Our reporters followed seven different people on the eve of President Donald Trump’s Inauguration and Inauguration Day. Here are their stories.
Anna Scott Marsh
Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina
Political Affiliation: Republican, Trump supporter
It took Anna Scott Marsh three hours to walk three miles in brown suede boots she says will be ruined by day’s end, but she made it to President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.
On the Mall, listening to the band play American patriotic standards, the 19-year-old communications student watched governors, members of Congress and Supreme Court justices walk in: “This is so patriotic,” she said. “I’ve never felt more American in my life.”
And as Trump’s motorcade arrived on the Jumbotron and the crowd roared “USA! USA!,” Marsh laughed and said, “It feels like Christmas morning.”
Marsh belongs to a sorority, has competed as Miss North Carolina USA, and she’s pure Carolina Tar Heel. She also burns with ambition and wants to rebuild the modern Republican Party.
Marsh, who serves as College Republican president at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, said she campaigned for presidential candidate Ted Cruz and met his wife: “I was filmed on TV sitting next to Heidi Cruz,” she said. “It was the highlight of my life.” She was surprised when Cruz endorsed Trump, but she said his sacrifice united a fractured Republican Party.
And while President-elect Donald Trump’s comments about Heidi Cruz “ticked off” Marsh, she said Trump campaign strategist Kellyanne Conway inspires her. She voted for Trump, and she said he truly won her over with his picks for cabinet and vice-president: “He’s appointed a lot of people that make it a little more diverse, and that’s something I’m really proud of.”
Growing up, Marsh and her family talked Grand Ole Party politics around the supper table, surrounded by old guard Republicans. Her father keeps a framed photograph of Marsh sitting in the lap of his old boss, former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, in his office. Today, she said conservative politics are more inclusive and are no longer just about “old, rich, white men.”
“As a young conservative woman, there are so many opportunities for me to obtain that I don’t think would have existed 40 years ago.”
Three more hours and four more miles later, after watching the first family and the swearing in and pulling on her poncho as it started to rain during Trump’s speech and then finally leaving the Mall, Marsh entered the bustling Ronald Reagan center cafeteria, where the smell of pizza hung heavy in the air.
“I’ve died and gone to heaven,” she said. “Trump is president. And we found a food court.”
Reported by Laura Santhanam
Hometown: Land O’Lakes, Florida
For 18 hours, Katie Shelley rode a charter bus filled with 50 4H high school students traveling from Orlando, Florida, to Washington, D.C. Her first trip to the nation’s capitol, the teen eagerly awaited the chance to watch history unfold Friday during President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Shelley was too young to vote in the 2016 presidential election, but she supported Hillary Clinton, a nominee who she said would inspire little girls to “dream big.” The day after Clinton’s loss, Shelley said she wore black funeral attire to school. But since then, Shelley said she has made peace with Trump’s election.
“He will be our president, and the American people did choose him. We just have to respect him because he will be our leader,” she said. “We’re all still Americans.”
At the 4H National Conference Center, Shelley learns about civic and political engagement with more than 500 teenagers from 25 states. The teens on Wednesday wrapped up a night-view tour of national monuments. Shelley took a selfie with the Eleanor Roosevelt monument, but she said her favorite site was the one dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.
The collection of King’s quotes around the memorial impressed her. Her favorite: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Shelley added that she appreciated the fact that King’s monument was left unfinished. It “signifies there’s more to be done,” she said.
Reported by Laura Santhanam
Occupation: president of Pritchard Bros. Plumbing & Heating
Location: Boone, Iowa
Political affiliation: registered Republican
“It was chilling,” said Gary Nystrom as President Donald Trump ended his speech. “He hit the nail right on the head.”
Nystrom, 62, was so excited for inauguration that he barely slept. He was awake when his alarm rang at 5:30 a.m., and by 6:30, cups of hotel coffee in hand, he and his wife were walking down H street in the pitch dark. They passed police officers in military gear and trucks blockading streets. The crowds were already out and a camaraderie had formed.
“Thank you,” Nystrom said catching the eye of a police officer he passed by. “Thank you for your support,” the officer said back.
For Nystrom, attending inauguration in Washington, DC with his wife Cathy was a fulfilling way of topping off a triumphant election year.
“I think it’s history in the making,” said Nystrom of why he’s there. “Trump is going to make changes that not everyone agrees with, but it’s time for that. He’s not a politician, he’s a businessman.”
The lifelong Republican took to Trump early in the election, meeting the candidate and his sons as they campaigned through Iowa and stopped in the small farming and railroad community of Boone in September 2015. Although impressed, he said, by Trump’s sincerity from the get-go, Nystrom held off vocalizing his early support of the candidate; as a city councilman and caucus leader, he felt it his duty to not sway the caucus process.
