When President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in as the country's 45th president Friday, a group of Western Kentucky University students and one local lawmaker will see history unfold.
Saundra Ardrey, who heads WKU's Political Science Department, is leading a group of 25 students to join in Inauguration Day events. Ardrey, also a political science professor and active Democrat, said the students have participated in an election that was hard fought on all sides. She wants her students to learn that "politics is about conflict, it’s about struggle, but it is also about majority rules."
"We want students to understand that this is a peaceful transition of power," she said.
The students, who Ardrey said represent a range of majors, left on Wednesday and plan to return Saturday. During their stay, Ardrey said the group will visit the capital's monuments and meet with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, both Republicans from Bowling Green.
Among the group is Rachel Taylor, a law student at the University of Kentucky and a WKU alumna. Taylor, who supported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the election, initially thought she'd be seeing the first female president sworn in. After Trump was named the winner, she reconsidered going. She followed through with the trip and plans to attend Trump's inauguration.
"I definitely think that it’s important to come together as a nation … and support the fair winner of the election," she said.
Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, is also attending the inauguration Friday. Wilson, who's never seen a presidential inauguration live, said he's been looking forward to seeing Trump raise his right hand and take his oath of office. He's also looking forward to visiting some national monuments, such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where his wife's uncle's name is engraved.
"To be able to do it with the presidential inauguration is just awesome for us," he said.
While most have tickets to the inauguration, Ardrey said some students plan to attend opposition events to Trump's presidency instead. Several of the students attending are students in her campaign management class. While they've discussed various controversies during the election, Ardrey said they've always tried to do so with cool heads.
"It’s an opportunity for students to discuss the issues in a nonthreatening and safe environment," she said.
While Taylor won't be joining in anti-Trump protests, she is planning to take part in the Women's March in hopes that the next administration will adopt a "female-friendly agenda." Although she's not looking forward to Trump's administration, she hopes it won't slide backward on women's issues.
"I think it’s really important to make that known at the beginning of the next four years," she said.
About 50 Democratic lawmakers are boycotting Trump's inauguration, according to an online list published Wednesday by People Magazine. The list includes American civil rights figure U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who's questioned Trump's legitimacy as president.
Responding to that move, Wilson said the boycott sends a message of hostility.
"I think it’s a wrong message to send in my opinion," he said.
Wilson said he was happy to see Trump elected president and looks forward to seeing Trump affect change.
"For the last eight years we’ve seen the country going in the wrong direction," he said, adding that Trump galvanized alienated Americans in his White House bid.
Wilson said he believes Trump can usher in a new business-friendly era and cut back regulations harmful to economic growth.
"Those are things that resonated with many of us, to hear him talk about the things that would help bring our nation back," Wilson said.
As for her trip, Ardrey said it's about continuing a tradition that happens every four years.
"It’s important for students to understand that this is the time for coming together and to be Americans," she said.
Outside of the political festivities, Taylor will be in Washington D.C. for her first time and plans to see as much as she can.
"I’m just excited to be a part of all of it," she said.
— Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.