Democracy in Action: My Front-Row Seat to the Inauguration & Women’s March


This weekend, I attended both the inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington. In other words, I spent Friday surrounded by staunch supporters of President Trump and Saturday surrounded by those who oppose him.

Both days, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with smart people who care passionately about this country and who answer the call to engage in the political process. It gave me a unique glimpse into the conversations we are having—and not having—in this country.

January 20th: Inauguration Day

I took President Obama’s farewell speech advice to heart: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try talking with one of them in real life.” So, wearing my ANA pin, I spoke to everyone around me.

Everyone I met cared about many of the same issues that I do, like providing health care for all, fostering a strong economy, and ensuring quality education for our children. The people I spoke with firmly believe that Donald Trump will deliver in all of these areas. After President Trump spoke, the man standing next to me even said: “I love this man!”

At every turn, I saw that supporters of the new president are reasonable and willing to listen. For example, when people booed Hillary Clinton, I couldn’t help but blurt out: “This is disrespectful.” Two women near me replied: “You’re right.” Together, we created a small clapping section for all of the Democrats coming to the stage to counter the booing. Of course, I also clapped as Speaker Ryan, Vice President Pence, and President Trump were announced. Respect is respect.

Here’s where respect was lacking. As my husband and I were standing in line to attend the Inaugural Ball, protesters screamed at us. This was after hearing all afternoon about protesters breaking windows and starting fires. One protestor jumped in front of my husband so aggressively that three police in riot gear intervened. People around us expressed their disgust the behavior of “those sore losers.”

January 21st: Women’s March on Washington

The next day, I joined the Women’s March on Washington. I was surrounded by throngs of women and men chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” Attendees were overjoyed that their voice was being heard after the inauguration the day before. It was a peaceful protest—not one person in the throng of 500,000 people was arrested. And yet, every time I saw a sign or heard someone shout Not my president!, the previous day’s discussion about “sore losers” rang in my ears.

The Unifying Message from Two Ends of the Spectrum

Both days taught me about the way we listen to those who oppose us. More than ever, I believe that we only let ourselves hear the most extreme fringes of the opposition. This, in turn, allows us to label the other side as “crazy” and more readily dismiss differing points of view. Instead, what we so desperately need is to generate conversations that begin and end with respect. To quote Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle: “In any controversy, the instant we feel angry, we have already ceased striving for Truth, and begun striving for Ourselves.”

I also learned that nurses are uniquely prepared to generate the important discussions we need to have as a nation. We are skilled, respectful, and trusted listeners and communicators—even when faced with people who have widely differing points of view.

My ANA pin opened the doors to discussion on both days. So, I urge you to use your voice, listen intently beyond the shouting, and generate your own powerful conversations.


19 thoughts on “Democracy in Action: My Front-Row Seat to the Inauguration & Women’s March”

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences and reminding me that I want to be an inclusive, skilled and respectful listener and communicator. The campaign is over. Now, more than ever, we need to keep ourselves informed, be thoughtful and let our voices as healthcare professionals who care about vulnerable populations and believe healthcare is a basic human right, not a privilege, be heard.

    1. It is so refreshing to hear the thoughtful and open minded reflections from our own colleagues, especially after weeks of viewing hateful FB posts. I responded to 2 of these, only to get more defensive rantings in return. I decided constructive FB conversations were unlikely to occur, so I left it there. Marla, you are right, one on one conversations are much more likely to be productive.

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  3. I also believe in being polite, in being civil and respectful. My concern about Mr. Trump is that he shows little regard for women’s rights, as evidenced by his well documented abusive, if not criminal, sexual (ie: dominance/power) behavior toward women. Ignoring Mrs. Trump as they entered the White House with the Obamas and the video of Mrs Trump’s reaction to whatever he said to her during inauguration showed me he is less than kind to his wife. She signed on to be with him though I believe he sees his wife as not a partner but as an object. This, among comments he has said about abortion (paraphrasing) …if it doesn’t affect me directly why should I care if abortion/reproductive rights exist…). These things alone indicate to me that he does not have equal relationships with or positive attitudes about women who do not meet his definition of attractive. The usual response I hear from Trump supporters is to refer to Mr Clinton’s behavior with women. There is a distinct difference when comparing Mr. Clinton to Mr Trump. I see none of the compassion for people in the United States from Mr. Trump. I see posturing and braggadocio. He is self-centered and thin skinned as evidenced by his Tweeting habit. I am waiting to see if he has a compassionate response to victims of natural disasters, to our indigenous peoples, to our elderly and fragile populations through policies he has yet to address. The ACA was not perfect. Now we need to continue to be vigilant and hold his feet to the fire as nurses who advocate for single payor health coverage. Greed is part of our medical industrial complex and Mr. Trump does not see this as abhorrent — his deal making exhibit traits of a greedy person. Will he make a positive difference in our nation? I cannot predict. I do know that so far, less than a week into his presidency there has been chest beating, and less than mature responses to the political world he is now an integral part of as our president.

