It was 1:30 a.m. when my mom and I boarded a bus in my hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina. The energy on board was palpable, with people handing out snacks and posters, swapping stories and eagerly anticipating what was to come. The bus was headed to the Women’s March on Washington, a reaction to the election of President Donald Trump, and a celebration of the values the participants share and are committed to uphold.
My mom and I made plans to attend the march in November 2016, shortly after Election Day. We are both Democrats, and proudly voted for Hillary Clinton; but to us, this felt like more than partisan politics. Yes, I desired to see a woman hold the highest office in our nation and was disappointed that my lifelong idol would not be president, but more pressing, and motivating, was my genuine fear of many of the policies our new president has proposed. I was struggling with feeling hopeless in the face of this new administration and their political power, and this march was a way to get on my feet, make my voice heard and do something.
Our bus arrived in our nation’s capital at around 8 a.m. Saturday morning, along with dozens of other buses. People were eagerly heading toward 3rd Street and Independence Avenue, the starting point of the march. I saw women and men of all ages and backgrounds, many wearing the pink hats that became a symbol of the march.
As we walked, 100 or so of us in a crowd, others signaled their support by honking their car horns as they drove by. The closer we got to the starting point, the more people there were. It was impossible to get an estimate from within the crowd; later estmates put the crowd at 500,000 to 1.2 million people. My mom and I pushed forward as close as we could, but it was so packed we couldn’t get anywhere near the stage and the speakers.
When the march started, it became clear there were too many people to continue as planned; the crowd had to split and create additional routes.
Walking among so many like-minded, compassionate, determined individuals was one of the coolest experiences of my life. In between chants of “Love, not hate / That’s what makes America great,” and “Black lives matter,” I was overwhelmed with a sense of being a part of a group, a movement. I saw this march not as a one-time protest, but as a commitment to fight for my ideals over the next four years, and for the rest of my life.
The Capitol Building in the background reminded me that America, for all its flaws, is a nation based on ideals—and that one man, one administration, cannot define us. I saw America, already great, in the eight-year-old girl who marched alongside me, leading chants of “This is what democracy looks like.” I saw the greatness in our nation from the 60-year-old man holding a sign that said, “Respect women of color,” and the group of Hispanic immigrants holding signs that reminded us, “a diverse America is a beautiful America.”
I returned to Davidson on the Monday after the march, and saw the greatness of America again in my advisers, professors and classmates, who are constantly striving to make our country and world a better place. While I hope to move to Washington, D.C., and to continue to affect change after I graduate next year, I feel fortunate to be spending the next year-and-a-half at an institution that supports every student, and empowers us to make our voices heard and fight for what is right.