Exercising Our Rights

Photo by Julie Samuels

By Alec Liberman

Opinions Writer

On January 20th, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. The following day, thousands of men and women, adults and children, people of all races and ethnicities, took to the streets to protest the President’s inauguration.

I will do my best to remain as politically-neutral as possible in this article. I will not comment on my thoughts on Trump– that is for another day.

However, these marches are something that has to be commented on. Think about it for a minute: people travelled from all over the United States to raise their signs, to be seen, and to be heard. Over the course of one day, streets were filled with men and women wearing pink hats and holding powerful words. Millions of people gathered in major cities all over the United States, as well as internationally for one single cause, regardless of what that cause might have been.

The ability to walk as we please and gather as we wish is something that many take for granted, something that few stop to think about. At their core, the marches are the ultimate representation of the values that are in the heart of every American.

Almost every political movement in the United States was started by some sort of protest or expression of disagreement with the government. Freedom of expression and peaceful petition were things envisioned by our Founding Fathers and later included in the first amendment to the Constitution.

While I did not get a chance to participate in the protests, a vast number of my friends did. Photos and videos filled my Facebook feed and constituted the vast majority of my friends’ Snapchat stories. There I was, sitting inside doing my homework, while my friends were out in the streets, standing next to strangers, fighting for one cause– recognition and a chance to be heard.

Not only did these protests bring attention to the divide in our nation, they indirectly brought attention to the unity within our nation. They brought attention to the fact that the majority of the people of the United States did not vote for our President. They brought attention to the fact that the President has said some unarguably awful things about women and people of ethnicities, races, and cultures different than his own.

The majority of these protests were peaceful. The majority accomplished what they sought out to do: give a representative (and, at times, a literal) voice to marginalized communities. They demonstrated the inherently American value of speaking one’s mind without fear of government repercussion.

While I congratulate the President on his inauguration and wish him the very best of luck, I will not hesitate to criticize him when he has not lived up to our country’s expectations. I will not hesitate to stand in solidarity with those who demand accountability, transparency, and unity. I promise to always stand by my friends and peers that feel marginalized or forgotten. I promise to do my best to give a voice to those without one.

Today’s marches are the pinnacle expression of values that reside at the heart of the United States. We as a country must come together and never stop reaching across the aisle to find common ground. We as a country must continue to be able to peacefully listen to opposing arguments and speakers, agree to disagree while granting the opposing side the respect that they deserve, no matter the issue.

We must never forget one of the core reasons that this country was founded: in order to provide people with a place in which they could speak freely and to voice concerns.

To my friends that attended the march, I applaud your bravery, your dedication, and your passion. I applaud your willingness to go out in public and express your beliefs. I applaud your will to speak up when it is your duty.

To my friends that, like me, did not participate in today’s marches: I hope that you will be able to attend such events in the future. I hope that you will not fear speaking out against something that you do not believe in, and I hope that you will find someone to hear your voice on issues that matter to you.

These protests have, in one way or another, brought us all closer to each other. These protests have demonstrated that citizens of the United States will not back down and watch from the sidelines as politicians argue thousands of miles away. These protests have demonstrated that each and every one of us can come together with one goal in mind.

After all, our ability to speak up and unite under one common hope is what makes America great.