Living in Trumpworld by Rish Basu


Anxiously watching election coverage on his television Nov. 8, junior Mateo Díaz grew increasingly worried as he saw the states turn from blue to red.

First North Carolina, then Florida, followed by Ohio — all swinging in Trump’s favor.

As the hours wore on, Díaz became more and more hopeless, knowing well that the race was over. Finally around 3 a.m., the news was announced.

Donald J. Trump would become the 45th president of the United States.

“I felt awful when I saw he started winning, feeling worse as each swing state swung his way,” Díaz said. “I felt almost betrayed by this country, seeing how someone could be elected president off of rhetoric which involved calling people of color and particularly Mexicans rapists and thugs.”

Díaz and his family immigrated to the United States from Mexico 10 years ago when his dad was relocated for work. To Díaz, Trump’s harsh comments not only lacked political correctness but also represented a bigoted, retrogressive side to America.

“In the worst case, I see America pushed backwards 50 years in terms of policy,” Díaz said, “especially with gay and women’s rights being attacked, protectionist trade policies damaging the economies standing in the world and diplomatic relations potentially deteriorating between the U.S. and its allies.”

For junior Daniel Garcia, his family’s journey to America was a little more complicated. In 1993, his uncle decided to uproot his life and move to America.

“They [my family] crossed the border with the help of a coyote, which is what they called the people that would help others come over illegally,” Garcia said. “My uncle came to America. He was the first one. Then he went to school, found a property to live on and then my aunt and mother came over. Slowly we brought the rest of the family over, and eventually we became citizens.”

But with Trump’s plans to increase border patrol and build a huge wall, many people seeking such opportunities may not be able to take advantage of all that America has to offer.

“The wall is a very controversial thing,” Garcia said. “It’s quite a radical idea, especially considering how much money they would have to spend and how he said that we [Mexicans] would have to build it and stay on one side of it. I just don’t think it would help anyone.”

Garcia believes a wall would ruin America’s identity as a cultural melting pot, instead replacing it with a more “white” country.

“He’s trying to make America more ‘Americanized’ by getting rid of the diversity that is here,” Garcia said. “In the past, he’s generalized races by some of the not-so-great things that they have done, which is a shame.”

In contrast to Diaz’s initial dread, Garcia was more perplexed, “nervously laughing for a bit” upon hearing of Trump’s victory.

“My initial reaction was a strange one,” Garcia said. “I stayed up until four [a.m.] just following the thing. It was very nerve-racking since it was close, then not close, then close again. I was honestly just phased, but there was nothing I could do, so I just decided to take it all in.”

Garcia is unsure where America will be in four years, but he believes Trump will attempt to reassert America’s dominance. 

“Considering the reforms and other policies that he wishes to enforce,” Garcia said, “I could see America as more independent, especially with how he wants to lead the country. From somewhat trying to negotiate with Russia, to closing off immigration from certain countries, it’s definitely going to be a bit militaristic, especially given that he wants to go on the offensive to find and eradicate ISIS.”

One of Garcia’s greatest takeaways from this election cycle was Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” To Garcia, this slogan had a divisive, negative connotation that insulted the nation as a whole.

“Back then, Obama’s slogan was, ‘Change we can believe in,’ but this one [Trump’s] was more aggressive,” Garcia said, “implying that we weren’t great before, especially compared to earlier elections that were more about people joining together for the greater good of America.”

From the school’s mission to the guiding foundations behind its curricula, leadership is a cornerstone of education here.

Both around the Harkness table with classes like leadership and involvement-focused English 10 and on sports fields with 15 varsity teams, Marksmen learn principles of ethical and effective leadership in theory and in practice.

The Leadership and Ethics Council, led by co-chairs Andrew Lin and Gopal Raman and sponsors John Perryman and Amy Stanbury, works directly with the larger Leadership and Ethics Program create new opportunities for interested students.

As the divisive, polarizing election season came to a close, leaders from both the Council and the larger community reflect on the leadership the presidential candidates showed in their campaigns.

Although Gonzalez says both candidates want to improve jobs, pay and the economy, he believes they both fall short of good leadership.

“Both individuals ended up lowering themselves to the lowest common denominator by saying awful one-liner bits about each other,” Gonzalez said. “Even in that last debate they had they almost had a hard time finding a way to compliment each other. I think both of them lowered themselves to that standard which — in my idea — is not how a real leader should act.”

Because of this, Gonzalez took to the chapel altar to reaffirm his idea of good leadership.

“I just wanted to let you guys know especially because you are the future of our country, that there’s some great things going on and you can contribute a lot still,” Gonzalez said. It’s not all set in stone and we are done. It was more positive than some of the negative stuff we kept hearing over and over and over.”

For Martin Stegemoeller, the election cycle was anything but an easy choice.

“Because both candidates were viewed as dishonest, I viewed it as a lesser of two evils kind of vote,” Stegemoeller said. “And if you think about what we’re trying to teach kids about leadership, the leadership that actually works in the world, the candidates don’t have those virtues.”

Stegemoeller recognizes the different ideologies that both candidates exhibited as leaders.

“If you just look at Trump’s biography, he was taught to be about yourself,” Stegemoeller said. “To him, you should be about yourself, and I’m going to be about myself, and we’re going to fight. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a trench warrior. She’s been in that business for so long and it’s just insane.”

For Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Lin believes her experience as a career politician helped her greatly as a potential leader of the nation.

“I think her experience is one of the greatest things as a leader,” Lin said. “This is one of the most important qualities of a leader. This is my second year as swim captain, and only one year later, I feel like I already know how it works so much better. Her experience in office is a huge boost for her.”

Lin notices the different leadership qualities the two presidential candidates exhibited throughout the past year. For President-elect Trump, Lin highlights Trump’s straightforward approach to politics.

“I think the president-elect Donald Trump does have a real feel about him,” he said. “When you hear what he’s saying, you think, ‘this is genuine, this is from his heart.’ He’s not going to disguise things from the public, for better or for worse… I think one thing that’s strong about him is how genuine he is.”

Nevertheless, Stegemoeller views effective leadership as an initiative that takes everyone into consideration, not just a certain group.

“I think our best presidents have a quality that they are for everyone,” Stegemoeller said. “They are not beholden to any vested set of interest groups, and I think unfortunately, both of these candidates are beholden to interest groups.”