Nystrom has lived all his life in Boone, a town of 13,000, that saw railroad jobs disappear as the coal that was shipped through the railroad town became scarce. While Boone County leaned Democratic in 2008 and 2012, 53 percent voted for Trump in 2016. His two kids and his five grandkids all remain in Boone, and he’s proud of his family’s values — something he says is lacking today.
Nystrom, too, is a businessman — “on a lot smaller scale” than Mr. Trump, he added. As the president of Pritchard Bros. Plumbing & Heating, he manages a 12-man team. Trump’s business chops — someone who knows how to balance a budget and make payroll — he believes, are necessary in Washington.
“He’s not a normal presidential candidate — Republican or Democrat,” Nystrom said. But, he said, we don’t need normal; we need someone special, someone “outspoken, bold and brash” to change the direction of the country.
Thanks to Trump, Iowa isn’t just “fly-over country” anymore.
Just days after Trump won, Nystrom bought tickets to fly to Washington and booked a hotel. Then the invitations came flooding in — for the viewing party with Iowa’s Republican Party, the inaugural ball, the whiskey ball and an official inaugural invite. The city councilman had always been active in the community, seeing it as his civic duty, but his work in the past two to three years, fundraising for Republican candidates in Iowa and even coordinating Trump’s visit, seemed to have endeared him to state Republicans.
Despite his ardent support for the new president, Nystrom had strong feelings for the crowd’s response to Trump’s competitor Hillary Clinton.
“I didn’t like the booing,” he said, referring to the crowd response when Hillary Clinton was introduced and panned to on the Jumbotron. “We need to keep ourselves to a higher level. If we are going to move things forward, we have to stay above the mudslinging level.”
Reported by Kristen Doerer
Occupation: Real estate broker
Location: McAllen, TX
When the 2016 election got underway, Jessica Rodriguez, 31, had her doubts about Donald Trump. Both Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, were weighed down by “bad publicity,” said Rodriguez, who lives in McAllen, Texas.
Clinton struggled to overcome questions about her private email server. And Trump sparked an outcry from many Latinos in his campaign announcement speech at Trump Tower, where he said that Mexican immigrants to the U.S. were “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Those comments set the tone for the remainder of his election. Over the next year, Trump repeatedly said he planned to deport undocumented workers, and vowed to make Mexico pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, among other controversial measures.
Democrats banked on a “Trump effect” among Latino voters, assuming that many would turn out for Clinton.
But in the end, Rodriguez, a Mexican-American real estate broker, said she decided to back Trump anyway. She wasn’t alone.
Trump received 28 percent of the Latino vote, according to exit polls, a much higher number than most experts predicted. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, received 27 percent of the Latino vote.
Other polls have shown Trump winning a smaller portion of the Latino vote, different than what was reported by exit polls.
“We share the same business values,” Rodriguez said on Thursday night at Latino Inaugural 2017, one of the many pro-Trump balls held in Washington D.C. as part of the inaugural festivities.
As Trump takes office, Rodriguez said she hoped Trump would improve the economy, lower the national debt, and make changes to the country’s health care system.
“I just hope [Trump’s policies won’t be] malicious, and will not come to bite back the Latino community that has supported him.”
Reported by Joshua Barajas
From: Lives in Savannah, GA
Occupation: Claims services representative
Political affiliation: Democrat. Voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary, Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Mitch Kennedy stood in line for more than two hours at two separate inauguration checkpoints this morning wearing a tiny “F*CK Trump Keep America Great” pin. He was headed to protests near the U.S. Navy Memorial, hosted by an antiwar and antiracism activist group based in New York, but he was not looking for trouble.
“There’s a lot of people standing up to Trump, so I just want to be here in solidarity with them,” he said.
Kennedy, who is 36, and lives in Savannah, GA, had originally planned to take his sister and 9-year-old niece to celebrate the inauguration of the first female president. When President Donald Trump was elected, a candidate whose temperament worried Kennedy, he decided to protest Inauguration Day instead.
Mitch took a quiet approach to his protest, but hundreds were more aggressive, knocking over newspaper boxes and throwing rocks and bricks at police outfitted in full riot gear. Ninety five people were arrested, two police officers and one other person were sent to the hospital, and a limo was set on fire downtown. Windows were smashed at a Starbucks and a Bank of America.
Violence was believed to have been initiated by Black Bloc protesters, but Kennedy’s protest looked very different.
The main reason Kennedy came to protest is because the new administration may repeal the Affordable Care Act, which he says changed his life.
For eight years, Kennedy suffered from a prescription drug problem, becoming addicted to Klonapin — of the class of drugs Benzodiazepines, commonly called “benzos” — after being prescribed the psychoactive drug for depression after college.
