By Anna Lothson
For most of the week following President Barack Obama's second inauguration, political analysts picked apart his speech. Most concluded it had a stronger tone.
One 9-year-old girl in the crowd agreed. More specifically, one 9 1/2-year-old Oak Parker who knows a thing or two about being around a president agreed.
"I thought, 'Wow, he's serious'," said Elise Pope, oldest daughter of Village President David Pope. The fourth-grader traveled with her family, including her mom Beth and 6-year-old sister Vivienne to witness the inauguration in person.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Elise said, recalling her first trip to the Capitol, "because that's [Obama's] last time."
Her initial thoughts of the day were about the outfits worn by the Obama women, which also got national media play, and the smiles on the faces of the president's daughters when he took the oath. She noticed their hair styles and wondered what it would be like to grow up in a house that came with multiple swimming pools and a bowling alley.
Her younger sister wasn't quite as in tune, but Elise thinks she got the point.
"I don't know if she exactly knew all about it, but I think she thought it was pretty amazing to see the president of the USA."
Big sister, however, picked up on the main points, as she listed poverty, education and the economy as issues she thinks the president is trying to address.
Her dad, who is finishing his second term as Oak Park's president, said the day was a good learning experience for the family.
"Beth and I feel it's important to expose the girls to the civic and cultural life of our community and our country," David said. "The inauguration of President Obama was a great way to help [Elise] and Vivienne understand a little more about the democratic process in action."
For Elise, the memory of the day remains strong. She recalls an elderly woman crying, but a happy cry, she said. And she remembers how cold it was, and how much traveling and walking there was that day. She remembers the museums and spending time with her family.
But about a week later, she also realized she came back knowing more than when she left Oak Park.
"It didn't seem that interesting to me before I went, but that's probably because I didn't understand it that much," Elise said. After the trip, the Beye Elementary student was excited and said she'll probably pay attention more when the president speaks.
"I learned that there are a lot more people in the world than I thought there was," she said, still in awe of the 1.5 million estimated to be in attendance that day. "And [I learned] that life is important."