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Reflection on the Inauguration

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, January 24, 2005

Despite long delays and Friday’s blizzard, our small group managed to make it out to Washington for last week’s Inauguration. It was great to be back out in Washington to see the spectacle of thousands of Texans getting in the way of native Washingtonians on the Metro, as well the glare of some liberals clinging to their “Kerry Edwards” buttons in some form of therapy.

From my experiences of the city in our Washington Program, I could easily pick out the D.C. natives against the throngs of tourists. Sometimes I could not help but get mad myself as large groups of various fellow red state voters clogged up the escalators and violated many parts of what I learned to be the unwritten rules of east coast etiquette. As I began to notice some trends in the behavior of the two groups, I began my own version of an informal social science study through observation.

Despite all this, the throngs of red states had some very surprising and redeeming qualities that I didn’t see in their D.C. counterparts. At many random times on the Metro, some would say hello and start a conversation. They also felt very comfortable dressing in some of the tackiest souvenir sweatshirts and hats I have ever seen. All of these traits were very stereotypically American, and in our grand traditions of being the ever annoying tourists.

With the exception of a few privileged donors, the people attending this inauguration were not a group of aloof billionaires. They were the kind of friendly Midwesterners and Southerners I have learned to love in my experiences of America. Collectively, they share in the pain of those who have unfortunately lost loved ones in Iraq. At many of the Inaugural Balls, Veterans were honored for their service and given free invitations. Debunking yet another myth of Republicans, we did not celebrate this inauguration aloof to the sacrifices that brave heroes have made.

At the Indiana Ball, the so-called “evil corporations” sponsoring this event paid for veterans and their families to attend for free. The Toyota Corporation has even started a program under which employees called to Iraq for service will keep their full pay and benefits for the duration of their tour of duty. Although expensive, these parties were not the obscure elitist playgrounds liberals wish to depict them as, but places where service and volunteerism were celebrated.

The efforts of the left to simplify our party to radical Christians and heartless slaves to corporate interests are just not true. Republicans celebrating in Washington last week all shared somehow in the service of their country. Indeed, there was some of the wealthy minority in attendance who could best help the party through generous donations. Aside from that, many of us in attendance put many volunteer hours in on campaigns, worked phone banks and walked door to door to push for an agenda we believed in.

Before I ramble on any longer, I should draw to the conclusion of my experiment in observation. What sets the red state voters apart from others? I draw the difference as optimism in America itself. This optimism thanks God we are not standing idly by waiting for the terrorists to take the first move on us. It is an optimism that does not think itself above manifesting itself in tacky merchandise and cowboy hats to show pride in the greatest country on earth. It screams they are proud to be American and do not care about the opinions of the world community while doing what is right. It is an optimism that was foolish enough to believe over 200 years ago that 13 colonies could challenge the British Empire.

That optimism and hope for the future is what has made the United States the superpower it is today. When the rest of the world turns their back on the hard road of doing what is unpopular, the United States will be there to roll up her sleeves and do what is necessary. The war in Iraq will not get any easier, but once again we will show the world the folly of the cowardice of those who hid behind the banner of the League of Nations before World War II, and hide as well today behind the United Nations in the face of terrorism and global weapons of mass destruction proliferation.

I happened to turn on an HBO documentary after the Inauguration about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In it, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu explained that, “The only true test of leadership is risking failure in the pursuit of doing what you believe is right.” Last week, we celebrated the fact President George W. Bush has placed his entire political career on the line to pursue something we believe will spread the banner of freedom and increase the security of the world.

Tom Rippinger is a senior political science major. He supports President Bush and is the co-President of the Notre Dame College Republicans. He can be contacted at trippin1@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.