President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney came to GW Friday to honor America’s veterans in an inaugural event at the Smith Center. University administrators should be commended for bringing such a high-profile event to GW and introducing the newest neighbors to campus. But with many seats at the event remaining empty, University and inauguration officials should have made a more concerted effort to include students.
The event, the first inclusion of GW in the official calendar in recent memory, was by all accounts a stirring and dramatic experience. Dignitaries present included Foggy Bottom neighbor and former Sen. and presidential candidate Bob Dole, his wife Elizabeth, Sen. John McCain, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and GW alumnus and newly appointed Secretary of State Colin Powell. GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg gave opening remarks.
Having so many political luminaries on campus at one time is a wonderful opportunity to introduce GW to the new administration as a venue for future events and a resource for students who want to become involved in national politics. An event such as Friday’s is also exactly the reason many students chose GW for their college experience.
President Trachtenberg often cites the intangible advantages of the University, including its proximity to the center of political power and the propensity for students to rub elbows with ambassadors, senators, even presidents. Therefore, the inability for many students to participate due to lackluster publicity and coordination by inaugural and University officials is lamentable.
Many students knew of the event, but University statements all included caveats that no tickets were available or that the event was sold out, giving the impression that students should not bother to come. In reality, although the event moved to the Smith Center because it required a larger venue, hundreds of seats that could easily have accommodated eager GW students were left empty.
In the future, more visits from the new president are certainly welcome, but hopefully organizers will do a better job of including the students who call GW home.