Locals excited, energized at inauguration
Though its aftermath was controversial, the presidential inauguration Jan. 19 was attended by many Lehigh Valley residents wishing to experience firsthand the changeover from the Obama to Trump administrations.
Tony Simao, a Bethlehem resident who works in health insurance, was a regional coordinator for Trump’s primary campaign and arrived in Washington, D.C. Thursday to attend the ball at the National Press Club building. He said there were about 200 protesters outside but inside all was quiet. The next morning he arrived to find a seat early, around 7 a.m., and met people from Texas, Florida, and Hawaii. “My impression is that there were a lot of really excited people. The mood was festive and very hopeful.”
Simao said after the ceremony, Marine Corps One – bearing the former president – flew overhead and people in the crowd were saying, “By, Obama,” and waving genuinely. “This is what America is about. A peaceful change of power. It wasn’t nasty or bitter.”
If anybody takes anything away from the inauguration,” Simao said, “it’s there were Americans from every group, every race. A lot of people that want America to be a better place for everybody.” An openly gay Republican who legally immigrated to the U.S. in 1985, he said he is hopeful the diversity of those at Trump’s inauguration shows the country how much support is truly behind him, not just some stereotype racists.
Lehigh Valley Tea Party and Saucon Valley School Board member Bryan Eichfeld said he saw a lot of enthusiasm. He booked two passenger buses and filled them both with locals who wanted to see the event. “It was exciting. The day was phenomenal. Everybody was very supportive. I think his speech really hit home with the crowd. There were some kids from Wilmington nearby, Obama supporters, but they were very respectful.”
He admitted he was disappointed in protesters, and that at one time a woman smacked him in the back of the head to displace his Trump hat.
But the moment he most prizes was during the inaugural address. “When Trump said, ‘I’m going to give American back to the people!’ I really felt that. That’s what we’re all about. If we can get back to that – reducing the size, the influence of the government and get things back into the hands of the people. Individual rights are very important to me. People are always turning to government to fix their problems. I think we’re destroying the American spirit with all this welfare and government health care.
“Obviously I want safety nets, but we have hammocks.”
Northampton County Councilman Hayden Phillips said, “I went to the inauguration to be a part of history and to celebrate the peaceful transition of power.
“This was my first inauguration. I felt compelled to attend because I am a Donald Trump supporter and wanted to celebrate the change of national leadership. I also felt it was important for people to travel to Washington in a show of support for the new President. My favorite memory was the whole experience. The history of the event. Walking through a very secure and locked down Washington DC, seeing the sights, celebrating with mostly like-minded people.”
Phillips said, “I traveled with the Lehigh Valley Tea Party, of which I am a member and have a lot of friends, so I it was nice to spend a day with people I like, but don’t get to spend enough time with. I can say I had a very enjoyable day.”
Bethlehem Township resident Andrew Azan was also taken with the energy he felt during the event. “A vast amount of people came together to witness a new beginning for The United States of America. My favorite memory is being with some long-time political allies and new allies from The Lehigh Valley and the new people I spoke with from all over the country who travelled further than our group.
“The inauguration was a new start for The United States of America; a return to freedom and a smaller government as expressed by President Elect Donald Trump.”