By: Madeline Linnell ‘17
A group of six Gordon students drove to Washington D.C. Jan. 19 to attend the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump. According to Richard Teunis ’17, the ticket holder and organizer of the trek, the event attracted a diverse crowd, “Mexicans, Latin Americans, blacks, and lots of women.”
People had sojourned far distances to attend the occasion, said Teunis. He said his group of Gordon students met a “sweet, old couple,” who drove from Pennsylvania; the couple had participated in their hometown’s Trump rallies. The six Gordon students also encountered a group of Californian motorcyclists, more firm Trump supporters. Teunis said that he also encountered people at the Inauguration who were not Trump supporters. Nevertheless, the city “was packed,” said Teunis.
Aerial views of the Inauguration rendered images of an uninspiring amount of attendees. CNN journalist Betsy Kline reports on this Inauguration’s crowd size captured in news coverage, then compares it to images of Barack Obama’s inaugurations’ crowd sizes. Her article is inconclusive, but finishes by stating that the number of tickets the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) distributed for Trump’s Inauguration (250,000 tickets) “is on par with the distributed tickets for previous ceremonies.”
Acquiring tickets was no easy feat, as Teunis can attest to. He said he was required to write multiple essays explaining his motivations for wanting to attend the event. Even after this arduous process, there was no guarantee that Teunis or anyone who requested tickets would receive them. But he did receive a ticket in addition to a few others, all of which were free of cost.
The long lines throughout D.C. could be attributed to the event’s robust security measures. The six Gordon students waited two and a half hours in one security checkpoint queue; in another security checkpoint by an entrance to the National Mall, these students slogged in one- to two-mile line, said Teunis.
Security was the biggest expenditure. Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times reports, “About 28,000 personnel from three dozen state, local and federal agencies, including the Secret Service, the F.B.I. and the National Guard, will be on watch this week, and that is not cheap. Security costs could easily top $100 million, which will eventually be paid for by the federal government.” Fandos speculates the entire event will cost $200 million.
The money spent in security proved effective. When attempting to leave the National Mall area in the afternoon, the six Gordon students were refused by the military. The soldiers stood in a line similar to a barricade: “the military blocked everything,” Teunis said. Teams of people wanted to leave; Teunis said he noticed even the media, Fox News, were trying to vacate the area. Although soldiers were only given orders and not necessarily full blown accounts of what was happening in the streets of downtown D.C., one soldier said to the Gordon students, “The safest part of the city is right here.”
No one, said Teunis, seemed to know what was happening outside the barriers. The Gordon students heard broken glass. What they heard were riots. CNN reported 217 protesters were arrested and six police officers were injured.
This is not to say there was no peaceful protesting. A group of pussy hats marched around the National Mall, almost as a preview of the following day’s Women’s March. The Gordon students also heard, however, inflammatory language directed towards the 45th President of U.S. Teunis said this overtly negative show of rhetoric was “not helpful” to the symbolic significance of the overall event. He said the Inauguration, so “very wrapped in ceremony” and history, showcased an admirable quality in the U.S. political system: “a peaceful transition of power” from “one party with a very different ideology going to a different party with very different ideology.”
Co-President of Gordon’s Democratic Club Daniel Gray said he “was not very impressed with the event.” For example, Gray pointed out, the main entertainment act was the band 3 Doors Down.
Gray had mixed feelings about Trump’s speech. He appreciated how Trump wants to represent ordinary citizens and “take away” elitism “from the establishment.” Gray continued, “I didn’t like the rhetoric used on Islamist extremism, or his rant on drugs and gangs.”
Trump’s speech, however, frequented win-lose, us-them terminology when it came to his description of the U.S. and its foreign relations, which exploits the peacefulness and auspiciousness traditionally attributed to the event. He repeatedly said, “America first.”
In an analysis of the speech, David A. Graham of the Atlantic Review said, “The future he envisions for the United States is one that is inward-looking, seeking to concentrate on how America can help its own people and withdrawing from the world—while also hoping the world withdraws from America.”