by Thomas Hochman
On Tuesday, Donald Trump was elected as the next president of the United States.
With every poll predicting a Hillary Clinton win, schoolwide reactions mostly ranged from shock to despair as results continued to come in from around the nation.
In a city as liberal as Portland, at a school like OES, it’s not a stretch to suggest that a significant portion of the faculty and student body were devastated by the outcome of an election more divisive than any in recent history. It was all just so unexpected.
With many voicing concerns over what a Trump presidency could mean for those at this school and elsewhere, the leadership team, Community Board, and Policy Board started the process of creating the opportunities for open conversation — discussing students’ thoughts and feelings in the coming days. This came about at a difficult time, as Head of Upper School Corbet Clark and Dean of Students Kara Tambellini were away dealing with off-campus affairs.
As expected, much of Wednesday’s gathering was devoted to considering our response as a school to the election.
Head of School Mo Copeland came forward with Dean of Students Deb Walsh to acknowledge the events of Tuesday night, and reminded the student body that there are widely varying perspectives on them, asking that we respect the opinions and feelings of others more carefully than ever in a time when some may feel triumphant while the majority appear wounded. Deb sent out an email later that day to OES families echoing such sentiments.
Senior Community Board and Student Council representatives Meg H and Simon M also announced that there would be a variety of lunch meetings discussing the election. Student body president Daniel E suggested that everyone consider attending.
I went, and what I learned was that people, for the most part, are just afraid.
What was expressed above all else was not frustration over Trump’s policies, or any specific plans he has for his presidency. Instead, what I heard was the fear of all the things he has said — the ease with which he launches into hate speech — and the potential for the spread of such rhetoric.
This reality became a hard one to cope with for those in the lunch meeting when some began to speak of their friends now fearing deportation.
What arose amidst the uncertainty looking forward, however, was the feeling that now more than ever, we as young people have a duty to actually do something, to get involved.
If the fear of an unclear future is the driving force behind increased student involvement and the push for change, then maybe there is a silver lining, after all. If the content of Trump’s statements forces activism among those who they anger, then at least we’ll finally be forced into action — it’ll do a hell of a lot more than announcing the world’s demise on Snapchat.
And frankly, there isn’t any other option.