Campus News

Bethel students get up close and personal to inauguration of President Donald Trump

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The presidential inauguration is generally a distant event that we, the general public, can only witness via our own television. But two Bethel students got up close and personal to the swearing in of President Donald Trump last Friday. Sophomores Ethan Hunt and Abbey VanDiver, along with Hunt’s father, hopped on a flight last Tuesday and went to Baltimore, Md. and from there attended the inauguration in our nation’s capital on Friday.
Photo taken by Ethan Hunt
The way the two students got the tickets came down to, quite literally, the luck of the draw. “I contacted Congresswoman (Jackie) Walorski, she's a good friend of my family's,” said Hunt. “And… when I contacted her, she said that I needed to contact her office, and so I contacted her office. They said that there (was) a lottery for the tickets, and a week or so later I got an email saying ‘congratulations, you got...two tickets.’” Hunt offered the other ticket to VanDiver, a student in his political science class, because she had also expressed interest in attending the inauguration. After arriving in Baltimore, the two students got a bit of a shock when they discovered their surprising accommodations, courtesy of Hunt’s father: a penthouse suite of Trump Tower itself. “He told us what hotel we were going to,” said Hunt. “And next thing we know he pulled into Trump Tower instead of the other hotel. So he really surprised us with that.” Hunt said one of the things that really took him aback by his stay at Trump Tower was the view. “I was up till like 2:00 (a.m.), I was literally just standing there looking out the window, like when am I ever going to be able to do this again?" he said. The trio certainly made use of their time on this trip. Hunt said that over the entirety of the trip they got perhaps 15 hours of sleep, total. Hunt and VanDiver spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Washington, D.C. Thursday was mostly sightseeing for the pair with Friday being the main event. During their trip, Hunt and VanDiver even got the opportunity to meet Jake Tapper, anchor and chief Washington correspondent for CNN, and David Chalian, CNN’s political director. Hunt even said that Chalian followed him on Twitter. Hunt and VanDiver were close enough to actually see the president get sworn in live, without relying on the giant screens set up across the venue. “I was surprised when I saw the pictures afterwards…from what I saw, it looked as if it was full, because we were elevated, so we could actually see back how far it went. It’s impossible…for me to say one way or another, how full it was, because there’s so many people…but the pictures they took comparing Obama’s inauguration to Trump’s inauguration, I don’t know if that’s fully accurate. Because, just being there, Trump’s looked full to me.” Hunt said that it’s possible that the pictures of Trump’s inauguration that were used were taken a couple hours before the inauguration actually began, but it was difficult to tell the true nature of the crowd from where he was sitting. As for the environment throughout the ceremony itself, Hunt said he and VanDiver were both surprised by the complete lack of protests during the ceremony. “We thought for sure with so much anger toward Trump’s rhetoric that there would be a lot of protests during (the inauguration),” he said. “There was not one protest during the inauguration, which really surprised me.” Hunt went on to say that while there weren’t any protests during the inauguration, there was much hostility toward Chuck Schumer, leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate, as evidenced by the audience’s boos during his address prior to Trump’s speech. “It was a very odd thing for an inauguration,” said Hunt, “normally you just respect whoever’s speaking. But (the audience) booed and booed and booed, because he was talking about racial divides…and I think the Trump supporters just wanted to hear about how we’re going to move forward, not about the problems that we have, but what we were going to do to move forward.” Schumer’s speech included an excerpt from a letter written during the Civil War by Major Sullivan Ballou. Ballou’s letter spoke about his willingness “to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this government…” Hunt said he felt that touching on such sensitive issues wasn’t quite appropriate to the occasion, but he also felt that the boos from the crowd were also inappropriate. Overall, Hunt described the environment as very pro-Trump. One moment that struck Hunt was as Trump spoke about previous government corruption. “You’ve got…former President Obama… former President Bush, former President Clinton (and) former President Carter, they’re all sitting there behind (Trump), and he’s saying for so long the government has been corrupt. It’s just insane to hear him say these things about these presidents, and they’re sitting right behind him.” There were 95 arrests made on inauguration day, but Hunt said he felt that those who were arrested were trying to stir up violence rather than actively taking part in violence. The most violence that Hunt mentioned was tear gas thrown to break up groups, but no actual protests occurred. Hunt said that, during the event, he was focused on simply taking everything in, because he’s not sure he’ll ever get this opportunity again. “I took a lot of videos on my phone, so someday I can show my kids,” he said. “But mainly just trying to take it all in. It’s not something you can really explain (when) you’re at a big event like that, …it’s mind-blowing to think that you’re there." The two certainly made the most of their visit. Following the inauguration, they attended the Women's March on Washington the following day. “Saturday was the Women’s March, so we got to be there for that, and that was insane," said Hunt. "It was everywhere. No matter where you went, you couldn’t get away from it. So there was a lot of women marching and a lot of funny signs that I saw.” The trio rounded up their trip with a visit to New York before hopping a flight back to Indiana. Hunt said that he would have taken this opportunity no matter who won the election. "I didn't really care who was elected, I would have went," he said. "It's history, and (with) my kids someday...I know a lot of people talk about Reagan's inauguration or JFK's inauguration or Obama's inauguration, so I wanted to make sure that I could be there for that. And if I got the opportunity and I said that I didn't go because I didn't agree with him on policy or whatever...I'm still there for history, so I just, I had to be there."  
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