Service of a US Inauguration: Traditional Passing of the Baton or is it Different This Year?

January 16th, 2017

Categories: Politicians, Politics, Protest

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I’ve been weighing for a while what I heard about Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. I drive by often so my ears perked up when the college was in the news a few weeks ago—and not about the results of one of its well-regarded polls.

After applying previously with no success, the college’s 30 year old band was chosen this year to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate the inauguration. The application was submitted in the spring of 2016, long before the election. Even so, some in the Marist College community squawked loudly.

David Yellen, the college’s president, wrote them a memo. An excerpt: “Some critics of the President-Elect, pointing to his controversial or inflammatory statements and policy proposals, view Marist’s participation in his inauguration as either a political statement in support of Mr. Trump, or an ethical lapse for not speaking out against him.”

Noting the college hosted a campaign event for Bernie Sanders, which also didn’t constitute an endorsement, he wrote: “I believe [these concerns] are based on a misunderstanding of the role of a college in a free society….A college community….holding a wide range of political views cannot itself be a political actor by staking a claim to any one position.” He wrote that the college will support students whether or not they participate.

Yellen’s point that–“…participating in the ritual of the United States’ peaceful transition of power [does not] constitute a political statement”–was also made by two other Marching band 2university presidents whose communities objected to their participation in the parade. On insidehighered.com, Scott Jaschik observed that this year is different from others, where before “students and their institutions have boasted about being selected to march in the parade.”

The colleges, some of whose constituents also objected, are Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais Ill. and Talladega College, Talladega, Ala. No Washington DC-based high school band nor Howard University will participate this year. “Several other colleges and universities will also be participating, but are not drawing criticism.” reported Jaschik.

According to him, Billy Hawkins, president of Talladega College, a traditionally black institution, wrote: “We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade. As many of those who chose to participate in the parade have said, we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power.”

Those who were in favor of marching made hay.  According to Paul Resnikoff, in “All-Black Talladega Marching Band Raises $320,000 to Play Trump Inauguration,” they made more than enough to pay all expenses to attend via a Gofundme page.

Marching band 3More than 900 people signed a petition urging Olivet Nazarene to withdraw. “Sadly, President-elect Trump has consistently articulated and advocated policies that undermine the Christian commitments of communities like Olivet,” the petition began, noting sexism, alliances with white supremacists, hostility towards immigrants and refugees as “just a few positions incompatible with Christian teachings in general and the Nazarene message of holiness in particular.” The college president, John Bowling, made the same point as the other two presidents. The parade is “a civic ceremony that provides the students with the opportunity to visit Washington and observe the process of transition firsthand.”

If you were in one of the college bands, would you attend this inauguration? Do you think that the protestors have good reason or don’t they understand the point of the inauguration according to the college presidents? Are you planning to watch the ceremony on TV?

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12 Responses to “Service of a US Inauguration: Traditional Passing of the Baton or is it Different This Year?”

  1. David Reich Said:

    It’s a really tough call, Jeanne. I certainly understand the prestige and once-in-a-lifetime experience for a college band member, playing at an inaugural. It doesn’t necessarily mean you support this new president. It’s more about supporting and respecting the tradition and the institution.

    That said, this man has been so bitterly divisive and outright nasty. It’s about more than the politics and the real issues that we may or may not always agree on. It’s about this guy’s disrespect of others and his utter contempt for those he disagrees with. Whatever protests and refusals to particopat6e in his inauguration, they are things he has brought upon himself.

    I will not be watching the inauguration on TV. In fact, we’ll leave our cable box set on a movie channel or some network that is not carrying the proceedings. And the day after, I’ll be with my wife in NY at the women’s protest march.

  2. hb Said:

    I am a reactionary, a conservative on many issues and a registered Republican. However, having grown up in two fascist countries and lived in Germany, I can smell a fascist when I see one. This election is different. Trump’s rise to power is frighteningly similar to Hitler’s and just as racist. The only difference this time is that there is nowhere to go if you don’t like what is happening here. At least in Germany, if you were not Jewish, you could emigrate and seek political asylum abroad. I am genuinely frightened by what I am seeing and fearful for our future.

    I am also a former federal government bureaucrat and the son and grandson of career bureaucrats who served the government 42 and 47 years respectively. When power changed hands in Washington, policies might change, but, as was their duty, they went right on loyally doing their jobs. It was their duty and the way they made their livings. However, in 1948, Roosevelt’s former Vice President, the extreme leftist Henry Wallace, ran for President as a so called “Progressive.” Some thought that because President Truman appeared to be most unpopular and the Republicans dominated by the party’s right wing, Wallace had a chance of winning. I vividly remember my father, in deep seriousness, tell my mother and I that he had decided he could not serve the man loyally and would consequently resign from government service should he be elected.

    Unlike 1948 when Wallace received less than three percent of the vote, this time, fairly or unfairly, Trump won. I’m for actively fighting to stop him from imposing his will upon us. I will support those who oppose him and will neither view his inauguration nor do anything else to help him in his takeover of the county.

