Over Christmas break, a sentiment nearly everyone I came in contact with shared with me was that it was interesting times for me to be living in D.C. I agreed. I honestly do not believe there has ever been a more interesting time for anyone to live in D.C. That was especially true on inauguration week. Historic and groundbreaking moments seemed to be happening every moment, and I did my best to take advantage of all the opportunities available to me. There have been many news articles about the inaugural festivities of the past week, but I have noticed several omissions of moments that I thought were of significant importance. Here are the five moments of inaugural week that deserved greater attention than they received:
1. Cory Booker and Tim Scott embrace
One of the most exciting aspects of inauguration week was Nikki Haley’s confirmation hearing. Though aspects of the hearing did make it into the news, many of the most important and powerful moments did not. One of the things that deserved attention was an especially poignant moment shared between Senators Cory Booker and Tim Scott. After entering the committee room and introducing his governor, South Carolina’s first African American senator was excused from the proceedings so he could return to other commitments, but before he could leave New Jersey Senator Cory Booker discreetly moved from behind the bench to the back of the room, behind any and all reporters and cameras. In the privacy of the back of the committee room, the two senators gave each other what might have been the most heartfelt and sincere hug I have ever witnessed. I respect the fact that they did so away from the prying eyes of the press, but it was a beautiful moment that I felt deserved attention. Two stalwarts and upcoming leaders of their respective parties truly embracing one another was something powerful to behold. Bipartisan respect and affection is alive and well, and I saw perhaps the greatest display of it through these two senators.
2. Ajit Singh Randhawa proudly dons his turban
Another extremely powerful moment from the Haley hearings was seeing the family of the nominee for U.N. Ambassador walk the halls of the Dirksen Building and enter the hearing room. Haley’s parents are proud Indian Sikh immigrants. Haley has talked openly about her family’s differences from most other citizens of South Carolina, and in her biography she writes about witnessing her father being subjected to racial profiling as a child. To see her father proudly wearing his turban while entering the venue where his daughter was about to be considered to become the new face of the United States to the rest of the world was a beautiful thing. No one batted an eye or acted as if anything was out of the ordinary as he walked, which was exactly as his entrance should have been. You could see how proud of and happy for his daughter he was, and while I was both of those things as well, I was also extremely proud of and happy for the American people in that moment. Despite all the harsh rhetoric about xenophobia and anti-immigrant stances, in that moment Professor Randhawa was universally accepted as just as American as anyone else in the building, which is exactly what he is.
3. Standing ovation for the Clintons at cabinet luncheon
One of my least favorite moments of the Inauguration was when the crowds booed Hillary Clinton’s arrival. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum or how you feel about either candidate, the time to voice those opinions is not during the Inauguration itself, which is a symbolic presentation of the peaceful transition of power. Hillary Clinton was attending the event as a former First Lady (and senator and Secretary of State) and she deserved the same respect afforded every other politician and diplomat on that stage. I winced when the booing began and locked eyes with many other attendees who looked like they were feeling how I felt in that moment. I was very embarrassed during these few seconds and wished that President Trump would address the commotion. I was ecstatic to learn that at the luncheon for his cabinet, President Trump asked everyone to stand and clap for the Clintons. It was a simple and painless gesture that shows the new president’s genuine intention to help bridge the ideological and political divide separating many Americans, and I thought it deserved much more coverage than it received.
4. Clarence Thomas delivers Oath of Office to Vice President Pence
Proud Georgian and notoriously silent Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas became the first African American to ever swear in an American president or vice president. It’s both a wonderful and saddening fact, as it seems like a momentous event that should have occurred years ago. Thomas spoke in his clear, deep drawl that underscores his quiet strength and dignity. He delivered the oath to Pence, whose hand was atop the Reagan Bible, a symbolic and powerful choice since both Pence and Thomas pride themselves on being conservatives cut from the same cloth as Ronald Reagan. The fact that the oath has finally been delivered by an African American justice should be celebrated and heralded as a show of progress and advancement, but the fact has largely faded into the background amidst other Inauguration festivities.
5. Six prayers and multiple mentions of Jesus
I will admit that I have seen news articles mentioning that Trump’s Inauguration featured more prayers than any other throughout history, but many of these articles exclude mentions of the most important details of these prayers. While Inaugurations traditionally include an invocation and often readings of scripture, what set these prayers apart was their direct beseeching of Jesus. The ministers who spoke at the Inauguration had no qualms about being open and obvious with their beliefs, and they made it abundantly clear that they hold Jesus to be both the intercessor and the only way to salvation. This is an important distinction from other prayers given at government events, which traditionally refer to God alone so as not to offend or marginalize anyone who does not identify as a Christian. These references to Jesus as the Son of God made it indisputably clear that President Trump plans to make Christian values a central hallmark of his administration.