I watched the inauguration ceremony on Friday with my journalism students at Dayton High School as Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
Because of the timing, the students — a mix of high school juniors and seniors taking college-level courses through Western Nevada College’s Jump Start program — watched the live streamed ceremony while taking their final exam for the course.
As a result, I wasn’t sure how closely they paid attention, or, really, how much they cared. High school years are notoriously and necessarily often narrow and somewhat narcissistic. The outside world can take a backseat to the score of a basketball game, college applications and Homecoming dances.
Like junior Tim Brown said, “It’s just another day. Maybe if we could vote, it would mean more.” The next four years, he anticipated, would hold graduation from high school, college and getting a job.
Other students, however, expressed a real anxiety for the future.
“Trump sounds really freaking racist,” said senior Kassie Sandstrom. “It makes me fear for my sister-in-law because she was born in Mexico.”
Ian Banker, an American raised in Hong Kong, moved to Dayton at the beginning of this year as a junior.
“His isolationist foreign policy does raise concern, especially for Hong Kong,” Banker said. “In Hong Kong, they rely on Western powers to serve as a blockade against China.”
Junior Shane Boesen is concerned about the divisive rhetoric he heard throughout the election season.
“I hope Trump’s inauguration doesn’t mean bad things are going to happen,” he said. “Trump is definitely a potential problem, but the harm comes from all the fanatics who feel empowered now that he’s been elected.”
They’re all right. Here’s my advice to my students (and anyone else interested).
Life will go on, and plans need to be made and followed. Set goals and chase your dreams.
There will also be ugly and unacceptable things happen. When they do, stand up, make your voice heard. There’s a reason why the rights to free speech and press and to freely assemble and petition your government are guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. They’re essential rights to a functioning democracy.
Don’t let anyone convince you you should silence your protests in the name of patriotism.
At the same time, don’t get caught in the trap of the blame game. Don’t blame the always culpable media. Or the liberals or conservatives. Look in the mirror, and make your move. That can be vowing to live the most authentic life you can, serving your community or marching to be heard.
What’s important is you understand the most important person in this country isn’t the president, but you. It’s us. It’s “we, the people.”
We should determine, like President Lincoln before us — during perhaps the most tumultuous time in our nation’s history — to “highly resolve … that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at email@example.com.