As Donald Trump took the oath of office Friday, about 75 Bates students and professors watched in silence on two large-screen televisions.

Their hushed acceptance stood in marked contrast to the joy expressed by Robert Hayes of Auburn, who was hustling home from Hannaford Supermarket with the makings for a celebratory lunch.

“This is a great day,” he said. “I always knew Donald Trump would win. He will be a great president.”

Bates politics professor Stephen Engel called the inauguration “a unique event in the world,” a marvel that has seen 45 presidents assume office peacefully since 1789.

His colleague John Baughman said inaugurations are “one of the few shared civic rituals that we have.”

But four Bates professors who participated in a forum immediately following Trump’s address expressed skepticism about  the new president’s still-vague agenda and the speech he delivered to kick off his four-year term in office.


Stephanie Kelley-Romano, a rhetoric professor, said most inaugural talks are stylized bids to unify and inspire.

“That’s not what we saw here today,” she said. “He is still campaigning.”

“It was hard to discern a coherent message,” Baughman said. Kelley-Romano compared it to “a random collection of thoughts.”

For others throughout the area, though, that wasn’t the point.

“I liked President Obama, but it’s time for a change,” said Ginny Maheu of Mechanic Falls. She said Trump, about whom she has “mixed feelings,” will shake things up.

Helen Williams of Lewiston said she backed Democrat Hillary Clinton during the campaign, but now feels “we have to come together” and avoid division “and all the arguing.”


“People need to get behind Donald Trump. He is the president of all of us,” she said.

Nina Hagel, a post-doctoral student teaching at Bates, said she wonders who the “us” is when Trump speaks. She asked if it includes Muslims, Kanye West and others targeted by the often-strident new national leader.

Hagel said she is curious as well about how come if the people are going to get more power under the GOP’s new agenda, Trump is “going to be the one who is taking all the action.”

Baughman said he was struck by how negative Trump’s speech seemed to be, spending little time laying out what the new president intends to do in office.

One thing, however, that came through loud and clear is that Trump offered a “full-throated” call to isolation and “America-first” policies that haven’t been so powerfully enunciated in decades, Baughman said.

Engel said he suspects that in the face of “an authoritarian populism” in the White House, Democrats are suddenly going to develop a newfound respect for federalism, which offers the chance for individual states such as California and Massachusetts to strike off in directions more cheering to progressives than anything they’re likely to see in Washington.

Hayes said what makes him happy at seeing Trump assume power is that America will finally focus on its own problems instead of spending money all over the world trying to deal with things that ought to be left to others.

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