WASHINGTON, D.C. — Local high school students are in the nation’s capital to witness history in the making.
It’s a slice of history rife with tension after a controversial 2016 presidential race, an upset election and a busy start of the year for Donald Trump, who is being inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.
Controversy doesn’t change the fact that a presidential inauguration is a powerful experience, said Darrick Hayman, an AP government and U.S. history teacher at Lake Stevens High School. He is leading a group of eight students and five parents on a trip to D.C. They planned to tour monuments and museums, visit the U.S. Capitol and attend the inauguration.
Hayman wants the seniors to see where the history and government operations they’ve been studying come to life. During a meeting before the trip, he told them the inauguration shows how power can change hands in this country without war.
“I want to be able to show them the peaceful transition of power,” he said. “Obama and Trump are on completely opposite ends of the political spectrum, but we live in a country where two people who completely disagree with each other will hand over power — no guns, no violence — and just say, ‘Here’s the keys to the White House. My turn’s over, now it’s your turn.’ ”
The group has been planning the trip since March. Students and parents pay their own way. Their first day in D.C. was Tuesday and they are scheduled to return home Saturday night.
Hayman has gone with several other groups to D.C. He took nine people to President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2012.
To understand U.S. history and government, students need to know that everyone is allowed to speak their opinion, Hayman said. The power of the inauguration is that millions of people are willing to gather and share a moment in time. For many, the only common ground they might have is that they are Americans.
“I’m going to have some kids in my group who will be cheering and excited to see that Trump won, and they can do that,” he said. “I’ll also have some students who will sit in silence and bear witness to the fact that their candidate lost, but we have to hope for the best because if our president fails, the whole country stumbles.”
Protests are planned around D.C. this week. Hayman doesn’t plan to seek any out, but if students see one, that’s part of the learning, too.
History and government are Elizabeth Stanton’s favorite subjects. The 17-year-old hopes to go to law school and eventually work in government, though she hasn’t decided exactly what job she wants.
Stanton supported Hillary Clinton but isn’t old enough to vote, which was frustrating, she said. She signed up for the trip knowing there was no guarantee her candidate would win.
“Most of us definitely thought we’d be seeing our first female president, so it was disappointing,” she said. “Still, it really is a neat thing we’ve got going on in the U.S. with the peaceful transition of power, no matter who the candidate is.”
She was looking forward to the tours, especially the Smithsonian and Capitol. She also hopes to see the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday. She knows she can’t participate in protests, but she plans to wear a blue coat and scarf.
Stanton’s best friend, Sophie Grieser, 17, also is going on the trip. She’s excited to see the highlights of D.C. The inauguration should be an amazing experience, she said, even though she would not have voted for Trump if she’d been old enough. She writes for the high school newspaper and has been researching the inauguration so she can write an article about it.
Grieser thinks the day will be memorable.
“I have a feeling that a lot of people will either be very loudly cheering or very loudly opposing,” she said. “Personally, I probably will clap, just out of respect.”