  4. Thank you, Marla, for your perspective on what is happening in our country right now and your thoughts on how we as nurses can move forward in an intelligent and objective way to continue our mission of compassionate care for all.

  5. I am wondering how you are feeling after these past few days of extreme legislating. I work with a very impoverished minority population where black lives don’t matter and family members may be taken in the night. I did not support the Republican Party and the Democratic Party disappointed me greatly, but, as a nurse, I felt overall whoever won would ultimately rise to the level of this great office and support the health and wellbeing of the people. That is not what I have observed these 6 days. I was in DC also. I saw the ANA, of which I am also a member, and was proud they were participating.
    I am sorry you had that experience with your husband going to the event. In any movement, there are always the fringe participants who seem to undermine the good work and ideals of many. What I have observed over the past 6 days from our great capital has put ice in my veins. I wondered what you see.

  6. Marla,
    Thanks for being there! I know your message is the right one. I have friends who support President Trump with a strong sense that the steps that he is taking are in the right direction. Frankly – I am feeling very powerless. I hope that you are right – that we need to stay engaged – looking for the opportunity to bring the voice of reason into some of these conversation.
    Thanks for your leadership during this difficult time.

  7. Ms. Weston,

    Thank you! Thank you for that wonderful quote. I have never been so concern about policy as, I am today. I totally agree that there first must be respect in order to sit down and have the tough conversations. We need each other so we can make the right decisions for our country, our states, and for our communities.

  8. Thank you so much for this insightful evaluation of the unique place nurses have in bridging the communication gap in our country between conservative and liberal thinkers. Our motives are so often similar-as we hope for the same outcomes.
    May be wise and see each 💕 and not just listen to words..

  9. Marla
    Thank you for presenting a professional and respected approach to interactions with fellow Americans
    We appreciate the way you represent us and also the wisdom you share with us so we can all follow your positive example
    Rhonda Anderson

  10. Marla, I appreciate your balanced response to a historic weekend, on all fronts. Now, ANA must stay vigilant in it’s mission to advance the profession of nursing and representing the patients, families and communities that we serve!! Thanks for your leadership!

  11. I fully agree with what you said about respectful listening, and nobody needs to learn how to disagree respectfully more than the new president.

  12. Well said Marla! Proud you represented nursing in such a professional manner The next four years will present challenges and we will need to address the issues that we believe in as “One Strong Voice” so we don’t lose some of the ground we have gained How we approach the issues will be important and will determine the respect with which our voices will be heard and acted upon So glad to have Pam and you at the helm in what could be difficult times Gayle Pearson

  13. Thank you for your thoughtful and sensible words of wisdom. If everyone will just stop shouting, we can get on with the work of resolving the difficult challenges we all face.

  14. Marla, what an excellent way of bringing respect to the forefront for all of us and pinpointing the role for nurses to make a difference, to build a bridge based on listening and working from our trusted role as a nurse. Thank you.

    bev malone

  15. Well said, Marla, and a good reminder that we must not ourselves be what we criticize in others. I’d be so glad if labels disappeared from the discourse.

  16. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You are absolutely right. We need to listen to understand and be open to ideas and different viewpoints. We need to be thoughtful and use our voices to provide strategies and solutions for providing holistic, high quality, affordable healthcare to the people we serve.

  17. Thank you for an open comment about your experience. Above all we must be respectful of both sides. I find that I often do not discuss my views because of the yelling that I hear from extremists. We need to support our president and not decide after 1 week that he “is not my president”. All have experienced disappointment with election results. It is time to move forward and work with others to ensure a safe and healthy climate for our country.

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