By Jessica Wehrman

Staff Writer

Sunday, December 14, 2008

WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader John Boehner, ever the wiseacre, was quick with a funny when the Ohio congressional delegation started working to get the Ohio State University Marching Band into Barack Obama’s inaugural parade.

He suggested that the delegation offer up U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Columbus to dot the “i” in Script Ohio as the band marched down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Call it a congressional incentive.

That said, at least Tiberi would know his stuff.

From 1981 through 1984, he marched with the Ohio State Marching Band. His last game was the Rose Bowl in 1985 during the Earl Bruce era.

“We should’ve won,” he recalls. “But we lost.”

Tiberi said he applied for colleges in the early 1980s knowing that he wanted to march for Ohio State’s band. He spent much of his college career practicing with, marching with or performing in the band.

“It was very time-consuming, very competitive but it was one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “It’s a lot more than the experience of the music and marching. It’s a life-changing experience. It built lifelong friendships. I learned a lot about teamwork and discipline.”

Being in band has also given him rewards he never expected.

A few years back, he listened in a Republican conference meeting as a colleague urged cutting music and arts funding. “You don’t learn anything in music,” the colleague told a roomful of House Republicans. “You don’t learn anything in art.”

Tiberi stood up and disagreed.

He told them that the lessons he learned in the best damn band in the land were invaluable.

Afterwards, then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert pulled him aside and told Tiberi he had an opening for a Republican on the council that advises the National Endowment of the Arts, and said he wanted Tiberi to fill that opening. Tiberi’s served on the board ever since.

Tiberi has also advocated to get the band in four inaugural parades since the 1980s.

The first time he helped them was in 1988. Tiberi was an aide to then-U.S. Rep. John Kasich, and worked with Kasich to advocate for the band, and they marched when George Herbert Walker Bush was inaugurated.

In 2000, Tiberi got to help them again. It was his first year in Congress. When the band was picked, he arranged tours and spoke to the floor. He did it in 2004 as well.

This year, he wrote a letter. “I cannot overstate my firm confidence in the band’s ability to enhance the ceremonies surrounding the inauguration of our next President of the United States.”

The band was selected. They’ll march Jan. 20.

But Tiberi, alas, won’t be dotting the “i.” Along with other members of the House, he’ll have lunch with the new president instead.

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