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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Today, the nation’s 45th president will place his hand on the Bible, swear the oath of office and assume the presidency. In turn, Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo and Sunny Obama will leave the White House. From this day forward, we’ll refer to Barack Obama as our former president.

It was an unprecedented election season. Republican candidate Donald Trump won the electoral college with 306 votes despite losing the popular vote to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by 2.9 million votes. He won the presidency despite making headlines for demeaning remarks about women and divisive rhetoric against immigrants and Muslims, on top of mocking a disabled reporter.

It’s surreal. And it is not normal.

Never before has a president been so poorly prepared for the Oval Office. And what’s worse, he’s surrounding himself with people who are just as concerning. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was nominated as secretary of energy despite having called for the department’s elimination in the past. Betsy DeVos stumbled through her Senate hearing for secretary of education, failing to distinguish proficiency from growth. It was a shameful reminder of how easy it is to hand-feed merited positions to grossly unprepared individuals.

And if there’s one thing many citizens feel right now, it’s fear. Fear of a changing America, where Hispanics are expected to surpass the white majority by 2050. Fear of a president who could pack the Supreme Court with justices who limit our right to gender identity and love. Fear of our loved ones being forced to leave a county they have made their own, simply because of where they were born, who their parents were or what God they pray to. We all seem to fear the next four years.

Fear is dangerous. It can make us impulsive. It can make us silent. But it can also raise us up. Today, we’re asking you to embrace fear and create change. This weekend, more than 200,000 are expected to participate in the Women’s March on Washington in protest of incoming President Trump. Thousands more are expected to join them at local rallies across the U.S., including one here in Gainesville.

If you feel fear, now is the time to act. Now is the time to figure out what values you hold and stand up for them. For our readers in college, whether it be UF or Santa Fe College, you’re probably running into people whose opinions differ from your own. It’s easy to label all who supported Bernie Sanders as socialists and all who voted for Trump as deplorables. But before you make judgements about other people, try to learn where they’re coming from.

So in the days, weeks and years going forward, we urge you to talk to others, figure out your own values and defend them. Hold a sign. March. Call your elected officials, whose numbers we’ve included below. Act in a way so visceral others will be forced to hear your voice. Remind us that you deserve to have your opinion heard. Do not let the cries of others drown out your right to speak.

If you choose not to act, you are letting them win.

If you choose not to fight, you are forfeiting your rights.

The choice is yours.

Florida elected officials

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  • Sen. Marco Rubio: Tallahassee 850-599-9100
  • Washington D.C. 202-224-3041
  • Sen. Bill Nelson: Tallahassee: 850-942-8415
  • Washington D.C. 202-224-5274
  • Mayor Lauren Poe: 352-334-5000
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