There’s a wonderful quote by John Adams engraved into a mantelpiece in the White House. It’s from a letter to Abigail Adams, and it reads, “May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”
Two takeaways: First, Adams never considered Hillary Clinton’s immense courage, drive, grace and dedication to public service. America has done a disservice to itself as a whole, but more specifically, to one of its dearest public servants. Hillary Clinton deserved so much more than what she got; not just in terms of the end result, but also in our treatment of her in general, so much of which was characterized by sexism both blatant and subtle.
I was so disappointed when Barack Obama defeated her back in 2008, but that seems like such a sweet memory compared to now. I — and I am sure, most of us — cannot come close to imagining the sacrifices she’s made and the hell she’s put herself through to get here. And then we do this.
The second takeaway: Donald Trump has the longest of roads to becoming a leader fit to carry Adams’ vision. And for America’s sake, I dearly hope he can find the compassion, grace and resoluteness to lead our nation.
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Both Trump and Obama remarked after the election on how the president’s duty is to represent all Americans. Much as Britain’s Theresa May said to her nation this summer, “We are all Brexiters now,” so too will Trump be all Americans’ president.
I am sure I will find his legislative agenda antithetical to what I think America should be. I am sure I will vote Democrat in 2018, and will do my part to make sure his presidency comes to an end in 2020. But I desperately don’t want President-elect Trump to fail America. I hope he improves our economy and infrastructure, does good throughout the world and remedies our nation’s many failings.
I find fault after fault in his agenda, and I hope he is unable time and time again to make the changes he desires into reality. But as America’s future leader, if Trump somehow manages to stumble his way into making America a better place, I’ll take it and hope the 40-odd percent of fellow Clinton supporters do the same. I hope we all find it in ourselves to commit to the American project; to dedicate our life and labor to improving this nation which is our home; that nation still exists.
As a straight white male from a relatively affluent family, I cannot approach an understanding of the pain and anxiety many of my less-privileged friends are experiencing. And maybe more than anything, I cannot conceive of what it is to be a survivor watching the presidency held by a man who is a serial assaulter of women, and likely worse.
But America is greater than Trump. It is greater than Obama, the 43 presidents who preceded him and the entire government. It is greater than everyone living here today, greater than the beautiful land we are fortunate to count as ours, and greater than the Constitution and Declaration of Independence lying in the National Archives.
All of us who are Americans — and I know for many citizenship is a fact of birth, not a choice — have an obligation to improve our country. Hoping that the Trump presidency descends into flames and chaos is not hoping that America does well. I’m American, and I want America to do well. I hope Trump finds himself the leader of a prosperous country, just as I hope he fails in almost every hateful thing he has promised to do.
Ian Hafley of Lexington is a junior at the University of Chicago currently studying in India.