“Then I started doing other drugs and got into a car wreck. I’d been up for four days, and drove off the road, because I fell asleep,” he said. “I told the policeman I had been working all night. I was lucky I didn’t get arrested.”
The wreck convinced Kennedy that he needed to seek help. Kennedy was able to go into treatment because of health insurance he obtained under the Affordable Care Act. He has now been clean for 2.5 years, and works as a claims services representative, where he receives employer-based insurance. He has plans to become a high school social studies teacher.
“If I hadn’t been able to go and get treatment, I don’t know what my life would be like now,” Kennedy said. “So Obamacare means a lot to me.”
He came to protest the inauguration with a friend he met in recovery in Savannah. Kennedy left his sister and niece at home, who, he said, “was really sad when Trump won.”
“But I told her, ‘Sometimes people have to make mistakes in life to learn,” he said. “Now I think that’s what our country has to do.'”
Kennedy is also planning to participate in Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington.
Reported by Elizabeth Flock
From: Washington, D.C. by way of Iraq
Occupation: Founder and CEO of Busboys and Poets, Producer of the Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance
Political affiliation: Progressive
In 2009 and 2013, during Barack Obama’s inaugural festivities, the Busboys and Poets chain was a 24-hour hub for food, fun and political engagement. But the restaurants are not staying open as late this time around, said Busboys founder Andy Shallal.
“The people who are coming to celebrate will have a welcoming place to gather,” he’s quick to add.
Shallal said he empathizes with Trump’s critics. But, he said, his experience as a Muslim immigrant made him more committed to extending an olive branch to people with opposing views.
“One thing we shouldn’t do is run away from it,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us [Washingtonians] to connect with people different from ourselves.”
The night before Inauguration Day, Shallal produced an event, the Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance, which was aimed at giving people of different backgrounds an opportunity to engage with each other.
The non-partisan inaugural event launched after Barack Obama’s election in 2008 as a platform for political discourse. As speaker and activist Angela Davis told the crowd of nearly 1,500 attendees at the event on Thursday night, “In our resistance, we need art. We need music. We need poetry.”
Busboys and Poets will continue to provide a platform for artistic resistance, even as an incoming Republican administration moves into a progressive city, Shallal said.
“A lot of Washingtonians tend to have an ‘I don’t care’ attitude, but when we’re isolated behind our little computers, there’s a feeling that we’re alone,” he said. “This time is about getting more involved.”
“It’s not about a president, it’s not about a moment,” Shallal added. “It’s really about movements that allow systemic change to take shape.”
Reported by Kenya Downs
From: Tupelo, MS
During the long hike through the National Mall on Thursday, a D.C. tour guide told a Tupelo, Mississippi, high school band, “This is history in the making,” gesturing with a rainbow-striped umbrella in hand. “You’re gonna be a part of this tomorrow,” he added, as rehearsal music nearby the Capitol swelled.
A group of 168 students from the Tupelo High School band is scheduled to march in the inaugural parade on Friday. Although other groups, like Talladega College, have received criticism for their involvement with the inauguration, the Tupelo band has only seen minor pushback.
Band director Rick Murphy said the weekend wasn’t about being Democrat or Republican.
“It’s not about red or blue. It’s about red, white and blue,” he said.
The band’s participation is a point of pride for the “big town,” Murphy said. The band, along with its color guard and cheerleaders, bused more than 800 miles this week to reach the nation’s capitol. Two local television crews rode with the students, documenting their journey.
The last time the Mississippi city was represented at an inaugural parade was more than 27 years ago, when the band participated in President George H.W. Bush’s inauguration in 1989.
During their D.C. tour yesterday, several folks shouted “Tupelo!” as the students walked by.
“Some have been saying ‘Tu-PAY-lo’ as if it’s French or something,” one student said to another.
One man asked, “Is this Tupelo, Mississippi?” When a chaperone confirmed that it was, he gave a thumbs up. Another passerby shouted, “I saw you on TV, all the way from North Carolina!”
Julie Word, 42, a Tupelo nurse who’s helping chaperone, said she hopes the students get a positive experience out of this trip by witnessing the history they often read about in textbooks. When asked about the importance of the band’s visibility during the inauguration, Word said she feels that sometimes the state is ignored.
“Every time Mississippi is in a statistic, it’s always in a negative way. We’re always counted toward the bottom,” Word said.
“I think a lot of people who have never been to the south, to Mississippi, have a very skewed vision of what we’re like,” she added.
In front of the Washington monument, the tour guide said that the iconic structure was an obelisk and joked that “on a clear day, you can see Tupelo” from the top.
Reported by Joshua Barajas