"We the People" of the 2017 Inauguration Nick Shinners

On January 20, 2017, I descended upon the National Mall and the surrounding city to take in all that Inauguration Day had to offer-- from the ceremonious transition of power on the Capitol steps to the protests popping up around the city. While momentous, detailing these events would only provide a superficial look into the what the day felt like; more impressionable were the day's characters: old and young, eager and distraught, fiery and nonchalant. Thousands poured into D.C. from all corners of the country to be apart of the day's historic happenings, and I had the pleasure of chatting with many of them.

Here are some of their stories.

Kevin, 20, of Baltimore

What brings you to the Inauguration today?

Well, you know, you don’t really get to go to an Inauguration everyday; it’s pretty much a once in a lifetime event. When you get the opportunity to go, you go.

Was this the outcome of the election you had expected?

About 2 years ago, I was at dinner when Donald Trump announced his candidacy, and I said “wouldn’t it be funny if Donald Trump became President?” and I laughed. We were joking and stuff—and here we are today and he’s our President. I was kind of thinking he’d win when England left the European Union—there’s a movement, not just in the United States, but in the whole world. In the summer, I kind of figured, he had a good shot at winning.

So, what would you say that movement is—the connection with the EU, etc.?

People want change from what has been going on, from this open border, globalist policy. Let’s focus on our problems at home first, before worrying about the world’s problems. So, I think it’s a focus on ‘let’s focus on us” for a little bit.

What would you say to the people here today protesting the event?

You know, I respect their opinions. If they have valid points, power to them, they have the First Amendment, the right to protest and the right to assembly, and I respect that. Opposing views are what makes this country great. At the end of the day, we’re all one country.

Will Donald Trump “make America great again?”

America, I believe, was already great, but from what’s been going the last 8 years, I’m hoping there will be some change.

Douglas, 70, of Washington, D.C.

Would you say that this election had the outcome that you had expected?

No.

What did you expect to happen?

Uhh, I expected Hillary Clinton to be elected, but it was interesting to see the people who were interested by Mr. Trump.

Was this the outcome you had hoped for?

No.

Did you support Hillary Clinton in the election?

Yes.

So then, as a Hillary supporter, what brings you here today?

I enjoy participating in history, historical events, and I was here for the anti-war demonstrations when I was your age…when the Supreme Court announces their decisions I go there, and there are a lot of…interesting participants. I’m glad to see people your age ahead of the change in American culture.

What would you say to people who might be here today in protest?

They have a right to protest as long as they don’t break any laws. I’m glad there’s a diversity of people protesting for various rights. You can’t imagine, even when I was a child, you could never imagine these types of demonstrations and social changes.

Will Donald Trump “make America great again?”

I think America has always been great. To tell you the truth, when I was your age during the ‘60s and early ‘70s, you had political assassinations, Washington D.C. and many other cities burned, you had the Vietnam War and Watergate, so politics were not so great, and I think that if you are a white male, it might have been great. I’ve lived in Japan for a long time, and it has it’s plusses and minuses, too.

Jerry, 54 (left), and his daughter Amy, 24 of Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., respectively.

Amy was up first.

Would you say that the outcome of this election was what you had expected going into it?

Aboslutley not.

What did you expect?

Well, like the media portrayed, I figured Hillary would win. I did not vote for Hillary.

Was it the outcome that you hoped for?

Absolutely, definitely!

Had you supported Trump from the beginning or just in the general election?

No, actually, I was originally a big Bernie fan, so I was really pulling for Bernie. Just definitely not a Hillary fan. As time went on, I realized it was a smarter decision this way.

Bernie to Trump—that is a big jump. Was it all because of a big distaste for Hillary?

To be quite honest, yeah. I completely dislike her as a person and I don’t think she would have represented females well, being the first female president. I didn’t want her in that position, at all.

Would you say that growing up, your parents had a big influence in your political beliefs?

I would say that they did, because I do have more conservative views, but on social issues I am more liberal. Planned Parenthood, gay marriage, all of that—it's their lives, their bodies, their beings; I don’t think people should have control over that part of their life.

