By Page Forrest
A dear friend of mine once remarked “YSR and EQB is basically the Sewanee equivalent of ‘Bless your heart’.” For those not familiar with the shade behind the Southern colloquialism, “Bless your heart” is the easiest way to express one’s disdain for someone without being outright rude. On January 20, Ecce Quam Bonum gained yet another layer of significance. During his inaugural address, President Trump stated “The Bible tells us, ‘how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’”
Now, Psalm 133 is not particularly well known or frequently quoted, unless of course you happen to be a student of Sewanee: The University of the South. As it turns out, Sean Spicer, Trump’s Press Secretary, is married to a Sewanee alumnae – Rebecca Claire Miller (C’93). While aides to the President claim that he drafted his speech himself, it’s not unlikely to assume Spicer played a role, given his position on the Communications team. As Trump has taken it upon himself to reference Sewanee’s beloved motto, it is only fair that we hold him to its true meaning.
Dwelling together in unity is a bit of a necessity when one’s school has about 1,700 students. Even though we have 13,000 acres to spread out on, we’re all going to run into each other quite a bit. Part of the reason I chose Sewanee was the sense of a diversified community bound by shared love for the school. Most of the other colleges I looked at were filled with students just like me – predominantly white, liberal women. At Sewanee, I knew I’d find more of a political balance, and hopefully some polite discourse. As a senior, I have yet to be disappointed. There are people I sit with at lunch on a regular basis who I disagree vehemently with, but I’m always pleased to have their company. Some of my favorite moments during my time here have been long-winded debates with my friends. Despite our differences, we have always dwelled together in unity.
From the text of his speech alone, it would seem like Trump is trying. After referencing Psalm 133 he said “We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.” I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. If only I thought Trump actually agreed with it as well. He contradicted himself and pandered to groups through hate-mongering on multiple occasions during his inauguration. After spending the rest of his inaugural address criticizing the so-called political elite of DC, he went to a luncheon with all of them afterwards and extolled their virtues. After spending an entire campaign calling for Secretary Clinton to be jailed and talking about how horrible she was while simultaneously trying to manipulate voters who supported Senator Sanders in the primary, he praised her and President Clinton today and thanked them for coming. When a reporter from CNN dared ask him a difficult question during a press conference on January 11, Trump called CNN “fake news.”
Unity on the surface is not true unity unless it is practiced with consistency. A man who has spent almost the past two years energizing hate, bigotry, and division cannot suddenly start to preach unity without some level of hypocrisy. Sewanee is far from perfect. But every day I am inspired by the students, faculty, and staff I see striving to unify the community and mold strong, considerate leaders of tomorrow. EQB means a great deal to me, and we cannot let one man tarnish its meaning. Regardless of your political beliefs, please consider holding our new President to the same standards you hold for your fellow students. Call him out when he behaves poorly, speak out when he uses his position to oppress others, keep up with the fact checkers. After all, lying during a speech or mis-citing a fact is a blatant violation of the Honor Code. If Trump wishes for us to dwell in unity, he has to prove that he means it. YSR and EQB, Mr. President.