Trump is our Next President-So why even try?

Lila Michaels, Maret '17

A look into the power and necessity of student protest. (Published: 2017)

Students march on the National Mall during the DCPS Student Walkout on Tuesday, November 15, 2016. Photo by Julia Stewart, Sidwell '17

If you’re anything like me, turning on the TV or opening a newspaper these days is a scary experience. As I watch the announcements of President Trump’s new policies, I fear for the future of our country. However, nothing dismays me more than overhearing my peers apathetically admit defeat. “Trump is our president whether we like it or not. Th ere’s nothing we can do about it.” This is true - Donald Trump has been elected president, and I understand the temptation of many to burrow their heads in the sand and wait out the storm, but now is no time to give up the fight. As Americans, we have the right to raise our voices in protest. Today, as we watch what many of see as an oppressive force take power, to protest is not just our right, but our responsibility.

For starters, it’s important for us to put the current political climate in perspective. Most of us have grown up under Obama’s presidency and, speaking very generally, felt comfortable with the leadership of our country. Whether or not you agree with his politics, Obama was a qualified and competent president. I don’t think we are not accustomed to this feeling of national unrest. However, this is nothing new. During the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, it felt to many as though a generation of gay men were being killed by this new disease. Hysteria and an anti-gay fervor took hold of the country. However, in this seemingly helpless time, activists raised their voices and made real change. Through marches, die-ins, and other demonstrations, they educated people on AIDS and began to break down the net of social fear and stigma in which the disease was bound. They forced a revolution in the testing and distribution of life-saving drugs, creating improved treatments and services for people with AIDS.

Three decades before the AIDS crisis in the 1950s, the United States was driven by fear through what became known as the McCarthy Era. Under the leadership of Senator Joe McCarthy, thousands of Americans were accused of having communist beliefs or sympathizing with communists. Countless lives were destroyed. I point to the AIDS crisis and McCarthyism not to diminish the severity of today’s political climate because, believe me, Trump’s actions and proposed actions scare me to my core. At the hands of the president, undocumented Americans fear deportation, innocent Black males fear for their lives, LGBTQ+ people fear for their rights and their safety, Native Americans fear for their homes, women fear for control of their bodies, and the list goes on and on. However, this is not the first time the United States has been driven to hysteria and this is not the first time extremists have had power and the rights of people were suppressed. The fight ahead is real and it will not be easy, but history has shown us that this crisis is not insurmountable.

Illustration by Maya Robnett, Sidwell '17

As young people, we play an especially important role in the struggle for justice. Perhaps my favorite demonstration of all time is the Birmingham Children’s Crusade of 1963. Birmingham, Alabama, known in the 1960s as “Bombingham” for the violence that took place there, was a hub for civil rights activity. However, aft er spending years fighting racial segregation and experiencing physical and emotional abuse, the adults of the community were losing steam.


The youth then stepped in. On May 2nd,1963, preschool to college-aged students marched out of school and even jumped out of their school windows (just as many of us did for the DCPS walkout in November), proceeding to Kelly Ingram Park to protest. Bull Connor, the infamously brutal Chief of Police, greeted the children with fire hoses and police dogs. Kids were attacked and arrested by the hundreds.

Despite the adversary they faced, these brave activists persisted, fighting injustice with youthful energy and joy. The kids returned to Kelly Ingram Park for four more days - and this time they wore bathing suits and danced in the fire hoses meant to hurt and deter them. As more and more were arrested, they didn’t grovel, but instead sang songs of freedom through the night in their jail cells. These young activists inspire me as we enter the next four years.

This kind of energy and passion is what only we can bring to the fight for justice today. As a teenager, adults constantly tell you that you are the future, but I bet no one has ever told you that you are the present. Yet, our generation is already greatly impacted by Trump’s actions and we cannot afford to wait for that far-off future to raise our voices for what we believe. We must protest discriminatory words and policies and stand united as the youth of DC to demonstrate to politicians and to the country that we are not afraid. Trump is the president and that we cannot change, but we can stand for justice, equality, and love nevertheless. After all, when we’ve done that in the past, we have been able to change the world.