So then why not vote for someone who might represent that better?

Trust is a big thing for me. While Trump has said some inappropriate things, regarding ladies, Hillary was just not a trustful person.

What would you say to people who are here today in protests?

So last night I actually was out and about and I ran into a protest by the White House, and I’m not sure exactly what they’re trying to accomplish, but they’re going about it in a very hateful manner. Everything they were saying and everything they were conveying to the audience on the street was not peaceful.

Will Donald Trump “make America great again?”

I think America’s pretty awesome anyway, not going to lie!

Now for Jerry...

Would you say that this was the outcome that you expected going in?

Absolutely it is!

What would you say to people who might be here today in protest?

God Bless America!

What about him appeals to you so much?

It’s not more of the same. It’s different. We may not like everything, but it’s going to be different from what we had.

Will Donald Trump “make America great again?”

Yes! Absolutely.

(Left to right): Cassidy (17), Victoria (17), Zoey (18), Junie (17), all of California.

What brings you to the Inauguration today?

Cassidy: We signed up a long time ago [for a class trip] when we didn’t know who was going to be inaugurated. We were all really excited to see the first female inaugurated, and that didn’t end up happening, but we are still coming on this trip, not to show support, but actually to stand in our morals and show that we don’t agree with what’s happening.

Would you say that this is the election that you had expected?

Victoria: I would definitely say that we all expected Hillary to be elected. I did not intend to anticipate so many Americans would support someone who is so openly sexist and racist. I am very disappointed to live in a country where this is deemed alright and also celebrated amongst many people.

You guys couldn’t vote in this election---

Victoria: But there were other things that we participated in in terms of supporting this election, such as going to swings states like Nevada and campaigning for over 10 hours, a lot of emails, a lot of signs, a lot of protests. We’ve spent hours, days, and weekends doing anything we could.

Zoey: Since California was kind of a given, we ended up driving over to Reno and canvassing door to door for Hillary Clinton, and also for Senate candidates in that state which was really exciting, we elected the first Latina senator, Catherine Cortez Masto. That was a win we were excited about!

The crowd erupts with boos as the Obamas are shown on the big screen monitors.

Victoria: WE LOVE YOU, OBAMAS!

Bystander: SEE YA, LOSER!

What would you guys say to Trump supporters who are angry at protesters like yourselves for attending today?

Victoria: We’re doing this because we stand strong in our values. We want to show that this doesn’t represent all of America, and it’s not only for ourselves but for the rest of the world to see that not everybody respects this man, thinks its alright, or that he’s fit to serve our country. So that’s why it’s our right to be here, protesting, our disapproval, our values, which is love and kindness.

What has the reaction been, being here with your signs?

Victoria: We have had very negative reactions. We have had people actually try to deliberately jump fences and try and grab our signs away scream “F--- you! F--- you!” because we were just holding up our signs peacefully, not yelling or anything.

Have you engaged with anyone?

Victoria: Yes, we’ve had very low key discussions with some of the people trying to keep it very cordial and they tend to get very aggressive with us.

Will Donald Trump “make America great again?”

Victoria: I don’t know what he means when he says ‘again’ or what time periods he was referring to. The time period when women did not have the right to vote, less than 100 years ago? The time when we still had slavery in the country? The times when we were engaged in wars with other countries? The time in which we were invading other countries for material goods? So I’m not sure exactly what time he is specifically referring to. Nor do I think he will improve America in any way.

Kevin (left) and Ian (right), both 17, of Lakeville, OH.

I chatted first with Ian.

Since you’re 17, you could obviously not vote in this election, but would you consider yourself a Trump supporter?

I would not.

Then what brings you here today?

This is an opportunity to witness a pivotal historical moment! Because I think that Trump is truly a transformative candidate, whether for good or ill, we are yet to see, but I think Trump’s Inauguration heralds a new day in American politics, one that I may not be very optimistic about, but he seems to represent something different than the classical left and right.

