College students see democracy up close at Trump inauguration
BY ERIC WALLACE
A group of High Point University students got the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the recent presidential inauguration.
Wearing bright purple jackets emblazoned with the school’s name, the 12 students departed bright and early on Jan. 19 to begin the five hour drive to Washington D.C. The experience would serve as a learning opportunity and allow students to witness an important event in American democracy.
“This event happens every four years, and for many it is a once-in a-lifetime experience to witness one in-person,” said Dr. Brandon Lenoir, a political communications professor who led the trip. “When you’re there in person, it heightens your awareness of the democratic process.”
The students who attended consisted of a wide range of political views. Both the presidents of College Republicans and College Democrats were in attendance.
“The inauguration brought upon a great sense of pride, as all of our hard work paid off,” said College Republicans president Sarah Moss. “Seeing the capital dressed in red, white and blue brought tears to my eyes.”
“Even though I was not pleased with the results, I have never had the opportunity to go and I definitely wanted the chance to witness history,” said College Democrats president Erik Daniels. “The inauguration is a hallmark of American democracy.”
The students were also diverse in the sense that they all came from different majors and backgrounds. Some study political science, some study communications and one even studies exercise science. They all planned to use their experience of witnessing a presidential inauguration in-person to strengthen their understanding of their fields, whether it be witnessing political history, writing journal articles or focusing on campaign topics such as healthcare.
In order to attend, each student needed to submit a project for approval that they would use to heighten awareness towards the experience and towards High Point University. Many chose to write articles on the inauguration and the recent election cycle from their perspective.
“After writing articles from attending the Republican National Convention, rallies and the election cycle as a whole, my project was to write articles to tie together the entire process.” Moss said.
“My project will be writing columns for multiple newspapers over the next week discussing my take on President Trump’s inauguration,” Daniels said.
On inauguration day, the eager students departed their hotel at four in the morning to grab a good spot to witness history. The gates officially opened at six. From there it was a six hour wait until Donald Trump placed his hand on Abraham Lincoln’s bible to be sworn in as the 45th president.
Not only did the students receive the chance to witness a series of political figures take the stage in front of the Capitol, they also got to see the crowds of people who attended, both out of support and out of protest.
“I had never seen so many passionate individuals in one space before,” Daniels said.
Often times it was difficult to hear the speakers. A chorus of boos, chants and cursing erupted from time to time. This was especially prevalent during Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s speech.
“This was a unique inauguration in the sense of when you consider the nature of the 2016 election,” Lenoir said. “The campaign had a largely negative theme and this was reflected during the booing and chanting that occurred during parts of the ceremony. This is something that hasn’t been seen in prior inaugurations.”
Anti-Trump protestors were also present during the event. Many of them were there in support of a wide variety of causes including Black Lives Matter, pro-immigration groups and feminist organizations. Many carried signs reading “Not My President” or posters comparing Trump with Adolf Hitler or Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The crowds at the inauguration surprised me the most as they were vocal, reactive and powerful,” Moss said.
Ultimately the experience was a learning opportunity to showcase American democracy in action.
“Being there gave students a realistic perspective of a presidential inauguration,” Lenoir said. “It showed the symbolic transfer of power and it’s something that perhaps would be lost if simply watched on T.V.”
Many of the attendees agreed.
“Watching the 45th president of the United States being sworn in gave me an intense sense of American pride. It represented the most perfect form of democracy,” Moss said.
In the future, Lenoir hopes to continue giving students experiences like this one. He previously took students to both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.
“I certainly hope to replicate this in the future. Attending a presidential inauguration is a unique experience, especially attending one where for many, it was the first election that they could vote in,” Lenoir said.