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Why one 20-something sold blood to make it to the inauguration

By Lauren Stewart, CNN
updated 11:01 PM EST, Mon January 21, 2013
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama head out for their first dance together at the Commander-in-Chief's Ball, honoring U.S. service members and their families, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Monday, January 21. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama head out for their first dance together at the Commander-in-Chief's Ball, honoring U.S. service members and their families, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Monday, January 21.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • One recent college grad sold blood plasma to raise money to attend the inauguration
  • Another 20-something was a Romney supporter but wanted to be there to witness history
  • They feel strongly about the importance of younger voices in political decisions

Washington (CNN) -- Carl Eppolito voted for Mitt Romney and doesn't have a job. But he's spending his money to go to Barack Obama's inauguration.

So is John Trowell. The recent college grad has been selling his blood plasma for $40 a week to afford the trip.

And while Camar Robinson, an eighth-grade English teacher in New York, is in better financial shape, teaching isn't exactly a high-paying job. Still, he saved for the Greyhound bus ticket to get from New York to the nation's capital.

They are all 20-somethings who are in Washington for Obama's second inauguration, despite the costs during a shaky economy and their political differences. Each of them feels his voice matters to an administration that will shape the future.

"I believe it is very important for politicians to listen to people our age. We communicate in a much different way than generations past," said Eppolito, 28.

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The number of e-mail blasts from the Obama campaign and the president's social media presence suggest the White House knows that. So do comments from one senator in The Washington Post about why there will be extra temporary cell phone towers during Monday's events.

"Last time around, the sheer number of people ... overloaded the system and many cell phones in the crowd just couldn't get a signal," said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who chairs the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, in a statement. "The inauguration is a once-in-a-lifetime experience ... so we're putting measures in place to make sure people can call, tweet, Facebook and document their experience on smart phones and social media."

Eppolito, an MBA student at Villanova University, said he'll be tweeting about his Washington experience even though his candidate lost. "The change of heart is not necessarily one of agreement or change in political views, but rather one of support for my president. ... I feel it is terribly important that we come together, unified."

He's been saving for weeks for the trip from Philadelphia. He pulled together $15 for the ticket and hopped the MegaBus from Philadelphia to Washington for the short trip.

He suspects most Americans have doubts about Obama's political agenda, but "respect and support are different than agreement and doubts," Eppolito said. As an unemployed student, he is ready for change in the economy.

Like Eppolito, Trowell knows the anxiety that comes with trying to save money. His Facebook friends are vocal about the taxes coming out of their paychecks. He's working more hours to make ends meet. He even planned to carpool with his mother and siblings from South Carolina for the big event.

He used to direct the money he got from selling blood to his education fund. Since November, he's been setting it aside to get from South Carolina to the inauguration.

"I have to work some magic to get off (work)," said Trowell, 25. "It's definitely worth it."

Robinson, thinking about his students in New York, really wants to watch Obama take the oath of office. "In my experience, presidents are about one of two things: power or people. ... Although I'm young, (Obama) seems to be the first who is genuinely committed to people," Robinson said.

He tells his students that they are a part of a legacy and requires them to keep up with world events. "They need to start looking outside of themselves and their country," said Robinson, 29. "They have the power and the voices that can steer this country a certain way."

Robinson, Trowell and Eppolito seem certain about the importance of younger voices in political decisions.

"We are connected. We are instantaneous, and we are the generation of the social media boom," Eppolito said. "We have defined what it means for a cause or message to go viral, and are driven by the ability to do so. For that, politicians should listen closely to the pulse of the next generation ... now."

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