On Wednesday August 30, 1,500 people made their way to Glenstone Avenue in Springfield Missouri for in response to a visit from President Trump. A large number of Drury students represented in multiple facets at this event.
In a social movement, Professor of Communication, Dr. Rick Maxson explained, there are demonstrators and there are protesters. Demonstrators represent the status quo while protesters represent the resistance. Drury students represented both sides with some protesting Trump’s arrival and others coming in support. “While the positions we take may be in opposition to each other, the motives will often be the same,” said Maxson.
Young Democrats President Lindsay Duede believes that it is imperative for Drury students to be involved in politics, especially on a local level. “Representation is so important. It is essential that we let that greater Springfield community know that students at Drury are engaged and passionate,” said Duede.
Drury students and faculty believe that it is the responsibility of this generation to work towards representation. “Historically when you look at the major political movements around the world, those movements were powered by college aged students,” said Maxson. Attending the protest himself, Maxson was glad to see Drury students actively participating in democracy. “[The protest] made me proud to be from an institution that values things outside of the classroom.”
In many ways, our education at Drury prepares us for an event exactly like this. “If we are to be prepared for the world today, it is absolutely essential that learning extends beyond the classroom,” said Bre Legan, senior graphic design, writing, and fine arts major. “Real change takes action, and this was a great way for the Springfield community to get involved.”
Strategic Communications Junior, Sarah Buxwell was invited to see Trump speak at the Loren Cook Company. “I encouraged many of my friends to be involved. I think it is important for college students to engage in the political process, as it gives students the opportunity to be educated and make contacts in the community. It creates an environment for students to grow and learn about opposing views.”
One of the most powerful things about this experience for many of our Drury participants was the sense of community that was created at the event. Maxson described the protest as a sort of block party that represented a diverse group of people. Legan agreed, saying, “We all strive to find groups where we feel safe and accepted, and when a like-minded collective comes together, it’s hard not to feel the energy and enthusiasm in the air.”
Protesting isn’t inherently fun, however. With the recent Charlottesville tragedy in the back of the protesters minds, it was a sacrifice from school work and jobs in order to attend. “ I went to the protest to protest. I did not show up to just have fun or spend time with my friends. Protest, by nature, is an inconvenience. I missed three classes to go to the protest. That’s fine with me though because making my voice heard was (and is) far more important to me. Being passive won’t create change. People understood that. That is why they showed up.”
Maxson agrees, saying that regardless of the side you showed up for, he respects the protester or demonstrator because these protest experiences have given him empathy for people who risk a lot for their beliefs. “You let your body speak for an issue that you believe in, and that’s no small thing,” said Maxson.
No one was hurt at the protest or demonstration, which was a good thing for both events.” I was pleased to hear that all demonstrations remained peaceful and that the President’s visit was a success,” said Buxwell.
Clearly, Drury students across the political spectrum believe that representation is important. But what does a protest or attending a speech actually accomplish? According to Maxson, the short answer is the Springfield community has changed because of last Wednesday’s event.
“Anyone that believed that Springfield was homogenous or a monolith of ideology or the base of Trump’s administration, that day demonstrated that the base is not the only people living in Springfield. People were able to look around and notice that there’s a lot of diversity here,” said Maxson.
According to Duede, this event was for the protester. Duede said, “Getting involved in that process is a way to take control of your own life by being involved in democracy.” She hopes that people will return home from their protest or demonstration with more resolve to learn more and become involved in their local grassroots organizations.
It is in these big groups of like-minded people that we make discoveries about our own beliefs. Maxson said, “It’s demoralizing to sit at home and feel like you’re the only person that thinks the way that you do. But when you go out and do something active, it changes you.”
The protest was not, however, a way to get any administration changed. “Trump didn’t change because people were out there. And protesters know that. But I’ll tell you what does change, and that’s your personal resolve for the cause,” said Maxson.
Ultimately, people showed up at this event to make a statement. “The message I wanted to send by attending was that I support our President and I was excited to see him in our city,” said Buxton.
The way that students respond to current political movements determines the future outcome of our country. “This is history in the making, and I will not sit idly by,” said Legan.
“Big changes happen in ripples,” said Maxson, encouraging students to fight the good fight for what they believe in and to always show up for democracy.