The Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States: A Reaction
By Adam Harper (Harvard College Undergraduate)
Here I sit at 12:30 AM, folding clothes and cleaning up my room for another semester at Harvard. It’s late into the night of a surreal day; moreover, it’s the early morning of the first full day of the Presidency of Donald John Trump.
Here I sit, witnessing history. Twelve hours ago, in an unexpected, unprecedented way, a politically unexperienced real estate mogul became the leader of the free world.
Unsurprisingly, my feelings today are indescribable. Thirty hours ago I sat on a plane that transplanted me from my small town in north Georgia to my new home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I had a great time in Cartersville, don’t get my wrong. I enjoyed being with my family and catching up with old friends. These friends were stuck in my mind today as I sat in Harvard’s graduate school of government watching the Inauguration. As I was continually reminded by social media, by texts, these friends were celebrating as the hundreds seated in the IOP with me were not.
In fact, I clearly remember the moment Donald Trump passionately concluded, “so help me God.” A bystander in the IOP began clapping loudly — presumably as a show of support for the American Democracy. The clap echoed as the rest of the crowd sat motionless, staring blankly at the screen.
After all was said and done, a reporter for the student newspaper came by and asked us to give our reactions for a story she wold be writing. A friend next to me looked at her, and quietly said, “Barack Obama has been my role model for as long as I can remember. I feel as if we’ve just sworn in the opposite of everything he stood for.”
In this battle for words in describing my feelings on this inauguration day, I can start where my friend started. Indeed, since I was in fifth grade watching Barack Obama take that sacred oath of office, the man has been my role model. Among my many feelings today was a feeling of loss.
Regardless of his politics, the 44th President was a man of integrity, compassion, and hope. The latter of those qualities is the one that resonates with me the most. I will miss President Obama’s hope that as American People, “yes we can.” So, as one may guess, today, as Barack Obama sat through the inauguration of a man which is, in Obama’s words, “against everything I stand for,” I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of remorse for the loss of the incredible politician that is Barack Obama. Not just remorse, though. More than anything I felt a deep sense of admiration for the outgoing president.
As Trump would have it, I felt patriotic today. Not because I don’t recognize that many of Trump’s ideals are unpatriotic (in my opinions). Not because anything to do with Donald Trump, actually. I felt patriotic because I witnessed the miraculous transition of power — a hallmark of our beautiful democracy.
The fact that the former leader of our country sat idly as the new leader trashed everything he had ever worked foris kind of amazing. The fact that peaceful protesters stood beside the triumphant as the new president walked down the streets of Washington DC is unheard of in many nations around the world. I felt patriotic today and I felt that the Inauguration was not a celebration of the election of someone whom I feel antithetical to everything I ever learned in life, but a celebration of our ability to change the guards without violence.
As much pride as I felt in our democracy today, I also felt a great deal of fear for the future. As I mentioned earlier, though the process was patriotic and a hallmark of America, I continued to feel that many of things Donald Trump said were not. As Donald Trump spoke of “wiping radical islamic terrorism” from the face of the earth, I feared for my muslim friends and the real persecution that they may be victim to in the next four years. It’s not that Trump intends for this, but by using saying things such as this, he puts a stamp of approval in the minds of hateful islamophobics.
I felt (and feel) fear for the future not because I think that half of America is sexist, or racist, or whatever-ist, but because half of America put its stamp of approval on a man who has a consistent track record of being all these things. On this note, an initial reaction of mine was disappointment in Donald Trump’s failure to (at least attempt) to heal these wounds.
He said he wants America to be great for all people. How can he do that when his pride won’t allow him to acknowledge that he has been sexist, or racist? It won’t allow him to apologize for such remarks, and to pledge to never say or do them again?
I didn’t feel patriotic about Trump’s comments on the border of our country. Okay, I get it, Trump wants a wall. Could he have at least asked for a wall with a door on it? I felt disappointed in the cheers for this wall, and for the ignorance of my fellow Americans in failing to realize that it is in our diversity that we find strength.
My parents always taught me to develop a sense of humor which could handle whatever life throws at me. At times, I found myself laughing and cutting up while watching the inauguration. I mean, come on, who couldn’t help but to laugh at Hilary Clinton’s slow, chiding clap? Who doesn’t laugh — at least a little — at Trump’s cringeworthy “first dance.” The ridiculousness of this all and the hysteria. It’s sometimes (many times) funny. So today, I was sad. I was disappointed. I was, at times, patriotic. Even still, I used a light sense of humor to get through the day.
Today I feel fortunate to live in a country where we are able to democratically elect a president and that president can peacefully take office. There is not a doubt in my mind that the state of our historic union is and always will be strong. Even though many of the things Donald Trump said are opposite of what I believe this democracy stands for, many things he said are perfectly in line with the ideals we Americans live for. That, for example, this country is not for the rich and powerful, but that it is for all people.
As an aspiring public servant, I can only force myself to feel optimistic about the future of America. Not because a populist, real estate mogul was elected President, but because, as Donald Trump put it, “this government belongs to the people.” As Barack Obama put it in his farewell address, the power to change lies in the hands of the “most important office in our democracy: the citizen.”
On November 9th, another emotional day, I sat down to type up a post to my fellow members of the class of 2020 at Harvard.
“Just a few thoughts.” I began. “I've heard a lot of talk today about fear for our future.”
“We are our future. We are the people entrusted to fix our broken country. Donald Trump has won, and we are not taking a day off.”
“As aspiring leaders of our country, we will continue to fight to change the cultural norms of sexual assault, despite our setbacks. We'll continue to fight for the right to call ourselves American -- wherever we may be from and however we got here. As citizen leaders, we'll continue to work to make the marginalized loved by a country and world with endless potential to do good.”
I could not have said it better. My reaction to the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States was a mix of confusion, fear, patriotism, and unconditional optimism for our democracy. Not because Donald J Trump is our president, but because we live in a place where one voice can affect change.
“We'll continue working -- we're not taking a day off -- for our future.”