Packing bags and hitting the road has become a regular hobby for the Ole Miss community, especially as Road Rebs for away football games. This past weekend, the Road Rebs took a different path and journeyed to the nation’s capital to be there when history was happening.
Ashley Stewart, a junior economics major from Walnut, crammed into the car with her mom, two close friends and their bags. They began their 13-hour trek to Washington, D.C., for President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration.
“Ever since Donald Trump announced his candidacy in summer 2015, I’ve been on board,” Stewart said.
This was the first presidential race in which Stewart was eligible to vote.
“I had the privilege to attend one of Trump’s rallies about a year ago. Now, he’s made it all the way to the White House, and it was such an honor to witness him coming this far.”
Stewart’s group stood in the west standing area directly in front of the Capitol where the ceremony took place.
“There aren’t words to describe the pride that I felt being surrounded by so many thousands of people that have the same love for our country and new president,” Stewart said. “I will forever remember the feeling I had while being surrounded by so many individuals that truly love their country. Every[one] radiated pride and patriotism.”
Corbin Keown, a junior African-American studies and political science major from Memphis, Tennessee, flew into D.C. to visit with Ole Miss alumni.
Keown had a different feeling going into the 45th Presidential Inauguration.
“There was a great sense of anxiety and misplaced optimism in the air,” Keown said. “I feel as if many voters believe that President Trump will be the solutions to all problems that they have, and that is an extremely toxic notion.”
He said that, despite this feeling, it was still great to be a part of the ceremony.
Keown stood in the blue section, just barely close enough to see Trump being sworn in. Then he spent the majority of the day watching ceremonies at luncheons.
“Regardless of if I disagree with many of the president’s stances, I respect the office and the ceremony of the transition into power,” Keown said. “It is a special occasion that very little are able to experience first hand, and I am very lucky to have been in D.C. to witness it.”
Some Rebels traveled to D.C. for a different reason: the Women’s March on Washington. The Women’s March is a grassroots effort working to bring together people and protect women’s rights, safety, health and families. Local branches of the march were held across the globe, including one in Oxford and Memphis.
Laura Antonow, director of college programs in the Division of Outreach, flew into town Thursday to meet up with her partner and a large group of fellow Mississippians.
Antonow said she wanted to help bring light to the issues that concern her as a woman. She said “women’s issues” is a misnomer and many of the issues – like healthcare, education, civil rights, freedom of the press, mental health and criminal justice reform – are issues to people of all genders, races, religions and political affiliations.
“That was apparent at the march,” Antonow said. “It was the most diverse gathering of people I’ve ever witnessed.”
Antonow watched the inauguration on a TV from just a few blocks away. The hotel she stayed at was a mix of folks going to inaugural balls and people in pink hats ready for the march.
“The word ‘awesome’ is so overused that I hesitate to describe it as such, but it truly was,” Antonow said. “As our group was walking toward the gathering place on Independence Avenue, we looked to the left and saw thousands of people walking down the street to the starting point.”
Antonow said one of her friends described the crowd as a tsunami of people, unlike anything she had ever seen before.
“I was really proud to be representing Mississippi,” Antonow said. “I think other parts of the county often write us off as out of touch and narrow-minded. Mississippi is an incredible place. We’re not a homogenous group. I think that’s important to share.”
She said she will most remember all of the power, love and solidarity she felt throughout that day.
“I was encouraged to see people advocating for and supporting causes on behalf of fellow Americans,” Antonow said. “For instance, men were holding signs supporting equal pay for women, and white marchers were wearing Black Lives Matter shirts.”
Antonow said it was great to be a part of history.
“It was a snapshot of the melting pot of America,” Antonow said.
– Lana Ferguson
Women’s March on Washington:
Photos by: Cady Herring
Photos by: Cady Herring