    President Yellen is expressing his view as is his First Amendment right, and the band members should theirs when they decide to participate or not. However, I do hope that they will realize that being part of President-elect Trump’s celebration lends support to what he wants to do, and decide that a free trip to Washington is not worth the price the country is going to pay if he is successful in office.

  3. Hank Goldman Said:

    I guess you know there are many movements that say do not, do not even watch it on TV. Let the ratings sink. You can always catch it on the news the next day. No one goes. No one watches. And no one entertains. Drive the non-president crazy.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    I agree. I find it amazing that some college/university communities didn’t react at all. It was clever–though how will the college be expected to pay the piper–for Talladega College to have raised so much money to more than cover its costs via Trump supporters pretty sure.

    I, too, plan to attend the Women’s March on January 21, but have been warned by pro-Trump friends to be very careful of the pro-Trump fanatics who might try to do harm to anti-Trump marchers. [One described such as person as literally foaming at the mouth in discussing what he considered disrespect of the President elect ignoring, of course, what this many has dished out.] I do not want to join any of several groups I know about but will stick to the edge and out of the way.

  5. CG Said:

    No, I won’t be watching the inauguration on Friday. Instead, I’ll be on a bus on my way to DC to participate in the Women’s March on Washington.

    I completely agree with the comments by David Reich about the president-elect. Since election day he has done nothing to help bridge the divide in this country. In fact, he seems to take delight in fanning the flames of division, and he continues to do so on a daily basis. It sickens and infuriates me, which is why I’m going to Washington.

    I am begging everyone who reads this to become a citizen activist, as President Obama implored us in his eloquent and moving speech last week. A single voice cannot change things, but together, oh yes we can.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    hb,

    The mystery is why others don’t interpret what has happened as you do and so vividly state. “My party right or wrong” hasn’t applied for a long, long time.

    I hope that if scholarships are involved that the students who refuse to march are not penalized. Marist College says that won’t happen.

    The disrespect of others that David pointed to in his comment is so shocking and obvious. Why don’t the man’s supporters remember “There but for the grace of God go I.” They aren’t going to agree with him on every single decision–but he doesn’t tolerate dissent. Wham! Hoping that millions who have been misled will be brave and walk away from a toxic relationship.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    You hit on the most effective way to get back at him at this point: Ignore the man on January 20. Regardless, he’ll claim that his ratings beat all records and maybe they will: The LOWEST in recorded history!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    CG,

    GOOD FOR YOU!

    This man is tone deaf but here’s hoping Senators and Congressmen and women who feel timid will gain the backbone needed to stop him.

    I’m also counting on the media who, ironically, helped put him where he is to now take him down–birddog every move until their research provides the proof needed to accelerate his exit from office by three years at least.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    There are protests regardless of who wins a contest, so in that respect, the only difference regarding Friday’s inauguration, is in numbers. What is potentially alarming, is their size. The “winner” reportedly lost an election by nearly 3 million votes, and not too surprisingly, the disenfranchised are making their presence felt.

    A democracy, presumably, is run by the majority, so what happens next remains to be seen.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I remember as though it was two, not eight years ago, the cheering crowds greeting President Obama on his inauguration day, reaching as far as the mall where the cherry blossoms grow. One of the students I mentored at the time was there. He said it was magical. He couldn’t see a thing.

    I am sure that there were protestors about previous presidents, even President Obama [birthers, anyone?] but not to the extent anticipated this year so soon after election. Those who voted for Gore were outraged when Bush won but the outcry was mild by comparison. While people are objecting to policies that literally rape the poor to enrich the wealthy, which has happened before though I’m not sure to the extent promised now–and much more: they resent the nasty approach of this pompous person who demeans others rather than supporting them. The exception: himself. He can’t pat himself on the back often enough.

    If the Democrats are smart, they will bottle the outrage and nurture it until the next election and those in two, three and four years from now and top off each bottle with worthy candidates.

  11. Judith Trojan Said:

    I face Friday, January 20, 2017, with despair and the future (as orchestrated by this new administration) in a constant state of dread. I pray for a miracle to set our country back on a better, kinder “fact-based” course and will continue to fight the good fight and join those who speak out against its every attempt to upend our security, our benefits and our right to live as good, decent Americans. For the first time in my life, I will not watch the inauguration and its festivities. And yes, the tweets will claim that the telecast broke records. As I said, I’m praying for a miracle…

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Judy,

    Millions join you in your prayer and along with that, as you underscore, we must support those with power to parry and divert his nasty moves, catch him in every lie, sleight of hand, cheat and misstatement and fight every belt-tightening move that hurts the defenseless and enriches the one percent. We won’t sleep easy until he is invited to leave his job. Some ask that he go to jail. I don’t care where he goes as long as he’s out of the oval office. He is mocking our beautiful country and its highest office and he is painful to watch.

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