Editorial by Manny Vasquez, Reporter
Despite living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., for my entire life, I’ve never attended an inauguration. I was never interested enough in politics to want to brave the crowds to see a political event, but the over the last four years, I have grown increasingly interested in not only politics, but experiencing historical events and uniquely American experiences. So when Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States, I knew it’d be an event worth experiencing, if only to see what the capital—my home city—is like on one of its most patriotic days.
I had a rough plan in place. I had no way of procuring tickets, but I figured I would go with some friends to take in the sights and sounds. Finding people to go with wasn’t the easiest. Many, including my own family, were worried about the protestors. Many I know who wanted to go ended up not attending. Early Friday morning I boarded the metro and made my way into D.C., to see our new president take office.
“Finding people to go with wasn’t the easiest.”
Metro was running trains frequently enough that I easily landed a standing spot. It was hard to tell who was going to the inauguration. A few wore the classic red “Make America Great Again” hats. Many were worn by young people about my age.
A group of eight student protesters and two older adults who looked like faculty boarded the train. Many had colored hair, piercings, and unique clothing choices. One, who sat by me, carried a sign. A man standing nearby, taking his son to the inauguration, asked one of the protesters, with a septum piercing, why she was protesting today.
“I don’t know really,” she replied. “I just think the president-elect spreads a lot of hateful rhetoric. I think it’s important for kids to experience protesting.”
I emerged from the subway at Federal Center into a sea of people. Merchants who had previously peddled Obama souvenirs now hawked their Trump buttons, pins, hats, and T-shirts. I saw a Russian Orthodox priest and two bagpipe players in traditional Scottish garb, Hindis and Jains, people wearing yamakas and shirts that read “Jews For Trump,” a Chinese man who could barely speak English.
Metro security, D.C. police, the National Guard, and soldiers lined the streets. I was there without a ticket, and I was confused when I saw gates for visitors with tickets, but none for general admission. I decided to stick with the other young man named Connor. He was an American University student from Buffalo. Bonded only by our interest in seeing history unfold, Connor and I began our adventure to find our way to the Capitol through the busy, blocked streets.
We seemed to be moving in a zigzag pattern, trying to find our way. I asked a man and his wife how to get to general admission, and when I told him we didn’t have tickets, he reached into the pocket of his overcoat and pulled out an envelope.
“Here, have some of mine. I have a whole bunch I can’t use,” he said.
He gave us two tickets to the “blue” section. The ticket was a fine piece of memorabilia in its own right, with a holographic capitol building printed on the back. Eventually arriving at the Blue Gate, we were greeted by another large crowd and, for the first time, active protestors.
The news footage of the protesters was not an accurate portrayal of what I saw. If the camera crews had turned for a moment, they would have captured a jovial crowd. People applauded the American flag. They reacted calmly to the shouts from the protestors. I took pictures of signs ranging from “Make America Hate Again” to “Not My President,” to “Hillary Won the Popular Vote” to “Trump and Melania Are Russian Spies,” and even a Communist Flag painted with “Hello Comrades.”
“The news footage of the protesters was not an accurate portrayal of what I saw.”
When we got into the National Mall, the Army band played patriotic music. “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” heralded the event was soon to start. I wound up settling in front of two people who were as proud of Trump as anyone I’ve ever seen. Next to me were two ladies from New Jersey who raved about Melania’s elegance, taking guesses on how she’d be dressed. They settled on her having her hair up and being dressed like Jacqueline Onass. They were overjoyed to see their predictions were right on when Melania emerged wearing a powder blue Ralph Lauren suit with her hair swept up.
One by one the politicians and families came out. There was applause for Jimmy Carter. The man behind me told his wife, “I don’t like his politics, but he is a good man.” The Clintons emerged and there were a few boos, though mostly disgruntled sounds. Some sounded happy, as if glad to see her up there somewhere other than in Trump’s seat.
George W. Bush got tepid applause. Bernie Sanders’ face appeared on the Jumbotron and some pointed at him. People seemed to be enjoying that he was joking with John McCain, despite their different political opinions.
Finally, Obama came out. There was a solid amount of applause, but I get the feeling most of it was for the fact that he was leaving. Someone yelled, “It’s finally over.”
When Trump’s family came out the excitement was already off the charts. People called Ivanka “future first female president” and 10-year-old Barron Trump got more applause then any of the past presidents. The ladies next to me declared, “elegance is back in the White House” when Melania walked out. And then came the man himself.
Trump gave a thumbs up that sent the audience over the moon with excitement. USA chants began again, as well as some cries to build the wall. It was clear that, to everyone around, Trump represented a real hope.
Pence’s swearing in began first, and it went off without a hitch. Trump was next. Again, more immeasurable cheers. Suddenly, there was the sound of explosion. There were shocked gasps from the audience, but another sigh of relief as the screen cut away to cannons giving a salute.
People settled in for Trump’s speech, which was well received. Trump wrote his speech himself, and it showed, as it doubled down on topics popular in his rallies. For his audience, it was perfect.
“It was clear that, to everyone around, Trump represented a real hope.”
After the speech, I got caught in a long line on the way out. Connor, who had been my friend for the adventure, said goodbye. I figured I would stay for the parade. While waiting, I talked to a great number of people. A woman who opened a charter school said she voted for Trump because he was an advocate for charter schools. Twins, one of whom recently had been hired as a photojournalist for the Air Force, were not on board with Trump at first, and said they were afraid he would start World War III. However, they said that after his speech, they felt good with America’s choice.
This sentiment was echoed by an African American man and his Asian wife who came to see their son in the parade. The man said that when he told those in his office that he’d be at the inauguration, they responded with surprise because, as he said, “It didn’t fit their view of someone like me.”
My adventurous day ended with the motorcade speeding by. Through limo windows, I saw the president and vice president, and received an excited wave from Tiffany Trump. Before boarding the metro, I stopped into an Irish pub, grabbed a beer and listened to some live Irish music. I had never seen the city so alive. A man with a twirled moustache and a giant yellow foam hat was having a hoedown style dance with a random old woman. Trump supporters and protestors alike mingled over glasses of Guinness, Budweiser and Yuengling, enjoying the patriotic day, whether their idea of patriotism was celebrating America’s new president, or protesting him.