Students and faculty gathered in Wallis Annenberg Hall on Friday morning to watch Donald Trump be sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. The event, which analyzed the inauguration ceremony and featured live updates from Annenberg students in the Capitol, was co-hosted by the Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy and the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.
Unruh Director Bob Shrum and CCLP Director Geoffrey Cowan led a discussion with students, faculty and staff, as well as outside guests such as Probolsky Research Chief Operating Officer Justin Wallin, before and after the swearing-in. They discussed their predictions for Trump’s speech, the significance of the inaugural event and election as a whole and their impressions and analyses post-ceremony. Sarah Collins, a senior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism and political science — one of several Annenberg students who attended the inauguration in Washington, D.C. — was able to Skype into the event and share her experiences live.
The discussion before the ceremony centered around Trump’s previous rhetoric, the importance of the tone he employs and what his election means for students.
Shrum said that the most important thing to watch out for was the tone that Trump adopts in his speech, which could be a more accurate look at what he will actually be like as president.
“I think one thing we have to be aware of as we get ready for this speech is the President-elect benefits from low expectations, and the last several weeks created an atmosphere in which people don’t necessarily expect a lot of this speech,” Shrum said. “I think this speech will be a really important clue to how he is actually going to behave as president.”
Journalism professor Judy Muller said that she thinks it’s important to look at the protesters, as this is unlike any election she has seen before.
“Everybody is always disappointed when their person doesn’t win,” Muller said. “It happened after Bush, it happened after Reagan, it happens every time [and] the losers go ‘oh, well’ and they shrug and move on. But this feels different. This feels like a resistance movement starting right off the bat.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, both Shrum and Cowan offered their own insights. Shrum called Trump’s speech “startlingly angry.”
“It was dark — it was more a campaign speech for his base than a traditional inaugural address,” Shrum said. “He mentioned ‘all Americans’ but in my view he didn’t say much of anything to the majority of Americans who didn’t vote for him. [It] is absolutely clear to me from his speech that he has a very definite program and he intends to pursue it.”
Cowan added that it was interesting to him that Trump seemed to denounce everyone on the platform.
“This wasn’t a Republican speech or a Democratic speech,” Cowan said. “It was something else.”
Students contributed to the discussion and provided numerous viewpoints after being encouraged by Shrum and Cowan. Many students voiced concerns about what the next four years will be like, while a few defended Trump.
Caroline Wohl, a freshman majoring in journalism who attended the event, said that it was difficult for her to know which sources to trust throughout the election cycle, and she appreciated being able to watch the ceremony without any commentary.
“I couldn’t find a source that was unbiased, so coming here and being able to see it firsthand with my own eyes [and] not have any commentary during the actual event and talking about it after made me solidify my opinions and learn more about the whole subject,” Wohl said.
Wohl said she thought students’ comments about Trump’s speech were very valid and that she values being at a school where students are able to speak their minds. She reiterated part of the discussion that journalists will continue to play a key role in politics.
“As the professors were saying, journalists are so important right now because we don’t really know what’s going to happen,” Wohl said. “In the past there have been some attacks on journalists, especially in the past year, so I think now more than ever there’s a certain duty that we have to stay informed and report the truth.”