State of Sewanee: President Donald Trump and the nation at a crossroads

Lionel Pierre DuBois

Contributing Writer

In my short time at Sewanee, I have witnessed many things affect our campus, but not to the level of this presidential inauguration. No one, no matter their political beliefs, can dispute that we live in a vastly different country today than we did just a short 19 months and 9 days ago. On that day, June 16, 2015, Donald Trump declared to run for the presidency of the United States, redirecting the course of our country. Some see this change as signaling a downturn in America’s fortunes, whereas others welcome it. In order to describe how the change in this country has impacted our campus I must touch on the divisive rhetoric from both sides, but I’d also like to highlight the positive ways in which our campus has responded.

Early on this school year our campus went through somewhat of a controversy when an individual posted graphic posters without proper authorization from the University. The incident had the opportunity to divide our campus, and it did in some instances, but many responded by starting conversations rather than jumping to conclusions. Have we seen negative interactions? Yes, but on the whole, Sewanee, as a community, has responded with the strength, unity and grace expected of it.  

Many Professors shared their personal beliefs in a respectful manner, while others chose to keep theirs to themselves, yet all have shown compassion and a renewed energy in educating the next generation of some of our country’s best and brightest. To me, these professors, along with University leadership, have played a galvanizing role. But we all still need to understand that listening to opposing views is a part of the college experience, and it fosters a vibrant and strong campus community.

I try as much as possible to understand another’s view on an issue. I may gain a new perspective, learn something new, and it may affect my beliefs. But if a particular issue energizes you, listening to someone else’s differing beliefs can also allow you to best understand their values and common grounds to agree upon. We, as Americans, are promised only life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Everything else we are only promised the opportunity of having.

In considering our new President, we can see quite clearly that he is unlike any other in recent memory. Many things he has done have been unorthodox and thus it is a fool’s errand trying to predict his future actions or the future of our country. His election has divided our country at a time when we should instead be leading a fast changing and complicated world. A massive portion of the country got up on Saturday, January 21 and made their disgruntled and dismayed voices heard across the nation. But only a single day before, Trump’s inauguration drew close to 1 million, depending on whom you ask, happy celebrators.

Many of Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees have their fair share of question marks, and many of his actions as President-Elect and within the first few days of his Presidency have been eccentric and unconventional. Like many of you, I am deeply concerned about our nation’s forthcoming journey under President Trump, both domestically and internationally. We should be ever more grateful to our founders for their astuteness and determination to have created a republic based on three co-equal branches of government. On Sewanee’s campus the passionate engagement of students and faculty on issues of the day is a good thing, providing that each side takes the time to listen to the other. It is important to remember, however, that freedom of speech should not cause the elimination of civility of discourse.