By Curt Yeomans
Dakota Donaldson has never been to Washington, D.C., but that will change this weekend when she steps off a plane in the nation's capital.
The 13-year-old Hampton resident, who is a student at Creekside Christian Academy in McDonough, will attend the inauguration of Barack Obama with the "People to People" Presidential Inauguration Program.
She discovered the inauguration opportunity as a participant in People to People's Student Ambassador program in June 2008.
"It will be exciting to be in the same area, up close to Barack Obama," said Donaldson. "I've never been that close to a president before.
"I'll probably understand more what a presidential inauguration means to people, because he has to give a speech to the nation," she said. "I want to know what he's going to do to affect gas prices, the economy, home foreclosures and schools," she said.
As a student ambassador, Donaldson spent a month touring eastern Mediterranean countries. To be chosen for the program, she had to submit an application and get letters of recommendation from her teachers and community leaders.
After she joined the student ambassador program, she was selected, along with others in the national educational travel program, to attend the inauguration. One requirement she had to meet was familiarizing herself with the activities that will take place Jan. 20.
Donaldson had to learn about every aspect of presidential inaugurations, from the swearing-in ceremony, to the new president's address to the nation, to the parade which follows.
She said attending her first inauguration will complete that learning process. The Hampton teen will hear the new president address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous, "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963.
Aside from Obama's speech, Donaldson said she is eager to see the inaugural parade.
"It will be fun to see all of the elected officials, the unusual police [The Secret Service], the red, white and blue, and all of the other people who are there to see the inauguration."
Tracy Walton-Donaldson, Dakota's mother, will not attend the inauguration, but is happy her daughter will be there.
"I'm really proud of her, because there are a lot of things young children don't get to experience in person," said Walton-Donaldson. "They get to read about a lot of things, but reading about events, and actually getting to experience them are not the same."