After Inauguration 2017, What Did We Learn?
Following a months long buildup, Donald Trump was sworn in as America’s 45th President on January 20.
Many are relieved to see the whole process come to an end. For others, the fight is just beginning as millions have already mobilized to protest Trump’s sweeping changes.
The Inauguration 2017 Academic Seminar attempted to explain the conditions that set up Trump’s rise and unlikely victory, as well as frame the issues that will define Trump’s aggressive agenda at the outset of his presidency.
So what did we learn? Here is a snapshot of what seminar participants and faculty leaders took away from their two weeks in Washington.
Listening is the First Step
Inauguration 2017 centered around bringing civil discourse back to our politics. The first step toward meeting in the middle? For University of Central Arkansas student Laura Craig, it’s as simple as listening.
“The theme of this seminar is elevating discourse. What has surprised me most is that many of our speakers have all returned to the same basic point: the first step is listening. They have argued that we need to set aside our biases, assess the facts, and hear opposing arguments” - Laura Craig, University of Central Arkansas.
Bipartisanship Still Exists
While bipartisanship seems like a thing of the past, Craig was pleasantly surprised to learn that many in Washington are working to create solutions to bring the two parties back together and get things done.
“From afar, it often seems like Washington is a veritable war zone with the president on one side and Congress on the other; or the media on the other side; or an NGO or lobbyist group against the president. However this seminar has challenged these beliefs because it has shown me many instances where people work across the aisle and across the political divide to create lasting policies and change.”
Learning from Others Point of View
Seminar participants represented all political ideologies - from liberal to conservative and everything in between. Ideological diversity provides tremendous value to students who want more than a one sided take of the issues.
“I’ve met conservative students who demolished my idea of what a conservative is. Because I allowed myself to be more open, I’ve been more tolerant of their views.” - Maria-Evengelica Telfort, Suffolk University
Faculty Director Julia Azari ties it all together with her piece on presidential communication, exploring the limits of how president can control political narrative.
“Rhetoric from presidents and presidential candidates is not simply about persuading people, but about defining political situations, using symbols to give events meaning. It matters whether presidents call something a “war” or draw the public’s attention to the racial, economic, or social implications of an event. Even if some people oppose the frame that’s offered, the frame often remains the central reference point.” - Julia Azari, Inauguration 2017 Faculty Director, Political Science Professor at Marquette University.