Several historic events have happened over the past several days:
- On Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as the U.S.’s 45th president.
- One day later, hundreds of thousands of people flooded Washington, D.C. for a Women’s March on Washington - and they were joined by hundreds of thousands more people in cities and towns across the U.S. and around the world.
Ask if anyone in the class participated in or saw the inauguration or, took part in any of the women’s marches. Ask:
- What struck you about the inauguration?
- What struck you about the women’s marches?
- If you yourself participated, how did it feel to be part of such an event? What made you want to take part in it?
Tell students that we’ll now explore these events a bit further.
Photo: Women's March on Washington by Mark Dixon, Pittsburgh, PA.
On January 20, Donald Trump took the traditional oath of office and gave a 16-minute inaugural speech to the assembled crowd and viewers. (See the full speech here.) About 160,000 people poured into the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to witness the inauguration, which signaled the end of Barack Obama’s 8-year term as president. The Obama family and other former presidents and their families attended Trump’s inauguration.
In the speech, Trump described a troubled nation, including:
mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now....
Trump promised the "total eradication" of "radical Islamic terrorism." He said that "at the bedrock of our politics will be
Immediately after the inauguration, Trump took his first actions as president. He issued an executive order to allow federal agencies to waive or defer provisions of Obamacare. This was a first step in Trump’s promised repeal of Obamacare (officially known as the Affordable Care Act), which could cause as many as 18 million Americans to lose their health insurance.
In addition, Trump signed an order to roll back a discount on the fees for a federal mortgage program that helps middle-class homebuyers.
Immediately following Trump’s inauguration, major changes appeared on the White House’s website. Among the changes was the removal of the terms "climate change" and "LGBT" from the website.
On the following day, January 21, a Women’s March on Washington flooded the streets of the Capitol, nearly paralyzing the city’s transportation systems. "Crowd scientists" quoted in the New York Times estimated that there were at least 470,000 people at the march. Huge solidarity marches took place on the same day in cities and towns across the U.S. and the world.
The impetus for the march came in part from the derogatory comments Donald Trump had made about women during the presidential campaign, including a video recording in which he bragged about assaulting women. These and other Trump comments and behaviors became a major issue in Trump’s race against Hillary Clinton for the presidency.
The purpose of the march, according to its organizers, was to stand up for women’s rights and human rights. In their "unity statement," march organizers called for:
- An end to violence against women, including "ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color."
- Reproductive rights, including "open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people"
- LGBTQUI rights, including the "power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes."
- Workers’ rights, including the rights of "domestic and farm workers, undocumented and migrant, to organize and fight for a living minimum wage."
- Civil rights, including "voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech."
- Disability rights, including "the right of disabled people to be fully included in and contribute to all aspects of American life, economy, and culture."
- Immigrant rights, including the belief that "migration is a human right and that no human being is illegal."
- Environmental justice: "our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed - especially at the risk of public safety and health."
The D.C. march turned out to be the tip of the iceberg: At least a million, and by some estimates 2.5 million women, men, and children around the world took to the streets on January 21. (See this map showing locations of marches. Also see these photos from around the world.)
New York City saw one of its largest demonstrations ever (400,000, according to the Mayor’s Office). Hundreds of thousands more people marched in Los Angeles. In Chicago, the streets were so clogged that "marching" became impossible, and the event was declared a rally instead. Major events were also reported in Miami, Denver, Seattle, Atlanta, and a host of other cities and towns. The New York Times reported that "In Juneau, Alaska, one man marveled that the crowd was the biggest he had ever seen on the state Capitol’s steps. In Philadelphia, marchers filled city bridges. In Lexington, Ky., they shut down streets. In New Orleans, participants played brass instruments."
Americans were joined by people marching in solidarity in cities across Mexico, Canada, and Europe. People marched or rallied in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Nairobi, Kenya; Capetown, South Africa; Erbil, Iraq; Tokyo, Japan; and Antarctica.
The Washington Post reported that within hours of announcing plans for the march on Washington, "organizers started fielding requests from people in other countries who couldn’t make it to Washington but wanted to take part." One march organizer, Breanne Butler, told the Post that each march had its own focus: "In many South American countries, gender violence is at the top of the list," she said. "In Tokyo, one of the issues they are campaigning for is the right to education." Kate Taylor, a co-founder of the march in Sydney, Australia, said, "Misogyny and bigotry are global issues."
March organizers and many of those who attended the events said they saw their actions as the beginning of a period of activism and organizing.
Engage students in discussion about the events of the past few days, using some or all of the questions below. If there is time, have students first discuss issues in pairs or small groups before sharing their views with the whole class.
As you discuss students’ thoughts and perceptions, create a list of questions for further exploration. Make a note of any questionable assertions or misinformation.
- What stands out for you in the events over the past few days?
- What reactions do you have to the excerpts we read from President Trump’s inaugural speech?
- Have you heard of policies Trump has proposed to address the problems that he describes?
- What do you think of the actions Trump took immediately after his inauguration?
- How do you think the Women’s March is related to Donald Trump’s inauguration?
- Why do you think people in so many American cities came out to march?
- Why did people from other countries join in?
- What impact do you think these marches might have on the people who participated?
- What impact do you think they might have on others, on society in general and on the political process?
Review with students the list of questions you’ve created and discuss how you might answer them. Consider assigning students to research the questions.
As a closing, ask students to share one thought or feeling they have following our discussion today.