Trump supporters celebrate on inauguration day

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After facing ridicule from acquaintances, friends, family and pressure from popular culture, a feeling of vindication swirled around the National Mall as supporters of Donald Trump celebrated the billionaire’s inauguration as the 45th president of the U.S. Friday afternoon.

While appearing much smaller than former President Barack Obama’s inaugurals and the Women’s March the following day, many in the crowd were enthusiastic and full of pride for Trump as he delivered an unabashedly populist message similar to many of his campaign speeches.

“The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country (…) That all changes — starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you,” Trump said.

“It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country,” Trump said.

unnamed-1Supporters of the president soaked it all in, wearing their “Make America Great Again” hats and staying warm with Trump-branded scarves.

A light rain fell as Trump started his address, something evangelist Franklin Graham called “a sign of God’s blessing.” After being counted out by the “establishment” and liberal peers, Trump supporters would be fine if it were true.

Jordan Nelson, a student at Appalachian State University, called Friday “a turning point” and one of the most historic elections in his lifetime. Feeling that Trump supporters have been smeared unfairly, he felt justified in showing his unabashed support at the inauguration.

“The media has demoralized and demonized Trump supporters throughout the campaign and I just think it’s a great opportunity to get out and show our support and show that we aren’t the people that the left makes us out to be,” Nelson said. “We’re not racists, we’re not bigots, we’re just good American people who care about other Americans.”

But after running a campaign that was often hostile towards minorities, Muslims and other groups, many have examined whether Trump represents the future of an increasingly diverse country.

When posed to members of the next generation, responses were split. Some see Trump as a throwback to a country that no longer exists, while others believe he is the antidote to the problems facing modern America.

“I’ve been called many terrible things for being a Trump supporter: racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, all of these things,” said Eric Sullivan, a student at the University of Connecticut. “You know President (Theodore) Roosevelt said, ‘to anger a conservative, lie to him, to anger a liberal, tell them the truth’. So that’s what I do.”

Sullivan, an Army medic, rejects the labels placed on Trump, saying that the president-elect simply states uncomfortable truths (Trump has a history of making false statements) on topics like immigration and terrorism.

But among a group of band students from Hillary Clinton’s alma mater, Maine South High School in north suburban Park Ridge, here for the inauguration as well as a band competition, the answer was a collective ‘no’.

Summing up their thoughts on Trump in a few words, students offered: ‘angry’, ‘bad’, ‘interesting’ and ‘no positive thoughts’.

“We’ve been moving forward and being open-minded and accepting of all people as what (President) Obama displayed,” said Maine South sophomore Cassandra Soto. “And Trump is more close-minded and he’s trying to divide the country in a sense by blaming immigrants and other minority groups instead of bringing everyone together like he should as president.”

But, fellow classmate Nick Levy seemed more open to giving Trump the benefit of the doubt.

“I still think he’ll shake things up because he’s going to be one of the first modern presidents to not be an actual politician,” he said.

There was a common refrain among supporters was that Trump “is not a politician,” a positive attribute in their eyes. Other concerns included undocumented immigrants, perceived welfare abuse and too much of a focus on political correctness.

“He speaks the truth,” said Tyler Bryson, of North Carolina. “He doesn’t care what people think, he doesn’t buy into the political correctness stuff, he just says it as it is.”

“I mean, honestly, people might laugh at that, but I think he’s very sincere,” said Cindy Williams of North Carolina. “He might not say everything that’s politically correct, but he has a good heart and everything he says and does probably won’t be wonderful, but he’s going to try.”

Supporters in most cases acknowledged Trump’s shortcomings, but gave him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the most controversial moment of the 2016 campaign was the release of the Access Hollywood tapes, where Trump described the sexual assault of women. Many women’s groups, marching tomorrow in the capital and around the country, have not forgotten. But, among Trump’s faithful, which includes many women, it’s water under the bridge.

“There’s not anybody out here that has not said some remark about a man or a woman,” Williams said. “And they were obviously trying to trap him because they had the video tape. Those people who want to throw rocks shouldn’t live in glass houses.”

Perhaps highlighting the connection Trump has with his supporters, at the end of his nearly 20- minute address, his supporters joined in the last line of the speech, “We will make America great again.”

“I’m just very grateful to God that he put Mr. Trump in the right position to become president of the U.S.,” Nelson said. “He spoke to the American people — he spoke to everyone.”

Echoing Trump, supporters sought to bring the country together following a divisive election.

“After an especially divisive election between him and Hillary Clinton, I feel like, by calling for unity, he’ll show that he’ll be president for every citizen of the U.S. Not just those who voted for him,” said Quinn Whittaker, a high school student from Dearborn, Michigan.

Though it must be said that the vast majority in attendance were white. And, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared on the jumbotron, she was showered with boos. 

Trump’s address was a condensed version of his stump speech on the campaign trail. He populistically went after the Washington establishment and said “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

Trump repeated his “America First” platform by vowing to secure the nation’s southern border, protect American jobs through better trade deals and fighting “radical Islamic terrorism”.

“We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams,” Trump said.

The President later participated in the inaugural parade and signed an executive order pertaining to the impending repeal of Obamacare.