For these three students Honors means getting involved in the political process.
In the first week of President Trump’s new administration, demonstrations and dissenters have been at the top of the headlines. Whether fans or foes of our nation’s new leadership, thousands across the country, and even more worldwide, have begun to mobilize. Perhaps the most notable was the global rally the day following Trump’s inauguration - The Women’s March on Washington held Saturday, Jan 21. From 30 people in Stanley, Id. (half the town’s population) to around half a million in Washington D.C., Sister Marches in over 600 U.S. cities saw an estimated attendance of 4.2 million people. This in addition to 300,000 people internationally.* At least three of those people were Ball State Honors students.
Roommates Madeleine Robling and Margo Morton, both Honors College sophomores, were presented with tickets to the march in the capital through a friend’s mother and both eagerly jumped at the opportunity to attend.
“I felt really comfortable attending after I found out the official platform. They made a point to make sure the official platform of the event was more intersectional and covered things like police brutality and criminal justice reform and different issues you might not instinctively put as a women’s issue,” Robling said.
After a ten hour car ride the pair were excited to find themselves surrounded by an electric camaraderie and enthusiastic crowd. The prospect of sharing such an amazing experience was moving for the two young women.
“Even before we got to the main part of the march, we were surrounded by people who were attending, and it was cool to see everyone so excited about it,” Morton said. “I think it was a really cool experience to be there with two of my best friends. It made me feel good to know that these important people in my life are also passionate about the things I feel strongly about.”
Anna McAtee, another Honors college sophomore, also made the journey to Washington, D.C. She recalls being packed in the D.C. Metro station with hundreds of women, men, and children, many of whom she made quick friends with, chanting and singing together as one of the highlights of the day.
“I wanted to make a voice for myself. Usually, I am very passive-aggressive and do not voice my opinion. The Women’s March on D.C. was a perfect way for me to have a positive voice in this country,” McAtee said on why she decided to attend. Like Morton and Robling, she described the crowd as electric, positive, and upbeat, once again emphasizing the magic of seeing so many people from so many different backgrounds coming together for a common cause.
“I’ve never been around so much positive energy in my life. It was one big party of love.” McAtee said.
The march started with a large cast of speakers: Congresswomen, celebrities, and movement leaders - such as the mothers of the Black Lives Matter movement. For Robling the most powerful was Kamala Harris, a senator from California. Senator Harris, who is the second black women and first ever Indian American to be elected to the United States senate, spoke on the diversity of issues that affect women. She discussed the fact that everything from education reform to the economy are women’s issues.
“It’s not just reproductive justice, it goes so much beyond that,” Robling said .
However, after nearly four hours of speakers, all three women noted that there was a tangible sense of restlessness throughout the crowd. Some ansty demonstrators in the area around Robling and Morton even began chanting “Let’s march now!” during a few of the less mainstream presenters, a disappointing moment that Robling described as callous and insensitive.
“We were listening to speeches for hours on end and where we were standing, there wasn't even a speaker, so we could barely hear,” Morton said. “I understood why people were annoyed, but they started to ignore the people talking — and those people were spreading really important messages, and I thought that was what we were all there to support.”
The march also received public backlash and negative coverage from some media outlets. Some of the criticisms cited, which came from Republicans and Democrats alike, included a singularity of issues with the right to choose being the sole focus, a lack of inclusivity—especially towards trans-women and the non-able bodied—and that the protestors were simply ‘whining’ about the results of the election. While Robling concedes that the crowd was predominantly white and there was a lot of work to be done to make the march more inclusive of other identities, she said that to boil it down to just pro-abortion and anti-Trump does the march and the momentum it created a huge disservice.
Morton emphasized again the plurality of women’s issues and the importance of leveraging her privilege as white women, saying, “Even if someone feels that they face no issues of inequality here in America, they are just one person — and there are people in this country and all over the world who are facing problems we can barely imagine. When I was at that march, I was doing it for a lot of people, across a lot of social groups.”
Robling agreed, saying, “Even though we might all be going through a slightly different form of oppression because of the new administration, we’re all there together to make sure no one was left behind.”
McAtee stressed that this wasn’t a negative or hateful march, but rather a moment of unity and solidarity.
“This was a peaceful march to show that women and men of all races still have a voice in this country,” McAtee said. “It was women and men coming together to say, ‘We are here. We welcome anyone. We care for anyone. You are not alone.’”
Overall, all three women had an amazing experience and plan to attend more marches in the future. They all also plan to remain involved locally through various forms of activism, such as calling their congressional representatives and attending local town hall events. For example, Morton is hoping to keep up with the Women’s March “10 actions for the first 100 days” campaign**, and Robling hopes to leverage her position as president of Ball State Democrats to organize students and educate others on how to continue being involved in the political process.
“It’s important to understand that a march shouldn’t be your end goal,” Robling said. “I think part of the reason that the Democratic party has been struggling in years past is because a lot of people think that marches and protests and petitions are an end goal rather than a tools for organization.”
Morton, Robling, and McAtee all encourage others to attend a march in the future if it’s something they’ve been considering. Morton’s advice would be to bring a friend, wear comfortable shoes, and do research to make sure the march and its organizers align with your goals. Robling suggests getting involved with a political organization on campus*** so that you don’t have to do it all yourself; a group will keep you informed, help you become involved, and keep you accountable she says. Getting involved on campus is also a great way to make a difference right here in Muncie if you want to help up but can’t make it to a march. McAtee says that there are multiple opportunities to connect to the community through Ball State Voluntary Services. This is how the momentum of positive change these women brought home from the march will last through the next four years.
* Crowd size statistics from Vox. Follow the hyper-link above for a more in-depth analysis.
** For more information about the march, including the mission statement and the “10 actions/100 days” plan visit the website here: https://www.womensmarch.com/
*** Some political organizations on campus include Ball State Democrats, Ball State GOP, The Liberty Coalition, and The Progressive Student Alliance.