COLUMBIA, SC — This morning, Elizabeth Rhett, her two sisters and her two daughters will climb on a bus in Ridgeland and ride nine hours north to a hotel outside of Washington, D.C.
Monday morning, they will rise at 4 a.m. for breakfast, then ride into Washington, D.C., where their bus will drop them off about a mile from the National Mall. There, the five Jasper County women will walk to watch the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Rhett, 63, will be just fine despite the long travel and walk, her daughter Patricia Rhett said.
The only thing old about her is her age, Patricia Rhett, 35, said of her mother, who works three or four days a week at the Department of Social Services and frequently recruits her daughter to help do things for the community. Shes young at heart.
The group may not get close enough to see the stage or shake the presidents hand Elizabeth Rhetts unlikely wish but being in Washington for the historic moment will still be special, they say.
It means a great lot to me because this will be my first time ... of going up there and being just that close. I know I wont be able to, and I wish I could, just shake his hand, Elizabeth Rhett said. I am so thrilled. My suitcase is packed, ready to go.
The president and Vice President Joe Biden will be sworn in privately today the date the U.S. Constitution designates for them to take office. The public ceremony will be Monday, Martin Luther King Day.
Elizabeth Rhetts involvement with organizing Jasper Countys Martin Luther King Day parade in 2009 kept her in Ridgeland, instead of going to Washington for Obamas historic first inauguration.
Then, in September, she had a ticket to hear the president accept his partys nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. But weather forced organizers to move the event to a smaller venue and Rhett had to sit in an overflow area.
But this year, the timing worked out.
A life in service
A Ridgeland native, Elizabeth Rhett has made a life for herself in social services and politics.
She works at Social Services providing emergency assistance to people who have lost their homes or jobs, or those who need help with bills, food, transportation and other services.
Spending her days helping others, even when she has sworn never to take social assistance, makes the presidents message resonate with her, she said.
An officer in the Jasper County Democratic Party, Rhett also has worked at the polls for 30 years, she said.
Patricia Rhett, a chemist who works for a company in Georgia that makes additives used in petroleum products, said her mother started working at the polls after hearing concerns about the voting process.
Some people just sit around and complain about how things are. My mom isnt a complainer, shes a doer, Patricia Rhett said. It means a lot to me knowing that my mom takes voting and politics seriously. Shes a good role model that way.
Elizabeth Rhetts two sisters also work at the polls, Patricia Rhett said, adding she is proud of her familys active involvement in government.
Its a collective effort, she said. Were going to clean this place up.
Patricia Rhett has her own take on what seeing the presidents inauguration will mean.
Just being able to watch my mom, knowing that shes worked hard, knowing that shes going to be there and have a chance to go. Its a story that Ill get to tell my children.
Reach Self at (803)771-8658.