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Virginia man spends $1 million to let others attend inauguration

with 7 comments

by Nafeesa Syeed, Detroit Free Press

earlstaffordAt the JW Marriott Hotel, $1 million will buy you 300 hotel rooms, $200,000 worth of food and private access to a tented, heated balcony overlooking the parade route of President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Earl W. Stafford is buying it all — and giving it away to strangers.

Stafford, a Virginia businessman, plans to invite disadvantaged people, wounded soldiers and others to the prime location on Pennsylvania Avenue. He’s calling it the People’s Inaugural Project, inviting those who would never otherwise have a chance to wear tuxedos or satin dresses to the president’s swearing-in.

“We believe it is important to include those who are less fortunate because like Barack Obama, we too believe in the American dream,” Stafford said today.

Stafford bought the package a week before the election, said Erick Speight, the hotel’s senior sales executive. Several corporations expressed interest, but Stafford was quick to turn in his deposit.

“My initial reaction was probably shock,” Speight said. “Listening to Mr. Stafford and what he wanted to do seemed surreal; that he was going to purchase the package and venue for such a selfless act was really mind-blowing.”

Stafford, founder of Universal Systems & Technology Inc. in Centreville, Va., paid $1 million for the hotel package, but is working to raise more money for an inaugural ball for 1,000 people, plus a youth ball.

Guests found by nonprofits and social service groups will also get gowns and tuxedos, and grooming from hairstylists and makeup artists. There will be a prayer breakfast and luncheon the day before the inauguration, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Stafford, who is black, said his Christian faith motivated him to take on the project.

Lavern Chatman, president of the Northern Virginia Urban League, is helping organize the ball. Though it’s a pricey event for those facing economic hardship, she said the benefits are worthwhile.

“These are distressed economic times, so you don’t want to be wasteful,” she said. “But how do you give people hope? How do you make people a part of something? This is an investment and one that will be in people’s souls and hearts. So I don’t see it as a one-time thing; I see it as a lifetime experience.”

And if Obama were to show up? Says Stafford, “That certainly would be icing on the cake.”


Written by Symphony

December 5, 2008 at 8:05 am

7 Responses

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  1. I saw this story on CNN this morning, and I was so touched and moved by Mr. Stafford most gracious and loving once in a lifetime opportunity. I would love to be a part of such a historical occassion. My husband and I have two unique historical events that happen in our life, that would make this event if we were choosen a true Blessing from God. I was in New York during 911, which actually caused the war in Iraq. My husband was a soldier for over a year in the Iraqi war. The righteousness of the world will prevail with our historical first Black President, and Dr. King’s vision of Kingdom Citizenship has come to pass. I didn’t see a place on this website to submitt your name to be considered, so could you please tell me how I could submit our names.Thank you, and God Bless Mr. Stafford


    December 5, 2008 at 12:08 pm

  2. It is a great thing that Mr. Stafford is doing for the poor and disadvantaged. I am disabled and would never be able to attend an event like this. The Lord has blessed me in many ways but finances is not one. This would be the blessing of my lifetime. How do I get considered for this? May God be with you always.

    Larry Broglin

    December 5, 2008 at 1:23 pm

  3. You are a God saint, you are given back to society and I applauded you!
    A few seniors and I would like to volunteer our time to help out with the People’s Inaugural Project. I have worked with people with mentally challenged and physically disabled. It would be a honor to help serve as an American and as a christian in helping other, and given back to the the community. Hope to hear from you soon, be bless.

    Brenda Johnson

    December 5, 2008 at 7:01 pm

  4. Hello,

    My name is Terris

    My wife & I too + 4 children would love to join in the

    festivities of a life time,I’m an amateur photographer,

    physically challenged/disabled,Vietnam era vet married to

    the hardest working teacher/musician since the late James

    Brown. I think we hard working disadvantaged , living in

    subsidized housing here is South Boston,Ma which we feel is

    a God send for our family would love to know where to send

    an email to put our name in the lottery to attend this

    historic event. We would like for you to forward this to

    the proper email address/persons, if possible, or just

    respond to

    us with the proper info so we can continue our efforts

    searching to join you and all the fortunate others to view

    and photograph for posterity so my racially/culturally

    diverse mixed family here in South Boston can put on their

    hard drives, memory chips & scrap book collections etc. and

    see through my eye and photo lens just how far the country

    of my birth, the USA that I dearly love, coming closer to

    ideals that the founders penned on parchment.

    Thanks in advance


    Mr & Ms Terris C. Reddick & Family

    Eliza 16 yrs of age
    Carmen 13 yrs
    Terris 9 yrs
    Marianna 5 yrs

    Mr.& Ms. Terris Reddick

    December 6, 2008 at 7:26 am

  5. Dear Mr. Stafford, this is a tremendously unselfish and wonderful act of kindness on your part. God bless you and thank you for being such a ‘blessing’ to so many others. I am still praying for Inaugural tickets from my Senator, but I don’t know yet if I will be fortunate enough to receive them. I have been a very actice Precinct Captain for the Obama Campaign and I so want to be there in person. I don’t know what your criteria is for inviting people; however, I would be so honored and blessed to one of your guests. Even if I am lucky to receive the congressional tickets, I don’t have the means to get to DC, yet. I pray that I hear from you, and again, God bless you. You are indeed an ‘Angel’. Sincerely, Bea

    Bea Pierce

    December 8, 2008 at 3:15 pm

  6. Dear Mr. Stafford, When I saw this segment on CNN, I was extremely touched and I knew that God had to be somewhere in this plan. I don’t have a physical handicap, but I am in a situation where I am not able to afford this opportunity. I am a single mother of three wonderful boys-ages 8,7, and 5. I work a full-time job and I am also a full-time student at a local community college in North Little Rock, Arkansas. I would love to be considered to be a part of this monumental historic event. I am on the rode of getting my life in order so I can be a better provider for my children. My priorities are God is first, my children are next, and everything else (so far) just seem to fall in place. I’ve also learned that if (and only if) it’s GOD’S WILL, that anything’s possible. It really takes a special person to allow God to use them (and more important, being obedient). Again, I would love to be considered in your selection to attend this historical event. If anyone know who or where this should be submitted for consideration, please either foward this, or send me information where I can submit my information for consideration. Thank You and God Bless,


    LaTanya Settles

    December 9, 2008 at 12:13 am

  7. I read an article about Earl Stafford and his Foundation in our local newspaper, the Fla. Times Union and the plans for the inaguaration. I would like to be a part of this special event, especially since this is my birthday. I have been unemployed he past six months and do not have he funds to attend. I would be so grateful, if I could be afforded and opportunity to attend this historic event.
    Thank you so much and may God continue to bless you richly.


    Leola Williams

    Leola Williams

    December 15, 2008 at 12:39 pm

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