In his inaugural address as President of the United States, Donald Trump touched on the same anti-establishment rallying cries that catapulted him into the Oval Office. The country, he said, was back in the hands of the voters now that he was in office.
“We are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another,” Mr. Trump declared. “But we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.”
That idea — that America was being reclaimed by those who had been forgotten — resonated with East End residents who attended the inauguration Friday afternoon.
“[It’s] the dawn of a new era,” said Ken Rothwell of Wading River. “A lot of us feel that we’re unrepresented and he’s kind of shaken things up … A lot of times he said we will be heard and that our voices will be heard.”
Mr. Rothwell, who owns four funeral homes in Suffolk County, attended the inauguration with his 16-year-old son Kenny. He said the inauguration was the first they attended.
“I think it’s a history lesson and it was just something I was never afforded in the past to do,” he said. “I think regardless of what political side you’re on, to stand there and see history in the making and the peaceful transfer of power was powerful.”
“It was a great experience to get to witness history,” said Kenny Rothwell, a student at Riverhead High School.
Southold Town councilman James Dinizio was also among those in attendance and he said the experience — his first time at a presidential inauguration — was “inspiring.”
“It almost brought me to tears,” Mr. Dinizio said.
Mr. Dinizio arrived at the inauguration site at 5 a.m. to get his spot in the standing room section near the steps of the Capitol building. The Rothwells got their tickets through the office of Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and were waiting in line at the security booths by 6 a.m.
Mr. Rothwell said the crowd was “very, very energetic.”
“They booed quite loudly when Hillary Clinton was announced,” he said laughing. “But when he stepped out on the platform it was a lot of cheers for Trump.”
Mr. Zeldin attended the inauguration and wished success to Mr. Trump, whom he supported during the presidential race. In a statement, Mr. Zeldin said the new Republican-controlled Congress and administration would open up “many opportunities throughout the year to improve our community, state and nation.”
He cited job growth, better security, support for veterans and improving the quality of education and healthcare among his goals. Mr. Zeldin also criticized the more than 60 Democratic House members who boycotted the inauguration.
“Even if a member does not want to celebrate an inauguration, they can still participate to honor the process of the peaceful transition of power,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s inaugural address at times painted a bleak state of affairs in America, comparing shuttered factories to tombstones and decrying the poverty, crime and drugs Mr. Trump has said runs rampant in the nation.
“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he said, adding that the country will put its interests first. In his trademark bravado, Mr. Trump promised that instead: “America will start winning again, winning like never before.”
Mr. Dinizio felt the speech was a “toned-down” version of the former real estate mogul’s brash campaign stump speeches.
“He toned it down as far as rhetoric, but all the points were there,” Mr. Dinizio said. “Put America first, make America great again. I just hope that he’s successful.”
Mr. Dinizio suspects Mr. Trump’s promise to build a physical wall on the Mexican border won’t be approved, but believed it might spur some in Congress to reach common ground on immigration reform.
And what does he hope President Trump brings to the North Fork? Nothing, Mr. Dinizio said. “I want the government to stay out of my backyard,” he said. “We’re on our own and we should be.”
Mr. Rothwell expects to see tax reforms and changes to health care laws, saying the burden on small business owners has been too great.
“I have a lot of hope that things will change,” he said.
The East End attendees to the inauguration we interviewed didn’t see any protests. In fact, Mr. Dinizio said the most disappointing aspect of the day was some unruly supporters of the president who jeered and shouted chants at President Barack Obama when he officially handed over power.
“There were a few points there where the crowd got a little out of hand,” he said. “There’s still a lot of anger. It was more like a basketball game than an inauguration.”
Photo caption: The sun rises behind the Capitol Building on President Donald Trump’s inauguration day. (Credit: Ken Rothwell of Wading River)