With President-elect Donald Trump set to recite the Oath of Office today, campus-wide excitement for the inauguration has been tempered by the many students reluctant to attend the ceremony. Rather than the typical fanfare, many have trudged toward Jan. 20 with this sense of resignation, viewing participation in the ceremony – for better or for worse – as a sign of compliance or tacit endorsement of Trump’s new administration and the explosive remarks he made on the campaign trail.
Regardless of the prevailing attitudes toward the President-elect on campus, Georgetown students should not deny themselves the chance to witness history. With Washington, D.C. at the epicenter of both Inauguration Day programming and protesting, the only wrong we could commit during Inauguration weekend is to do nothing at all.
By suspending classes for today, the university has given the opportunity for students to shed their academic obligations and fully participate in a rite of passage most graduates experience only once in their four years on the Hilltop. Even those left despondent by the result of November’s election should not squander the chance to witness a presidential inauguration firsthand. Washington, much like the rest of the country, buzzes with a distinct blend of hope and fear in the face of the uncertain future that waits at the precipice of this historic transfer of power.
Some may decide to join the company of the over 50 members of Congress who are boycotting the inauguration amid questions of Russian intervention in the election and Trump’s recent attacks on civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga). The city is replete with demonstrations and rallies representing virtually every form of social activism, and one would be remiss to withdraw from this advocacy in the first few crucial days Trump spends crystallizing his policies.
Today is not the time to withdraw from political engagement and hunker down in the isolating bubble of the university. Rather, the inauguration should inspire students to confront an outside world vulnerable to even more seismic change over the next four years under Trump’s America.
These first days of the Trump administration serve to cement his agenda for the rest of his term, and by participating early on, the public signals a message to the President about which issues they value most.
One such opportunity is presented by the Women’s March on Washington this Saturday, which has been met with anticipation from many within the Georgetown community and is estimated to draw 200,000 advocating for the protection of reproductive and women’s rights in a Republican-majority Congress.
Elsewhere in the District, the Equality Coalition plans to protest Trump’s stance on issues ranging from immigration to climate change at Meridian Hill Park, the anti-war ANSWER Coalition looks to storm the Navy Memorial and the cannabis community will gather at Dupont Circle to demand federal deregulation of marijuana.
With the flurry of activity around the city, Georgetown students should capitalize on our unique proximity to the nucleus of American politics and strive to send a message about the issues with which they are engaged. The stakes in this political cycle are simply too high to descend into a pattern of passivity – or, even worse, fatalism – as the country hurtles through a symbolic threshold when Trump is sworn-in as president.
Soon enough, the cycle will begin again: Congressional representatives will start to scramble to defend their seats or recoup their losses before midterm elections, and the Georgetown community will once again be in the full thrall of political debate and discussion. But it is imperative that students do not wait until after the Inauguration to participate in the political process, as the first days set the tone for the rest of the Trump presidency.
The inauguration does not just signal the end of an era. Instead, it presents a fresh start to work toward our vision for the future with renewed fervor. Whether participating in the inauguration as a protestor or spectator, students should involve themselves in the political process and shape the future of the country.
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