He was 16 at the time, a Boston high school sophomore with no ambition beyond graduating, when his history teacher suggested a trip to Washington to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Elysander Plaza, the fifth of six children raised by a single mother, had never felt a personal connection to a president until Obama. He purchased a bus ticket and, along with 1.8 million others, headed to the nation’s capital. The words, the crowds, the setting — all of it stayed with him as he returned to East Boston. He kept the bus ticket in his wallet, wedged against his prom picture and photos of his nieces and nephews, to remind him of the inspiration he felt that day.