January 6 2017
Good for the Great Tornado!
Talladega College's 200-member marching band will be part of the inaugural parade for President-elect Donald Trump after all. That is, after days of controversy in which faculty, students, and alumni of America's oldest historically black liberal-arts college tried to turn the band's participation in the inauguration into a stage setting for political drama of an ideological bent. But Talladega's administration wisely decided that presidential inaugurations are ceremonial events, not demonstrations of political endorsement.
The college has now released a statement in which President Billy Hawkins defends the decision. “We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade,” said Hawkins. “As many of those who chose to participate in the parade have said, we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power.”
The statement includes several quotes from William R. Harvey, a Talladega alumnus who is the president of Hampton University. “It will be a wonderful learning experience for the students in the band. It will be a teachable moment for them to understand the importance of supporting the leader of the free world, despite one's political viewpoint,” said Harvey. “After all, the reason for being of any college or university should be to promote learning and not to enhance a political agenda.”
And that is exactly right. In an ideology-soaked academic world in which many colleges canceled exams after Trump's Nov. 8 election victory in order to soothe the feelings of their traumatized students, Talladega resisted the temptation to politicize its educational environment.
And as CNN reports, many members of the 4-year-old band are delighted at the prospect of being part of Washington DC's most important ceremonial ritual.
Head drum major Devon Julian, 21, of New Orleans, said it would be "an honor and an accomplishment."
"Not too many people could say they were able to march for a president of the United States in an inaugural parade," Julian said in the Talladega College band room.
Taesha Mathews, 20, of Talladega, said the backlash against the band's plan to perform hasn't bothered her. "No matter what people say about the [band] we will always keep marching on, with or without your support."
"It's not all about the president," said Shylexis Robinson, 19, of Atlanta. "It's about the band and what we want to do and how to get our band out there."
Invitations for college and high school bands across the country to march in the parade have generated widespread petitions from liberal faculty, students, and alumni (Talladega was among those) begging the bands to lodge anti-Trump protests by refusing to perform in the inaugural parade. So far most administrators and band leaders have resisted the politicization efforts.