By Annie Hayes
Bright and early on Friday morning (5 am to be exact), the group made our way down to the Capitol to witness the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another. A peaceful transfer of power between two administrations who could not be further apart in ideology or the paths to which they wish to lead the free world forward on. This peaceful transfer of power has been a hallmark or our democracy, and it was something very special to witness in person, regardless of who the incoming president is.
As the ceremony started, and the band and choirs began performing, it hit me what was about to take place here at our nation’s capitol. While I have not been a fan of Obama and his administration, I and others my age have really grown up with Obama as our president, and to be witnessing him leaving office was a little surreal. But this transition highlights the importance and uniqueness of this tradition in our country. Even after a very divisive campaign season, the two parties are able to put there differences aside to respect and uphold the results of the election. There are many countries around the world that watch this event every four years, hoping that one day they will be able to facilitate a a similar transfer of power at home.
During the ceremony, when all the distinguished guests were introduced and seated before the President-Elect made his way out of the Capitol, the response from the crowd towards Democratic members of Congress, Hillary Clinton, and President Obama was astounding to me at first when they were greeted with boo’s and chanting that was just outright disrespectful. But then I realized how much this mirrors the political climate currently in the United States. People cannot look past the party label of an individual and show them the respect that they deserve as public servants. The theme of our trip was focused on how to elevate the political discourse in the U.S., and from what I had witnessed on Friday, this polarization within our politics has become more prevalent, especially following the 2016 election cycle. After being around these people, many of which were strong Trump supporters, it exposed me to how angry and fired up these people have been the past few years, and why they saw Trump as the person to shake up Washington D.C.. But just like for the many protestors on that day, it is their right to express themselves however they feel necessary. Another hallmark trait of this country that is unique just like the peaceful transfer of power.
Overall, attending the 58th Inauguration Ceremony was a great way to end our time in D.C.. All of our site visits and meetings with alumni we participated in throughout our two weeks help me further understand the importance of what this transfer of power means for many working in D.C.. This trip was an amazing experience all around! I have learned so much that I never would have had I been sitting in a lecture hall, and these are experiences that will stay with me forever!
I will end this with a very important tip for anyone who interested in attending an Inauguration ceremony in the future:
If you happen to be distracted by protesters while the President-Elect is being sworn into office, just know that there will be a few cannons being shot off at the end of the Oath. A few of us learned that the hard way on Friday 🙂 But other than that I would highly recommend attending one for yourself!