When Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States on January 20, Hugo Salazar, a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American, will witness this historic event firsthand as one of a number of young college students participating in the national University Presidential Inaugural Conference Jan. 17-21 in Washington, D.C.
Salazar said he's very honored and proud to be able to witness the event in person.
Salazar, who will graduate in May 2009 with a major in chemistry and a minor in biology and plans to attend The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, was selected among academically talented students to attend the conference.
"I think I was chosen because I've participated in these types of leadership programs before. During high school, I attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in Houston, and during my first summer of freshman year at UTPA I attended the International Scholar Laureate Program in Australia, which also focused on medicine," he said.
A top 10 percent graduate in his class at South Texas High School for Health Professions, Salazar is a member of numerous academic honorary societies at UTPA and has mentored incoming freshmen in their transition to college as well as welcomed guests from around the world to the UTPA campus in his role as a University Ambassador. As a research assistant to Dr. Thomas Whelan, UTPA associate professor of chemistry, Salazar helped conduct a geochemical analysis of barren zones in the Lower Laguna Madre and in April 2008 presented their findings at a Texas Bays and Estuaries Meeting at The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute at Port Aransas, Texas.
While his grandmother Aurora Cazares helped him pay for his trip to Australia, Salazar said his parents Hugo and Becky Salazar provided generous support to supplement money he earned from his jobs as a research assistant and student assistant in chemistry classes to help pay for the trip to Washington, D.C.
At the conference, Salazar will have the opportunity to participate in the pageantry and ceremony of the inauguration by witnessing the official swearing-in, Obama's address and the inaugural parade. Conference participants will also attend the Black Tie Inaugural Ball. In addition, the conference includes a full schedule of presentations by world-renowned leaders and speakers including Colin Powell and Al Gore and a chance to engage in panel discussions and debates by political commentators and experts such as James Carville, Mary Matalin, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.
"I've never been to Washington, D.C. so I'm very excited to be able to explore the city during our free afternoons. I'm anxious to walk around the National Mall to see the monuments and to visit the Smithsonian Museum," he said.
While he supported Senator Hillary Clinton in the primary election in Texas, he said he would love to have the opportunity to meet and talk to the new president, whom he supported this past fall with his vote.
"I'd like to ask him what his initial plans are for trying to better the country. I know the economy is probably his top priority, but I want to hear the facts from him and would like the reassurance that he knows what to do and how to implement it. I'd also thank him for not forgetting us here in the Valley when he was campaigning, and I'd like to let him know that we have our own concerns here that we'd like addressed, like the border wall currently being built," Salazar said.
Salazar has enthusiastically agreed to let Rio Grande Valley residents read about his impressions of the inaugural events, the new president and Washington, D.C. through a blog he will update daily during his five-daylong adventure. You can read and provide comments to his blog starting Jan. 17 at the UTPA Civic Engagement student blog site at http://www.utpa.edu/blogs/civicengagement". A direct link to Hugo's inauguration posts is at http://www.utpa.edu/blogs/civicengagement/index.cfm/Inauguration. You can also subscribe to an RSS feed with this link http://www.utpa.edu/blogs/civicengagement/rss.cfm?mode=full&mode2=cat&catid=catid=C92F159D-DA5C-B8F6-1A58B58AF603FFF8.