Who would you have voted for if you could have?

I would have voted for Hillary Clinton, I was convinced by her record, working for the American people and her policy experience and knowledge; Mr. Trump, on the other hand, I’m not sure he has the ethical and moral values to lead this country or the experience necessary to be a good Commander in Chief.

Would you say that growing up and even now, your parents had a big influence in your political beliefs and ideologies?

Oh, absolutely. I grew up in a moderate-liberal household, and we always believed that equality and human rights were important, and I didn’t see Donald Trump protecting those. I absolutely think I was influenced by my parents, and I also think my peer group influenced my political beliefs. We both come from a very liberal community, my friend and I, so that definitely know that had a strong impact on us.

What would you say to people who are here today in protest?

I think that’s definitely something positive we can do as Americans; we need to see all viewpoints represented, especially on a day like today. Is Mr. Trump our President-elect? Yes, absolutely…but at the same time, Americans have real and legitimate concerns about his governance. Those should not go unheard.

Will Donald Trump “make America great again?”

No, I don’t think so. What we’ve been looking at through Obama’s Presidency has been a slow and gradual improvement from what was the most significant recession since the Great Depression to a time of real economic growth and prosperity for many Americans. But I don’t think Donald Trump will effectively handle issues like that, I don’t think Donald Trump can effectively lead America down a better path just because he rejects so many accepted and conventional thinkings from both parties and has been so disinterested in real policy making. So no, I don’t think Donald Trump, or his policy will “Make America Great Again”.

Next up was Kevin!

Was this the result that you had hoped for?

No, I would have hoped that one of the more traditional Republicans would have won the primary and would have won the election, but, for the general election, this was the result I would have hoped for.

Would you say that your parents have influenced your political beliefs in your upbringing at all?

A little bit, but not much. The majority of my political beliefs stem from my devout Christian, Catholic faith, and issues that the Republican Party supports more align with my values, which is why I support them.

What was the issue, then, that would have carried the most weight with you?

Pro-Life issues. Especially, the 60 million, since Roe v. Wade, that have been murdered as a result of abortion. And that’s the reason why I supported Donald Trump, not because he’s a good man, he’s not that at all.

Now, you said that he’s ‘not a good man’; how would you justify, if you could vote, voting for someone that you don’t believe is ‘good’?

Being “good” is not necessarily a requirement to hold public office. The thing is, I weigh his personal morality of his ethics versus the lives lost to the death penalty, abortion, and euthanasia, then Hillary Clinton, who supports Planned Parenthood and abortion, which is destroying this country.

So now, to both of you—you guys are here together as friends, but are at different ends of the spectrum politically. How does that work?

Ian: Kevin and I, play on the same Academic Challenge/Quizbowl team, we play in the same band program and in another extracurricular group; we have a very strong and deeply personal friendship, and some of that is actually driven by how different we are ideologically, because it gives us material to talk about, it gives us a reason to get together and actually have those hard conversations. Kevin?

Kevin: Yeah, I totally agree, especially, coming from Lakewood, I would say at least well above 90% of our school are avid liberals, and the thing is, there are some parts of the Democratic Party that I support, such as racial equality and what not, I am forced by my conscious to support the Republican party, and that’s why our friendship is so strong.

Ian: I take what Kevin says seriously, even when I deeply disagree with much of his ideology.

Yamile (left) and McKayla, both 44 and of Rochester, NY

Was this the outcome of the election that you had hoped for?

Yamile: Yes.

McKayla: I’m satisfied.

Was it the outcome that you expected?

McKayla: Honestly, not really.

Yamile: We thought Hillary was going to win.

McKayla: I knew that whoever the Lord wanted to win would win.

Had you guys supported Trump throughout the election?

McKayla: I did not.

Yamile: I didn’t.

Are there things about Trump that you have any trouble with?

McKayla: You know, there are a number of things to keep an eye on. Nobody’s perfect, there’s no such thing as a perfect candidate. I feel like throughout the tail end of his campaign, he won me over. He’s someone who listens to all the noise, and gets to the heart of the problem. Instead of listening to the symptoms and what everyone complains about, he finds out what’s the real problem… we’ve got to keep an eye on him, and we’ve got to keep praying, because this isn’t over!

