Chairman’s Corner by Scott McGraw

What a great experience the inauguration was in Washington D.C. last month! Not only was it a sight to see a Republican sworn-in as president, but the movement over the past year-and-a-half that placed him there was incredible. Donald Trump overcame all kind of odds and obstacles to end up as president of the United States. It is inspiring to see him put the same kind of energy into this position that he has over the years building up his own company. He certainly hit the ground running as he began rolling up his sleeves on Nov. 9 and putting the work of the people in his sights.

I went with a group of friends down to Washington, including Mary and Aaron Balkema, SonJalita Hulbert, Dennis Jokula and Matthew Day. We drove all night Wednesday night and Thursday morning and were exhausted when we rolled into the nation’s capital. That exhaustion was short-lived as we jumped on the subway system and headed down to the Capitol. Thursday was pretty much eaten up for us as we ran around gathering our tickets for the various events we wanted to attend.

Congressman Fred Upton welcomed us at the Ways and Means Committee Room in the Longworth Building. Several other Kalamazoo people were in attendance, including Aric and Trisha Nesbitt, Peter and Sharon Strazdas, Kevin and Madison Mazer, Tonya Schuitmaker, Brandt Iden, Matt Hall, Margaret and Nick O’Brien. We even saw Lorence and Nancy Wenke there!

We ran around a lot that day, but also found out about an event that night hosted by Betsy DeVos. That was a fun event and we saw a great number of Michigan people there and enjoyed talking with everyone. One thing I learned in our trip was that when Mary Balkema wants to leave, that means now! I was left alone at the DeVos event with a bad address of the next party that Mary wanted to go to. After walking around for half an hour, I realized that fencing for the parade the next day was being installed and the hotel where the party was at became completely enclosed. I could see the party through the fence, but couldn’t get in.

Nobody was answering their phones or texts to come let me in, so I walked around a little bit. I walked past the White House and realized that it was the last night in the White House for the O’Bamas. I walked down K Street and heard the protesters. I thought that might be a good event to say I was at, so I walked through the protests. It was an eye-opening experience to see about 30 to 50 protesters making a bunch of noise in the middle of the street. There were about 100 to 150 media staffers trying to cover the event. I figured coverage of this small gathering was going to be all over the headlines in the morning. What was impressive were the number of police there – at least 500, maybe more. The protests were not going to get out of control. I finally hooked back up with my group as they were getting ready to leave.

On Friday, we got up early and went down to the Capitol and got good seats up close for the inauguration. It was over-whelming at one point to turn around and see just a sea of people from the Capitol all the way back to the Washington Monument. I’ve never been an event with so many people. I don’t know what all the fuss is about how many people attended the inauguration. It was packed full of people for a mile.

Donald Trump’s speech was historic and moving, I felt. He was right on, talking about giving the government back to the people. I felt his passion and whole-heartedly agree with his message of making government work for all Americans. I think in the years to come, we will look back on this moment as a turning point in U.S. history.

Years ago, my mother was a Reagan delegate during the Republican National Convention and my parents were invited to the inauguration that January. I can remember my parents concerned over the cost and fighting the crowds and they eventually decided not to go. In watching future inaugurations, I could see their disappointment over that decision. I did not want to make the same mistake.

I hope years from now, I can talk about being at the inauguration of a president who changed this country’s direction and set things in motion that helped improve the lives of all Americans, putting us back on track to “Make America Great Again.”