The Times They Are A-Changin’

By Riley Fink

Throughout the course of listening to our many speakers and visiting sites today, a common underlying theme seemed to connect all of them. Time always moves forward, but the experiences we heard of on this day all expressed the need to adapt to what the future brings. Coincidentally, most of the change discussed is rooted in Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.

During our morning session at the Washington Center, we were able to listen to Bob Deans, the Director of Strategic Engagement at the Natural Resources Defense Council, share his general thoughts, and worries, about the present environmental climate. Informing us that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will soon announce their findings concerning the state of the Earth’s climate, Dean stressed that if we do not take action, the health of the environment will only continue to deteriorate. The NOAA found that 2014 and 2015 were, at the time the findings were presented, the warmest years ever recorded; Dean noted he expected 2016 to follow suit.


The Offices of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. (Image courtesy of Getty Images)

With President-elect Trump’s nominee for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fervent climate change denier Scott Pruitt, set to be questioned at his Congressional hearing in the following days, the prospect of coping with both a struggling global environment and an EPA led by a documented enemy of nature comes closer to being reality. As Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Pruitt sued the EPA multiple times in efforts to block cleaner air standards, power plants, and bodies of water. In a perfect world, the Senate would reject Pruitt from heading an agency his values so counteract. If he is confirmed, figuring out how to continue working towards preserving our planet will be absolutely vital. Selecting Pruitt to lead the EPA may be Trump’s way of attempting to internally destroy the agency. When the organization meant to protect the environment can no longer do so, it will fall to the average citizen to voice concerns and individually work towards creating a healthier planet.

As an aside, even Trump has shown evidence, Dean told us, that he may privately believe in the validity of climate change. Before he wished to build a wall at the US-Mexico border, Trump sought to construct a 13-ft. wall around his luxury Irish golf course. The reason he cited? Climate change had caused the sea levels to rise, threatening his private oasis.


A hallway in one of the House Office Buildings., where many committee rooms often reside. (Photo Credit: Riley Fink)

Furthermore, later in the day our group visited with Evan Jurkovich, staff to a House Agricultural Committee member. While discussing his role and the function of the Committee on Agriculture, Jurkovich told of the somewhat impermanent structure of Congressional committees. One individual is only allowed to be the leader of a committee for a maximum of six years. That is, of course, if they can get reelected. It is yet unclear what effect Donald Trump’s election victory will have on future campaigns. Will Republicans have to market themselves differently to distance themselves from the career politicians Trump said he would remove from Washington? As Jurkovich and his colleagues are dependent on the reelection of the congressman they work for, devising new campaign strategies may be necessary to maintain the status quo of Congressional committees. In 2 years it is possible the makeup of Congress could be drastically different than it is now. Entire committees may have their composition altered, forcing the old guard to adapt to changing desires, demands, and voices.


The Atlantic headquarters in D.C. (Photo Credit: Taylor Sellers)

Our final stop of the day was to the headquarters of The Atlantic magazine. The publication’s long and distinguished career began in 1857, and since then the periodical has only endorsed a presidential candidate three times. One of that trio was Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election cycle. The other two were Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and LBJ in 1964. Seeing the monumental weight behind this uniquely divisive election caused The Atlantic to do something they had only done two times prior. Additionally, the unprecedented nature of Trump’s campaign forced publications like The Atlantic to transform their coverage accordingly. For instance, Trump’s many contradictory statements has made it difficult to interpret the meaning behind his words. Determining what Trump’s speech implies has been a challenge for all media. Moreover, Trump’s significant use of Twitter to convey messages has led The Atlantic to develop a “Tweet Tracker,” explaining the context and motive behind Trump’s noteworthy Tweets. Lastly, many news outlets arguably treated Trump supporters as a strange curiosity; The Atlantic has made sure to genuinely attempt to understand these voters’ rationale, and not generalize them.


A bust of Abraham Lincoln in the US Capitol. Lincoln was the first of three presidential candidates ever endorsed by The Atlantic. (Photo Credit: Riley Fink)

The incredible campaign of Donald J. Trump has completely revamped the political landscape, as well as the way it is covered. As the months and years go on, its impact will be shown. Individuals and groups like those we heard from today will have remarkable challenges before them, and the Trump Administration will certainly test their adaptability.


One thought on “The Times They Are A-Changin’

  1. Riley, I’m vicariously enjoying all of your experiences! How fortunate(unfortunate?)these adventures are during the inauguration of Trump🤡

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