So you guys seem very religious. Would you say that had an influence—

McKayla: Oh I’m not religious at all. Almost anti-religious. Believers in Jesus Christ, that’s the end of it. That’s not religion. A common misconception, no worries!

Did you guys get involved with the election at all?

Yamile: I prayed. I went to prayer rallies. We were praying for God’s will, and this is God’s will. The Bible says that God appoints kings. And we believe that Trump was appointed by God.

McKayla: And we believe that Obama was appointed by God, as well, for that season. We weren’t out protesting, and crying and freaking out, because I know that God is still in control. My God is still in control no matter who is in charge of the United States. He’s never going to lose His election. My faith stands firm no matter who is in charge.

You guys are tricking me on the religion thing again!

[Laughs]

What would you guys say to people who are protesting here today?

McKayla: I would hope that they could find peace in God. There were many times that I was upset in the past…as conservatives, we weren’t happy when Obama won. But instead of going into the streets and protesting and trying to change something that’s over with, I went into my prayer closet and said, “Okay Lord, let’s pray for this new administration, if this is your plan, let’s get through it, and bless America in the process.”

Will Donald Trump “make America great again?”

McKayla: America will only be as great as her people, so if we want America to be great, we need to be great!

Jonathan, 14, of Alabama.

What brings you to the Inauguration today?

Trump, I mean, obviously, yeah.

Would you say this was the outcome of the election you had expected?

Well, it was what I expected, but what everybody else didn’t, so...

Hillary didn’t have any plans, so....

Did you and your parents support Donald Trump from the beginning, or—

I supported him on my own. I done my mom’s ballot. I filled out Donald Trump on her ballot.

What would you say to people who are here in protest today?

That there’s obviously no point. I mean, feminists…stupid. I mean, they’re over there with their sign, and nobody’s looking at them. We’re sitting here laughing at them. I mean, it’s just stupid. I mean, she’s [gestures at Victoria] 13 and has a sign that says “p----” on it.

Why are feminists “stupid”, in your words?

Because God created us all equal. And, yeah, I admit that women should have always had the right to vote, but that’s in the ‘50s. They’re bringing it back up! You tell me right now what a woman can’t do. We had one that ran for President, and I mean, we make equal pay now, so.

So, now, some would argue that the definition of being a feminist is equality for both sexes. Is that what you think it is, or do you think it’s something different?

I think it’s pointless. I mean, do you have a man who’s doing this? Because if a man done this it would be like…who knows. Doesn’t make any sense.

What about Donald Trump attracted you to him?

Because we had a school project, and I had to do it on the immigration in our country. And when I came in, he had just said that he was going to build a wall, so I done my project on that. So that was mostly what I liked about him. I’m not calling all Mexicans racist and murderers and all that, but just, we need to keep the certain people out of this country who are trying to kill other people.

Will Donald Trump “make America great again?”

Yes. Did they say no [gestures to Victoria and her friends]?

They did.

Did they think Hillary was gonna do it?

I didn’t ask.

You saw what she done! She came in, and got halfway killed in all of the debates. And her husband’s practically a rapist because she was underage. And not only that, but she put the nuclear codes out!

Was there anything about Trump that concerned you?

I mean there were a few times that I thought he was going to come off stage and kill a few people, like the protesters. But that was the only thing. There was some controversy about that reporter that had problems with his hands… I think he lost it, but if you’re a guy who lives in the United States you’re going to lose it sometimes. And like the other thing…it was just locker room talk. You can ask him [gestures to man nearby] if you’ve ever been in a locker room, especially in middle school, you talk about things that you’d never talk aloud.

Do you think that kind of talk is acceptable, just because it’s behind closed doors?

It’s fine. As long as you don’t actually do it. And he didn’t do it, he was just trying to act big for his friends. And I mean, every middle schooler in the country knows that, it’s just common sense.

