The crowd of thousands around Lee Green on Friday at President Donald Trump’s inauguration was energized for the country’s new leader, but Green knows there are some back home in Durham and across the country who feel differently.
For those people, Green said, she hopes Trump’s speech on Friday – which she described as promoting unity and patriotism – is an invitation.
“I really hope that people are going to give Donald Trump a chance because I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Green said.
On Friday, Trump didn’t directly appeal to Hillary Clinton voters for their support but he pledged to work for all Americans, saying he wants to stop job outsourcing and strengthen the nation’s trade and military positions.
Green isn’t a lifelong Republican. She was raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and described herself as a Democrat or liberal for much of her adult life. But, after Sept. 11, 2001, she said, she was dismayed by Democratic politicians who seemed to not understand the gravity of ongoing threats posed by global terrorism.
“It was a wake-up call,” she said of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. “It made me listen, for the first time, to both sides very carefully.”
One of 15 people to represent North Carolina in the Electoral College in 2016, Green experienced the U.S. partisan and political divides first-hand after Trump’s victory.
“We got thousands of letters from delusional Democrats who honestly thought that the most active Republicans in the party were going to not vote for Trump,” she said of the letter-writing campaign and attempts to persuade Trump electors to ditch the president-elect.
“Normally nobody even knows (the Electoral College process) is happening, but there was a lot of interest in the electors this year because the Democrats were so disappointed ... They were incredulous that they lost.”
“But, we soldiered through it,” Green said. “Because the popular vote in North Carolina was overwhelmingly for Trump, so that is what we did. We did our duty and we were happy to do so because we think he’s going to bring a lot of great changes to the country.”
Green said she trusts in Trump’s ability to provide military veterans better care, drive down health-insurance costs and accelerate economic growth.
She also has hope Trump will demand that Department of Justice officials investigate what she described as intimidation and harassment of conservative and pro-Israel students on college campuses. She campaigned for Trump in North Carolina last year as chair of the North Carolina chapter of “Jews for Trump,” a national organization that began after Trump had a clear lead among other Republican presidential candidates.
One of Green’s favorite lines from Trump’s speech on Friday was, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”
That line came as Trump said the “bedrock” of his presidency and the nation should be a “total allegiance to the United States of America. And, through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.”
Trump’s speech Friday revolved around his famous campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again.”
That vision is what draws Wake County’s Kim Coley to the newly-sworn-in president.
“We can’t protect or be invested in other countries if we can’t take care of ourselves,” Coley said before Trump’s speech.
America is divided, politically, she said. But just like Green, Coley – a 46-year-old mom of two from Cary – said she hopes people who didn’t vote for Trump will give him a chance as president.
“When you’re breaking new ground, it never looks good. Just wait for it,” Coley said about those who aren’t happy about Trump winning.
Plenty of people who didn’t vote for Trump were in the crowd Friday, too.
Carter Pape, 20, of Durham, said he came to the inauguration because he wanted to see the political atmosphere. Pape voted for Clinton and said he wasn't happy watching Trump’s swearing-in.
But he appreciated the message speakers shared Friday about the importance of a peaceful transition of power.
“I’m trying to remain optimistic about where our country is headed,” said Pape, a junior at N.C. State University. “I’m doing my best to be a part of taking it where I want it to go.”
Trump can bring together a wide range of Americans if he can mend his reputation as a divisive candidate, said Patrick Seserovich, 70, of Raleigh, who attended the inauguration.
Although Seserovich initially supported Republican candidate Ben Carson, he voted for Trump because he was unhappy with President Barack Obama’s performance, he said.
He said Trump’s speech was “one of unity.”
“I expected that and I hoped for that,” Seserovich said. “There’s a lot of superficial rhetoric out there right now. The proof will be in the pudding.”
Others were happiest to hear Trump repeat his call to punish companies that move manufacturing jobs overseas.
“I’ve seen manufacturing jobs decline. (North Carolina) used to be very nice, and now it’s like a graveyard,” said Steve Niu, an accountant from Cary who works for a small business. “It’s especially bad in the rural areas.”
For some of the youngest voters in the crowd Friday, inauguration was a time to be excited to be a part of history.
While Trump wasn’t 19-year-old Caroline Lawe’s first choice – she was concerned about his temperament, she said – the Chapel Hill native did vote for him on Nov. 8.
She’s a sophomore studying nursing at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and attended the inauguration with two friends.
“It’s part of history no matter what your political views are,” she said. “To be here with everyone and to feel the momentum.”