnie Erickson, who serves as secretary for the board. Lee is chairman and Haagenson is vice chairman.
Horizons at Leeds
The community of Leeds continued the next stage of its Horizons program by starting the LeadershipPlenty program on Sunday, Jan. 18. The idea of LeadershipPlenty is to recognize that anyone in the community can become a leader and also to help bring ideas and goals into action.
The group met at the Leeds Community Center and a supper was served by the St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church women. Twelve adults and 10 youth attended. More people are needed for the next meeting scheduled on February 8 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Leeds Community Center. A free supper will be served. Kyle Jorgenson and Michael Urness are shown sharing their ideas on one of the activities.
Maxine Follman and Connie Elverud work on an activity as more people work in the background.
Legos at Leeds
The sixth graders at the Leeds Elementary School have been busy constructing Lego mission models and robots. They have also been programing the robots to complete autonomous missions. Left to right are Carlito Leppard, Sara Galbraith, Julissa McGarvey, Aidan Ritterman, Kalvin Slaubaugh and Austin Blazer.
Several students participated in the area’s first ever regional "First Lego League" tournament in at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake. Left to right are Tristan Henderson, Paige Johnson, Andrea Jorgenson, Riley Lawrence, Austin Thorp and Timber Morgan.
Compete in horse judging at 4-H roundup in Denver
Janna Rice, the daughter of John Jr. and Barb Rice of Maddock, and Kristine Keller, the daughter of Ron and Tamara Keller of Esmond, represented Benson County and North Dakota on January 10 at the National Western 4-H Roundup in Denver, Colo.
They were part of a team of horse judgers that won the state 4-H contest in July and a chance to compete at nationals. Because there were not enough senior horse judgers from Benson County, they joined with McKenzie County, which also did not have enough to fill a team. The McKenzie County teammates were Hayes Feilmeier, the son of Lonnie and Marcy Reilmeier, and Michael Pacheco, the son of Kris Pacheco, all of Watford City.
Their coach was Dale Naze, The NDSU Extension agent in McKenzie County.
Prior to nationals the girls and Barb Rice were able to have a few practice sessions in Bismarck and Dickinson with the Watford City group. Mostly the 4-H’ers had to study on their own.
The group met in Belfield on January 7 and traveled together to Denver for the National Western Stock Show, the site of their contest. En route they visited the Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo. The college’s equestrian team held a workout for them.
At the National Western 4-H Roundup many activities were held encouraging 4-H’ers to get to know others from states across the nation. The team placed 9th in oral reasons, 10th in halter classes, 14th in performance classes and 13th overall.
Individual placings were:
• Pacheco — 16th in oral reasons, 26th in halter classes, 43rd in performance classes and 37th overall; • Keller — 24th in oral reasons, 56th in halter classes, 30th in performance classes and 48th overall; • Feilmeier — 49th in oral reasons, 31st in halter classes, 50th in performance classes and 41st overall; • Rice — 34th in oral reasons, 28th in halter classes, 36th in performance classes and 32nd overall.
En route home a stop was made at Hot Springs, SD for some fun dipping in the river with natural hot springs in the middle of the winter.
When asked their favorite part of the trip, Janna and Kristine concurred it was the people they met. An interesting note about this team is that McKenzie County is where Janna’s mother, Barb was in 4-H for 10 years in her youth.
Local sponsors for the team included Ramsey National Bank and Trust in Maddock; First International Bank, Lautt’s Feed & Supply and the Eagles Aerie, all of Harvey; Fessenden Co-op; the Benson County Farmers Press in Minnewaukan; Farm & Home Improvement 4-H Club and Benson County 4-H.
Pictured left to right are Michael Pacheco, Kristine Keller, Hayes Feilmeier and Janna Rice. The four competed as horse judgers at 4-H nationals in Denver.
Library gets grant
The Devils Lake Area Foundation recently awarded grants to several area non-profit organizations. The Minnewaukan Public Library was a recipient of one of those grants. The $1,200 grant will be used to purchase a variety of children’s books and adult fiction bestsellers for the library. Pictured are Devils Lake Area Foundation Committee member Lynda Pearson with Cathy Burkhardsmeier, librarian of the Minnewaukan Public Library.
Oberon bowling party
The pictures are from our Quarterly Attendance Reward Party. Students who missed no more than one day of school in the second quarter at the Oberon School were rewarded with a bowling party at a bowling alley in New Rockford on January 16. First and second graders at the party were, left to right, Taylah Thumb, Jore Thomas, Carlee Wadsworth and and Mariyah Anchondo.
Left to right are Bailey Thumb, Larse Azure, Bryson Robertson, Steven DeMarce and Wyatt Ross.
Oberon kindergarteners at the bowling party are shown with their teacher. Left to right are Kellen Keo, Mrs. Johnsrud, Isis Greywater and Mena Robertson.