Hilltop on the Hill, 2013 Inauguration

Twenty-one communication studies and journalism students are in Washington, D.C., in January 2013 as part of the Meadows School of the Arts’ Hilltop on the Hill program. In addition to reporting on Inaugural events, the students will visit media and government sites, and meet with political communicators, journalists and SMU alumni. The trip is led by Rita Kirk, professor of communication studies; Daniel Schill, assistant professor of communication studies, and Carolyn Barta, journalism professor. Endowed by the Bauer Foundation, the Hilltop on the Hill program also takes students studying political communication to political party conventions and the G8 Economic Summit.

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Divided as one

An update from Sarah, a sophomore communication studies and French major:

As I walked through one of the front-most sections of the Capitol lawn trying to find a place to get a good view of the Inaugural ceremonies, I found myself feeling surprised that the sectioned-off portion of grass was not as jam-packed as I expected it would be. I could walk around comfortably without bumping into too many people, and there was even room to sit down and stretch out my legs. And then I turned to look behind me at the National Mall filled beyond the Washington Monument with an estimated 1 million people. Wow.

As the hours passed and more people filed into what was called the orange section, groups of 20-somethings and old married couples alike were pushed closer and closer together in the crowd.

As a general habit, I don’t interact much with strangers. A quick “Hi, how are you?” is usually plenty for me when it comes to elevator chatter or a Starbucks line greeting. When you’re packed tight in what felt like subzero temperatures with 999,999 other people who are all there for the same reason, however, a sense of community inevitably develops. Not even I, typically a bit reserved and intent on keeping to myself, could resist the pull of the excitement of a Presidential Inauguration. I began talking to the people around me, sharing stories and commenting on what was happening. The crowd began to develop a personality of its own, and we even started a wave that went back a few hundred people. We were all there for the same reason, and the sense of camaraderie could not have made that more evident.

With all the conflict and turmoil that have characterized recent politics, many people seem to be losing faith in America. There is more polarization than ever, and “compromise” is the dirtiest word in Washington. But what I saw Monday in our nation’s capital showed me that there is always faith to be had in the American people.

One million people gathered on the Mall, and millions more watched from home as we conducted the ceremony that marks the peaceful transition, or continuation in this case, of power in the nation. Despite their differences, Democrats and Republicans alike gathered to witness a tradition that is inherently American.

Though many may be disappointed or angry with the results of the election, we continue to put aside our differences and accept the choice of the people as we have now for over 200 years. We all have our differences and disagreements, but the coming together of hundreds of thousands of people to celebrate the democratic process gives me a reason to say that I am truly proud to be an American.

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