Area residents attend inauguration

From left, siblings Marguerite, John and Joe Rheinberger stand in front of the U.S. Capitol where they attended the inauguration of Donald Trump Jan. 21. (Submitted photo)
From left, siblings Marguerite, John and Joe Rheinberger stand in front of the U.S. Capitol where they attended the inauguration of Donald Trump Jan. 21. (Submitted photo)

Stillwater siblings Joe, John and Marguerite Rheinberger attended the presidential inauguration Jan. 20 in Washington D.C.

They had booked airfare and hotels by the end February 2016, and they were the first to sign up for inauguration tickets with Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s office, according to Marguerite Rheinberger.

“We had no idea whose inauguration we would be attending but knowing we would be attending made us acutely aware of the political process in play over the subsequent months,” she said. “The only thing I wish could have happened is that our mother would have been able to attend because she was the most excited one about going back to D.C. for this event.”

The Rheinbergers’ mother, also named Marguerite, died in September after a lifetime of travel.

In addition to the inauguration, the Rheinbergers attended the Kentucky Bluegrass Ball and spent hours with marchers in the Women’s March on Washington Jan. 21.

The Gazette asked the Rheinbergers questions about their experience. Here were their answers:

Joe Rheinberger

What was most memorable to you about the inauguration?

What was most memorable to me about the inauguration was the number of people who attended. I understand there was a dispute about this in the mainstream media; regardless, from where I was seated, I saw a packed sea of humanity stretching from the Capitol where the ceremony was held all the way back to the Washington Monument on the other side of the National Mall. It was so surreal and something I’ve never experienced.

How would you describe the mood in Washington D.C. during the week of the inauguration?

I found the mood during the week of the inauguration to be somewhat calm. I neither witnessed any violent public protests against now President Trump, nor did I see any public rallies in support of Trump leading up to his swearing-in.

What other thoughts would you like to share about the experience?

A: I thought Trump’s inauguration speech was fantastic and consistent with his campaign platform.

B. The Women’s March on the National Mall held on Saturday (the day after the inauguration) was amazing in terms of the sheer number of people who showed up. I have never experienced a rally that large. I also thought a lot of the signs were very creative and amusing. For a variety of reasons, though, I dare not get into the details of what they read or showed.

John Rheinberger

What was most memorable to you about the inauguration?

The most memorable event was the president’s 1,435 word speech. I originally thought Senator Chuck Schumer of New York had made a semi-successful attempt to hijack the event by giving a left-leaning address through his position as a co-chair of the 58th inaugural event. He was later booed off the podium. As it surprisingly turned out the senator had only primed the president’s forthcoming speech thus making it only better. I had never been in a live audience before but I thought that he had truly engaged them as well as me. And, a great ending with all participating by saying “America First!”

How would you describe the mood in Washington D.C. during the week of the inauguration?

I expected the city to be really energized. Except for pockets it was not. With the President getting only 4 percent of the vote in D.C. (11,500 votes out of 280,000) I should not have been surprised. On the morning of the inaugural you could get a seat on the Metro line except at the stations very close to the event. I had expected it to be totally jammed. Many Capital Hill offices were open for receptions at least by the Republican majority. I sensed that the political divisions were still there and the Women’s March on the next day confirmed it.

What other thoughts would you like to share about the experience?

I encourage others to attempt to get involved in historic events. inaugurals are such occasions. Looking forward you do not really know if you are currently witnessing an unbelievable event. The 58th inaugural maybe just another garden variety inaugural or it could be something clearly a historic turning point. Further, as you plan to somehow be involved in such events you do not know how your personal life may change, if any, because of your participation. It is these unknown surprises that make a lifetime fun!

Marguerite Rheinberger

What was most memorable to you about the inauguration?

I loved how everyone had the opportunity for their day and their say. I felt part of a true democracy!

The excitement was palpable on the plane to Washington, D.C. and especially on Friday and Saturday in D.C.!

How would you describe the mood in Washington D.C. during the week of the inauguration?

The day before the inauguration, the overall atmosphere was more low key anticipatory. Many congressional representatives were holding open houses in their offices and were happy to pose for photos even if we were not from their congressional district, let alone their state. On the day of the inauguration, we did encounter people on the Metro who were carrying signs that openly ticked others off. The inauguration itself was respectful though those who were in standing areas were openly booing any Democratic officeholder who was introduced. At times, I felt like the only one clapping after Democrats were shown on the jumbotron like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. However, no one looked askance at me. I respect people who run for office whether partisan or not. On demonstration day (Saturday), no one could have prepared us for the throngs of people all day on the Metro lines and on and around the National Mall. It was a non-threatening environment though a few speakers seemed to want to incite the overall peaceful crowd.

What other thoughts would you like to share about the experience?

I wondered why the hundreds of thousands who marched in D.C. and elsewhere on Saturday didn’t do that before the election where they might have had a more direct impact on who won president. When asked, several marchers told me that they had not voted and assumed that Hillary Clinton would win. Amongst the marchers, there were many who simply didn’t like the personality and/or past behavior of the new president, as evidenced by their signs and statements, some vulgar that even offended other marchers and especially those who brought young children. I don’t think that helped fortify those who were passionate on very specific issues like domestic violence, fair wages, anti-racism, etc.