When my friend Coby Horton called me over the Christmas holidays to inform me that he had two tickets for us to attend the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, I could barely believe my ears. Indeed, in the spirit of full disclosure, neither Coby nor myself could be considered a Trump supporter; Coby voted for Hillary Clinton and I voted for Marco Rubio in the Republican primary. However, mine and Coby’s political differences have never defined our friendship, and it was in such spirit that I eagerly accepted his invitation to attend what can only be described as the continuation of what has always made America great, the democratic free expression of belief against the backdrop of a new president peacefully taking office.
I think that it is fair to say that both Coby and I felt a hint of trepidation as we passed through Capitol Hill security and prepared to witness the future of our country taking shape. Would we see Trump supporters clash with protestors, would we see violence in the streets, would we in fact witness the dissolution of all that we hold dear as Americans? What we saw, of course, was the exact opposite. Indeed, we witnessed Trump supporters proudly standing in solidarity with their elected candidate, expressing the legitimate hope that Trump will make good on securing our border, defeating ISIS, returning more jobs to America and instilling drive into a slow economic recovery. Likewise, we witnessed protestors expressing legitimate concern over Trump’s more outlandish statements in terms of denigrating women and minorities and in terms of nuclear expansion and closer ties to the autocratic regime of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The fact that both groups were freely allowed to express their views in the same place at the same time will always be something that I will consider a privilege to have witnessed firsthand as in fact such occurrence would not be allowed in many of the less free parts of the world.
For this reason I am proud to say that I attended the inauguration of Donald Trump. I am proud to say that I was able to witness yet another peaceful transfer of power in this great country. I am proud to say that while much of our country remains politically divided, that the right to freely express such differences remains enshrined in the essence of America itself. Most of all however, I am proud to say that I attended such an occasion with a dear friend with whom I politically disagree. Indeed, if Clinton had won, Coby and I still would have attended the inauguration, we still would have stood by each other and we still would have witnessed true democracy and freedom in action. Such ideals are larger than the person who is sworn into office and it is such American ideals that will continue to exist well into tomorrow.
Therein, as the up-and-coming Jackie Evancho sang our national anthem at the close of Trump’s inauguration, I was particularly moved this time by the reminder that “our flag was still there.” For you see, everything that our flag represents is still present in our country, and it remains present regardless of which candidate we voted for, what politics we hold or what differences we have. How do I know this to be true? I know it because at the inauguration of our new president, I saw such free expression with my own eyes. For such an opportunity, I will forever remain thankful, appreciative, and humbled.
Robert Jones is a member of the Perry City Council and a teacher at The Westfield Schools.