In June of 2015, one year ago tomorrow, Donald J. Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States at a press conference at Trump Tower. There, the bloviating real estate mogul said that the American dream was dead, and that he would fix it, apparently by building walls inexpensively (which he said he was the best at). Few people then would have guessed that he would be the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party just one year later.
So how have we gotten here? How has somebody who speaks in such an incoherent, hateful, and chest-beating way become the standard-bearer from the Grand Old Party? This is an interesting story that many will write about, I am sure. However, I wanted to talk about the consequences of the campaign, drawing on my past experiences.
When I first heard that Donald Trump was running, I was still employed at a rural/suburban high school in southern Arizona. The biggest point that stood out for me was his insistence that America build this great wall to keep out all of these terrible people that were coming over to the United States from Mexico. As somebody who worked in a school where roughly half of the students were Latino, including many from Mexico, I couldn’t help but wonder-how out of touch is Donald Trump with America that I knew and loved? A place where I had seen students who were born in Mexico, or whose parents were, work as hard to achieve their dreams and be a part of causes for the greater good than any other students I have worked with? I wrote him off as a fringe candidate, someone who had no business being the standard bearer of a major party (even one who has, in the past few years, become less friendly to persons who are not well-off, white males). Obviously, I was wrong.
Here we are, one year later, and Mr. Trump has won the Republican primary. Tens of millions of voters have voiced their opinion that this man-this egotistical, racist, sexist, horrific man-was the person who they wanted to be the next POTUS. His speeches, over time, have become more offensive and less rational. His love for conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and his comments on Muslims and Mexicans have made him arguably the most concerning public figure in recent memory for many Americans. He has shown his true colors-and so have many of his supporters. Trump has encouraged a world where being offensive and violent is not only allowed, but downright encouraged.
My concern for this, due to my work, is the lesson that this teaches young people. How can I expect my students to understand the value of diverse opinions and the value of each and every person? For students who have become interested in Trump because he “tells it like it is,” is that really the path we want to pursue as a society? One where young people are encouraged to be horrible to one another because the most important value their President teaches is that you “tell it like it is?” I, for one, would dread Trump becoming president because it would turn schools from a safe place where all ideas are heard and valued into a place where violence and intolerance towards minorities is accepted. The POTUS should and will be a role model to millions of young people out there, and if they see their parents supporting a man who says such evil things about other people, and who has at times supported the idea of more adults having guns in schools, there is no doubt in my mind that there are many who will buy into this rhetoric.
As a society, we cannot let this happen. We cannot be a people whose lives run only on fear and hatred of those who are different than us. There are so many good people who would suffer under the policies of Mr. Trump, and I believe the most important of these are young people in minority groups. These students deserve the best life we can give them, and we should be doing everything that we can to encourage their active participation in civic life in our communities. Under a Trump regime, my fear is that their voices will be silenced by the angry and the fearful, instead of lifted up by those people who believe in a better future for all people.
One thing that I hope will result from the campaign of Donald Trump is an increase in engagement in both local politics and nonprofits. This is a time where we must realize that we can have a great effect on our local government. We need more citizens to get involved, to show up at local city council and county commissioners meetings, and have your voices be heard. Mr. Trump wishes to silence many of those voices, but we must remind our local politicians that we want to be heard. If you have ever thought about joining or supporting a nonprofit, especially one that is designed to help the underprivileged and underserved, now is the time. There may never be a point in our future that those populations are at their most vulnerable. The hate and venom that spews from a major presidential candidate has created an environment where many feel like they are less than, when in fact they have so much to offer to our society.
So get out, engage in local government, engage in local nonprofits. Make sure that your voice is heard, and that you allow the voices of those most vulnerable to be heard. Together, let’s drown out the hateful, vengeful, racist voices of many of Mr. Trump’s supporters. There is no better time but the present.