Emily Kowalik ’18
Assistant Opinion Editor
Trump’s inauguration day inevitably came, but the sight of him taking the oath of office seemed surreal when I turned over in my mind the events of the past several months. You must consider that all last summer I listened to jokes about what a Trump inauguration would look like — I had imagined future first lady Melania proffering a Bible to her smirking husband, who would stand there, hand raised, repeating the honored oath of office while simultaneously pondering his next Twitter smear campaign as he gazed over his meager inauguration turnout.
Imagine my dismay as this feverish nightmare finally came to be.
Trump set the tone for his coming presidency through his inaugural address. One might have hoped that this nascent president would finally set aside the raucous and belligerent persona he adopted during the campaign in order to end the vicious divide in our nation and bring us together as one people.
Unfortunately, and rather unsurprisingly, Trump decided to stir up more conflicts instead.
This decision to instill further bitter division among Americans is just one of myriad actions that convince me that Trump will make a very poor leader. Is it not the role of a president to attempt to overturn contentions and unify the people by making an appeal to higher ideals?
The theme of Trump’s address was “America First.” The speech, which has been called both populist and radical, was very different from past presidential addresses. Trump’s speech did not try to cast the moment as an opportunity to work toward the interests of unity. Rather than focusing his sights on our future, Trump spoke in awed tones of momentous episodes in our nation’s past.
Trump’s view towards America’s relations with the rest of the world is troubling. From Trump’s viewpoint, Americans have been tricked and are in danger of harm caused by paying too much attention to the needs of other nations. For all intent and purpose, he promised that America will only look out for itself from now on. This is a far departure from past inaugural addresses, which stressed America’s role as a stabilizing force and a leader among other nations. Trump flatly rejected the idea that America needs to be in any way second to other nations of the world.
Drawing from the bleak image of America that Trump harped on during his campaign, Trump portrayed America as a sort of dystopian wasteland overrun with unemployment, crime, gangs, drugs and poverty. He avowed that American interest will come first: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
Trump’s speech also honored his populist message and his promise of a better future for Americans. The 45th president claimed that his election was the embodiment of the rise of the people over Washington politicians, saying “Today we are not transferring power not from one administration to another, or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”
It is too early into Trump’s presidency to say whether his actual agenda will follow the promises laid out in this speech.
However, we have already seen Trump’s interpretation of one aspect of his speech, the “fight against radical Islamic terrorism,” in the form of his ban on refugees from predominantly Muslim nations. Trump’s “America First” speech, in light of this new ban, appears to be the upending of what was previously viewed as sharing our American values with the world, in favor of isolationist self-interest.