Now, Trump was not in middle school, he was like 60 years old. Does that make a difference, or no?

No! He was with his guy friends talking about guy stuff!

Preston, 17, of Florida

What brings you to the Inauguration today?

A school trip.

As someone who didn’t vote, can I assume, you still had thoughts on the election?

I would have voted Bernie Sanders initially. With everything that he was for, I was able to resonate with that a lot more. Once the primaries [passed], it would have been a very difficult choice, and I probably would have gone third party. But, deciding between Hillary and Donald Trump, I would have picked Hillary. Having the first woman president would have been pretty historic, and she would have been a better face for the country. At the end of the day, to me, that’s the main job of a President.

What’s it like being here on Inauguration day, not being a Trump supporter?

It’s pretty isolating, you know? It’s pretty confusing to me how people are welcoming to him, I guess.

So what did you think of his address today?

I thought it was pretty good, actually. I thought it was very presidential. I liked how he was able to address everybody in the audience. The way he continuously addressed how the people were lacking power was something that I think will resonate with a lot of Americans. Now it comes down to delivering that.

What would you say to people who are here protesting today?

I think it’s pretty admirable to be here with all these Trump supporters and be so confident in what you believe in that you go for it anyway.

Will Donald Trump “make America great again?”

No…because, my problem is that I don’t think that America has every been great. Regardless what he is going to do, socially, with what he’s said and done has created a shift in the mindset of people, making it okay to say certain things…

Jennifer, 44, of Virginia

What does it mean to you to be here today?

I think, no matter what side you’re on, being here as an American is important, it’s a slice of history. I’ve been to the first Clinton’s and the first Obama’s Inauguration. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it’s important to come and celebrate American democracy.

For the protesters, I didn’t mind them, I think they could do a better job at being educated on both sides of the facts. Distorting the facts—they were really good at that.

Did you expect Trump to win in the end?

No! I think nobody did, I think that’s why they gave him so much press, because nobody did, they thought it was ridiculous. But every time he spoke—he spoke a lot of stupid things—but the core of what he believed in is what everybody wanted. We want to earn our living, the ability to earn our living, the ability to keep the earnings we have, but not in a way that everybody gets the same.

What drew you Trump?

Mainly all the things that were wrong with the Democrats and Hillary specifically drew me closer to Trump, and showed me that he’s going to support America, and bring jobs back to America. The idea that Hillary has so much corruption on her side, not that there’s not corruption everywhere, that she’s never had to come to terms with it in front of the law has always bothered me.

Do you think Donald Trump will “make America great again?”

I do. I do.

I met Jan, 26, of Chicago at a protest on the corner of 13th and K St.

What brings you here today?

In terms of the motivation to be here for this Inauguration in particular, we’ve seen a lot of reduction of American political discourse to just basic fluff. It’s lacking substance in a way that’s not only polarizing but dangerous.

Were you at the Inauguration on the Mall today?

I didn’t make it on the Mall itself, just because of the congestion of the security checkpoints, and, to be honest, did I feel like I missed much by not doing that? Probably not!

Can you describe what’s going on here [on the corner of 13th and K St]?

What you’re seeing right now is the subset of a large and extremely diverse group of people who share the same imperative for coming here. What you’re seeing right now is, in the most raw and authentic self, in a calm, albeit diverse, purpose. To what immediate end? Some of it may just be cathartic, and that just has significance in itself. Hopefully, for some of these people, this turns into long term action. Feeling “othered” by the place you live can cultivate into concrete action.

Have you come into contact with a lot of Trump supporters?

In general, there have not been a lot of Trump supporters in the city, period. Just the difference in the atmosphere is palpable. There’s a bizarre sense of defeatism. By and large, people have been respectful, here for there own reasons.

Why do you think people are drawn to Trump?

I think the simplicity of narrative is attractive. He doesn’t take a lot of work to internalize. It’s easy, it’s lacking substance. It’s fluff that’s easily packable and consumable.

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Nicholas Shinners

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