In his last stop before his election in 2016, Donald Trump visited Grand Rapids, Michigan, rallying a crowd of thousands at about 1 a.m. Two years later, on March 28, 2019, Trump returned to Grand Rapids, this time with the title of President. I attended the rally with Anna Bauer (’21) and Aidan Piwnicki (’21). Though they hold opposite views of the president, they were both eager to hear him speak and gained a new perspective from the experience. Being Trump supporters ourselves, Bauer and I were encouraged by the massive line of thousands of people with whom we automatically had something in common. “I was surprised by how calm and respectful everyone there was,” Bauer said. “Whether they supported the president or not, everyone just wanted to hear the president speak.
People from all over the country came to Grand Rapids just to see him.” Piwnicki also commented on the size of the crowd: “I was surprised by the amount of people who attended. Clearly there’s a very strong sense of community within the party because of their shared passion.” Though not a supporter of President Trump, Piwnicki attended the rally simply for the experience. “I mainly went to understand my friends’ perspectives,” he said. “Their passion was really my biggest motivator. I was genuinely curious because everyone describes rallies, but I wanted to experience it firsthand.” After waiting in line for almost three hours, we entered Van Andel Arena and watched the seats gradually fill to full capacity. For two hours, active Republican leaders in Michigan hyped up the crowd, and Donald Trump, Jr. made an appearance.
At about 7:30 p.m., President Trump came out to greet the crowd. President Trump made a few new announcements pertaining specifically to Michigan. One important change that Bauer cited is the president’s funding of the Great Lakes. “Both parties have been trying to implement a navigation lock in northern Michigan,” Bauer said. “Now the restoration of the Great Lakes will finally be possible through $300 million in funding.” His speech also brought up more familiar ideas, such as the border wall between the United States and Mexico. Bauer explained that, though the wall is a controversial topic, the subject resonated with her the most. “Whether you support the wall or not, I think everyone can agree that reducing the US crime rate should be one of the biggest concerns,” Bauer said. “The safety of Americans is a huge concern for the president, and the country should take action.” Though holding a different ideology, Piwnicki commented, “It was interesting to see the concerns of Republicans. They really care about job growth and security.
They feel that their voice is being stifled and therefore they need to do something about it. The overall theme of passion translated into everything I saw.” While the rally helped shed light on Republican concerns, the president’s speech further exemplified one reason that Piwnicki tends to be frustrated with politics: “We have a lack of control in looking at the other side of the political spectrum and admitting that they’re not all bad. Trump’s rhetoric didn’t reflect that, which is kind of draining. I think the same would have happened at a Democratic rally. It makes it hard to identify with anybody.” Regardless of ideology, both Bauer and Piwnicki agreed that attending the rally was an enlightening experience that they would recommend to anyone. Whether it’s to reinforce your own point of view or to understand an opposite opinion, hearing President Trump speak in person provided a valuable new perspective.