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Students gather in the Fireplace Lounge in Commons to watch the inauguration. JOHN NEUFELD/THE BATES STUDENT

On Friday the 20th, while students were getting ready to jump into the freezing puddle as part of the Bates tradition, Donald Trump was inaugurated into office as the 45th President of the United States. His inaugural address was attended by 900,000 people, a rather large number when compared to President Obama’s 2009 inauguration speech which attracted 1.8 million people, while his second attracted a number closer to President Trump’s with 1 million people (How Many People Attended Trump’s Inauguration vs. Obama’s?, Heavy)

He began the speech by saying thanks to President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. The rest of the 17-minute speech outlined once more the changes he wants to bring to this nation and its people. President Donald Trump stated that he wants to “transfer power from Washington. D.C. and [give] it back to [us], the American people” (Inaugural Address: Trump’s full speech, CNN).

He went on to say that he strongly believes in buying American products and hiring American workers to complete the job. President Trump is open to seeking friendships with other nations and aligning with them; however, he believes that it is critical for America and other nations to put their interests firsts, for he does not want to impose the American ways on foreign countries. In the last part of his speech he emphasized the importance of fighting Radical Islamic Terrorism.

Listening to President Trump’s speech inspired me to contact Politics Professor John Baughman who believed that the speech had “an unusually negative tone” because “Ordinarily a new president places much greater rhetorical weight on unifying the country and providing hope and vision for a new beginning.” Baughman believes that “, the specificity of his critiques in contrast to the vagueness of his vision expressed in the speech suggested to me that he still had much more sense of what he wanted to change than how he wanted to change it.  Even where he did provide specificity, such as in a plan for robust rebuilding of our infrastructure, and undertaking that would take many billions of federal dollars, it is in contrast to the budget plan his team has articulated elsewhere.”

On that point that President Trump is seeking friendship with other countries, Professor Baughman stated that “…a certain degree of nationalism is not uncommon for an inaugural speech.  After all, it is one of the few shared civic rituals we have, celebrating a peaceful transfer of power, and that comes with a healthy dose of national pride.  What makes his speech stand out is its full-throated endorsement of a protectionist foreign policy, such as when he says, ‘Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.’ The position he takes seems to be that other countries need us more than we need them, and that we can use that bargaining leverage to obtain better deals, whether it’s our contributions to NATO and the UN or trade deals like NAFTA.  To an extent that’s true, but in my view he hasn’t fully accounted for the unintended consequences of using the heavy bargaining leverage of the US in this way. “

The idea that President Trump can eradicate Radical Islamic Terrorism seemed impossible to Professor Baughman who does not believe that “there is anyone actually involved with the issue who would ever claim that it is something which could be “eradicated,” and especially not in the relatively short time horizon of a presidential term. There are several worrying aspects to the fact that this is such a point of focus for him, but I will name only one here.  The dangers we face as a country and as individuals do not reduce to this thing he calls “Radical Islamic Terrorism,” and a single-minded focus on that will leave us vulnerable to others.”

It is important to educate ourselves on President Trump’s agenda, so as to form a coherent understanding and opinion of his policies, whether you support him or not.