Observations from a historic moment

By Jack Hellie
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The sun rises behind the U.S Capitol on January 20th, 2017 (Jack Hellie)

President Donald J. Trump.

What once seemed impossible is now reality, and different people have different reactions to the new leader of the free world, and those reactions were visible on January 20, 2017, when I attended the Inauguration of President Trump.

Nowhere else in the world does power exchange hands-not just from one person to another, but from one vision for the future to another-like it does in the United States. In just 37 words the powers of the executive branch transfer from one party to the other.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The swearing-in itself was brief but beautiful to witness in person.

The Inauguration Day and the ceremony was highly emotional for many Americans. For some a dream had come true and for others a nightmare became reality. During the ceremony I did my best to remove myself from the emotions of those around me.

Next to me, there was an older man with long gray and black hair who was missing a leg-perhaps it was lost in an accident or in military service. He was visibly happier than anyone around me to see Donald Trump be sworn in as president. In the early morning hours before the ceramony started, he was leading those around them in renditions of “Proud to be an American.”

Also near me were some classmates from Drake. A few of them were visibly uneasy with both those around them and the reality that Donald Trump was about to get the keys to the White House. Some of those classmates had spent hundreds of hours campaigning for Hillary Clinton. On the spectrum of excitement/unease, I imagine most of the people around me were somewhere between the older man in front of me and the classmates who are #StillWithHer.

But where was I on that spectrum? As a Republican, I am excited to see my party have a majority in both chambers, as well as the White House. However, I did not support Donald Trump. I even worked against him in the GOP primary. I did not share the emotions, good or bad, with those around me. I simply observed.

I watched the ceremony and those around me with interest. I wondered where they came from. I wondered what their story was. Many of them booed and jeered whenever the picture on the large monitors showed President Obama or Hilary Clinton. Many of them cheered so wildly throughout Trump’s inaugural address that there is no way they could have heard what he said. I am happy for those who celebrated (if it were Jeb! up there, I would have been cheering too), and I feel for those who were sad.

But not being a part of the pomp and parade or the protests gave me a unique perspective. I was able to observe and think about all that is happening around me. The group of fervent Trump supporters, who a year ago never would have imagined attending a presidential inauguration, singing patriotic songs; the oath of office being taken a few hundreds yards from where I stood; the protestors shouting “unfit, not legit.” The entire scene was something of a spectacle.

It was a day I will never forget. And it is a day I am grateful to have experienced. Unfazed by excitement or unease, I stood and watched. I watched in awe as one of the visible and tangible cornerstones of our democracy was carried out before my eyes.

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