LANSING | Thornton Fractional South senior Darion Elzia will never be able to say he voted for Barack Obama.
Yet the president likely gained a lifelong fan in the form of Elzia, a member of the Chicago-based South Shore Drill Team, who was among the thousands who participated in the inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C., for the incumbent president.
The South Shore group, of which Elzia has been a member for six years, marched in the parade in Washington to honor Obama’s swearing-in for a second term.
And Elzia, who won’t be 18 and eligible to vote until later this year, said the highlight for him was the point when the South Shore group marched past the enclosed area where Obama, first lady Michelle and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, were seated.
“Being able to see Obama up close when we walked past his little booth, I’ll never forget that,” said Elzia, whose group left Friday night for Washington and returned to the Chicago area early Tuesday.
While Elzia was not able to vote for Obama in either 2008 or last year, he said his family consisted of Obama supporters.
While some people, primarily Obama critics, have tried to make an issue of the fewer people who attended the inaugural festivities this year compared to January 2009, Elzia said he detected a sense of excitement from those people who were there.
“If anything, a lot of people were overexcited,” he said. “They were overjoyed to be there.”
He said the team spent the past two months in special rehearsals to prepare for the inaugural, although he said the group is used to performing its flag drills in parades at various levels.
Nonetheless, Elzia said the weekend was a special moment for him, likely to be a highlight of his final year of high school.
“It’s going to be hard to top this,” said Elzia, who said he’d like to be a music teacher someday and has hopes of attending Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
The South Shore Drill Team is not Elzia’s only extra-curricular activity. He also participates in the T.F. South marching band and is a member of the dance team at the high school as well.
All of which Elzia said he enjoys because he likes the spectacle these groups put on, particularly the drill team with its combination of flags and rifles.
“It’s cool to watch, and more fun to actually do,” he said.