Westminster Professor's Heart-Tugging Story Earns Invite To Inauguration
Vicki Whiting’s powerful story of “hope” touches senator’s office and earns tickets to historical event
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Contact: Krista DeAngelis (801) 832-2682
Jan. 15, 2009
SALT LAKE CITY – As Westminster professor Vicki Whiting and her husband agonized over the undiagnosed illness of their 14-year-old son Kevin, a glimmer of hope emerged from an unexpected source: the presidential campaign. The couple embraced President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign messages of change, and through their son’s pain and suffering, Obama’s speeches became their own personal message of hope. In time, Whiting crafted a message addressed to U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, and several other politicians, discussing the parallels between her own situation and the mood of the country and requested tickets to attend the historic and meaningful presidential inauguration.
A few months after requesting the tickets, Whiting and her family got their wish.
“I originally contacted Sen. Orrin Hatch’s office who told me there was no way we could get tickets due to the ‘unprecedented interest in the event,’ but invited us to a reception to be hosted by the senator.” Whiting said. “Then a few weeks later, Sen. Bob Bennett’s office emailed me letting us know they had four tickets for us to attend the inauguration.”
Whiting recounts that 18 months ago her son was slowly dying. Doctors were unable to identify the cause of his illness or a path to cure him. The future looked bleak. Just as the country and world needed to pull together against unfathomable national challenges, her family, friends and community pulled together against Kevin’s difficult health situation to bring a brighter future into their home.
“A few months before his illness, we gathered as a family to hear Sen. Obama speak to a sparse crowd in a parking lot in Utah,” Whiting recalled. “We did not know how strongly his message of hope would carry our family through the health, education and financial trials we were to face.”
This message of hope so strongly resonated with the Whiting family, that even their son Kevin, who was too sick to attend school, became heavily engaged in the election. He listened intently to the speeches and debates, and discussed the issues with his family.
“Election night was the first time Kevin could handle being up and around people for months,” said Whiting. “He hung on every word of the acceptance speech…he was mesmerized.”
Whiting’s personal interest was not the only reason she requested the inaugural tickets though. As an associate professor of management in Westminster’s Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business, she has focused much of efforts on teaching from a global perspective, and has incorporated many of the election issues into her class.
“The classes I’ve taught concern leadership and the global environment, which are absolutely at the heart of the election,” she explained. “I used the election as a launching point for lessons throughout my classes. This ceremony brings together everything that I teach my students, everything that I've lived with my son and my family's history - three aspects coming deeply together for me in one day.”
Whiting and her family will leave for New York tomorrow and then travel to Washington, D.C. for the event, hoping that Kevin will have the strength to attend the actual ceremony.
“It will be very difficult to travel with Kevin since he is still hooked up to an IV,” Whiting said. “However, Senators Bennett and Hatch’s staff have been great and understand that we need a place to allow Kevin to rest during this strenuous but momentous event. It is unbelievable how people have come together to make this a reality for us!”
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