A number of northeast Indiana residents made their ways to the nation’s capitol recently, some to rally in a new president and others to protest what they believe that president represents.
Northeast Indiana residents were among the nearly half a million people who gathered in Washington Jan. 20 for the 58th presidential inauguration.
President Donald Trump’s speech was effective and made an impression on the sons of Emery McClendon, said the FedEx courier of Fort Wayne. McClendon’s sons, who are both in their 30s, voted for Hillary Clinton. But, McClendon, a supporter of the Tea Party movement, convinced his sons to attend the inauguration with him. While McClendon is all about “putting America back on the right track again,” his sons aren’t convinced that Trump should be the conductor.
His eldest son, Jeremy McClendon, said the inauguration was enlightening. During the visit with his family to D.C., he’s learned more about how to get in contact with local legislators and how to help others make connections.
“As a social worker, my concern is that I’m interested in making sure everyone gets what they need,” Jeremy McClendon said.
He appreciated Trump’s gestures of inclusion when speaking of patriotism.
“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice,” Trump said.
He added that the country should pursue solidarity.
“We all bleed the same red blood of patriotism … we all salute the same great American flag,” he said.
Witnessing the transition of power was also a first for Brian Bauer, CEO of Lutheran Health Network in Fort Wayne. He described the experience as overwhelming and emotional.
“It’s such an important part of our history as a country,” he said.
The Hoosier spirit is something Indiana Senate President Pro-tem David Long, of Fort Wayne, hopes the nation’s capital will catch. He defines this as being conservative and “living within your means.” He and his wife, Melissa, both attended the inauguration.
This was the first presidential inauguration experience for Bob Taylor, who recently retired as CEO of Do It Best Corp. based in Fort Wayne. Taylor said he couldn’t miss the opportunity to witness history in which he too has a personal connection.
He worked with Vice President Mike Pence when Pence, as governor, chaired the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Taylor is hopeful for the business practices that Pence can help lead in Washington.
“I think so much of him as an individual,” Taylor said of Pence.
But not everyone who made the trip to Washington was there to celebrate. Among the hundreds of thousands of participants in the Women’s March Jan. 21 were local residents who arrived on a bus that brought 56 northeast Indiana women and men from Fort Wayne to Washington D.C. to participate. Others made the trip by themselves or with family members.
All came either to protest President Donald Trump winning the election or to show support for human rights and equality – ideals they believe are under threat given Trump’s election.
“I’m here marching because I can’t be a bystander anymore,” said Chrissy Weadick, of Fort Wayne, who took the bus from the Summit City to participate in the D.C. march. “Women need to be taken seriously. We want to be treated equally.”
Packed in like sardines, people stood back to back, shoulder to shoulder despite not being able to hear the speakers such as celebrated feminist Gloria Steinem speak on the stage outside the National Museum of the American Indian near the National Mall.
“Energy and enthusiasm are at a fever pitch,” said Faith Van Gilder of Fort Wayne, who found herself in the middle of a crowd near the main stage. “I’m marching because I despise Trump’s misogynist behavior and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Like John Lewis said, ‘He’s an illegitimate president.’”
Nearby, men and women chanted, “This is what democracy looks like.”
Pink hats, shaped to look like they had kitten ears, were on the heads of many participants at the march.
Lisa Vetter, of Fort Wayne, taught herself how to knit so that she could make herself one of the hats that she and many present referred to as a “pink pussy hat,” in reference to the infamous Access Hollywood video footage in which Trump bragged about being able to grab women by the genitals.
The trip to Washington was a first for Vetter and she proudly stood among the masses, holding a sign that read, “United we stand and free to be you and me.”
“The election and resulting lineup of cronies is absurd. The people did not elect Donald Trump,” Vetter said. “This is not the America I or anyone here wants to be a part of. When I heard about this gathering, I knew I had to come and stand in unity with my sisters and brothers in the fight for freedom and fairness. United we stand!”
Rachel Tobin-Smith, of Fort Wayne, also came with a message of unity and out of disgust at the Access Hollywood video footage of Trump.
“My daughter, Gabriel, and I are thrilled to be part of this impressive crowd of men and women of varying races, ethnicities, abilities and sexual orientations,” she said. “I continue to march against ‘locker room talk’ and believe that violence starts with words. Violence against women is violence against children.”
Hoosier activist Deborah Dorman, an Indianapolis real estate agent, said that about 5,000 men and women were estimated to arrive from Indiana for the march. Seven buses brought people from Indianapolis, she said.
“I absolutely knew I had to be here,” she said. “I’m an activist who is all about human rights – women’s rights, civil rights, LGBT rights. I have got to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. If I have to march for the next four years, I will do that.”