By CHRIS RATZBURG, guest columnist
I am a sophomore at Brown County High School. For the past year, I have been politically active. I helped to start the Brown County High School Young Democrats and have assisted with Democratic campaigns, including John Gregg for governor, Shelli Yoder for U.S. Congress, Chris Woods for state representative, Linda Henderson for state senate and the campaigns of many locals in Brown County.
When I was given the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., to represent youth concerned with women’s rights, I jumped at the chance.
On Friday, Jan. 20, I boarded the bus to the Women’s March on Washington. This trip was life-changing in many ways, but most importantly, I learned how powerful people can be if we stand together for shared beliefs.
On the bus there were only three men: Forrest, Chris and me. Those passengers were some of the most spectacular, inspiring and motivational women I have ever met.
The trip itself was rough. The bus was an hour late to pick us up and arrived with a flat tire. This was only the beginning of the bus problems, and after a long night with lots of stops, we were told it wasn’t safe to drive anymore.
A few mechanics on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border went out of their way on an early-Saturday morning to try to fix our bus — for free. I will always be inspired by the big hearts of those men.
We were stranded at the mechanics’ shop for 10 hours on Saturday, crushed that the march was happening without us. A man at the shop called his friend, an owner of a rental car company, to see if we could rent some vans to drive to the metro station near D.C. She opened her rental place just for us, though we had to return the vans before returning home.
Once we got off the train, we headed toward the White House, making our own little march of 45 people. Our march was not easy. An intoxicated woman yelled that we were “femi-nazis,” even going as far as to slap one of our fellow marchers.
Eventually, we walked the sidewalks in front of the White House. Being in Washington for the first time was a dream come true. We may have been the last marchers to reach the White House but no less proud to have made it.
We were moved by the signs laid out by marchers from earlier. The inspiring moment was tarnished by a few young men ripping the signs down, yelling, “Make America great again.” They approached us, screaming. Their hats read, “Make America White Again.”
I was surprised by the hatred. I realized that it is harder to be peaceful than violent. That is the beauty of this movement.
At the end of our march, I realized how proud I was of all those ladies and gentlemen for standing up for what they believe in. It was truly amazing after all the trouble we had to go through to get to Washington. Their perseverance and determination will always live forever in my heart. Those ladies will always be like sisters to me.
I got the chance to interview some of the others on the bus about their motives for attending the march. The first person I interviewed was Forrest. Forrest attended the march to stop President Donald Trump. He believes that President Trump has hatred toward minorities. He wants to stand up and fight for the women in his family. He also told me that politics is the most important way to impact the world.
The next person I interviewed was Laura. She believes that women should be empowered to stand up for what they believe is right and stand against what they believe is wrong. Laura says that women deserve the same rights as anyone else in this country. She told me that health care options should be more available for women. Also, she is a proud gun owner, but she believes that the government should add more gun control.
Despite the frustrations of the trip, Connie Bailey kept a positive attitude the entire time. I did not once see her frown. Connie believes that we need to keep the progress going, that we need to set an example that we will fight for our rights, our rights of equality. Connie wants justice to take place for women in this country. She told me she fears that some very important women’s rights may be taken away.
The final person I interviewed was Ivy. She was a middle-aged woman who really knew how to put a smile on your face. Ivy decided to march to support the disadvantaged people in this county. Ivy told me she used to be a gynecologist. She said that women should be able to have reproductive control. She knows that if the rights are taken away, unsafe, self-induced abortions will take place.
Ivy wants the march to be a start of a revolution. She wants to continue the energy that all these women had and keep going.
Ivy believes that President Trump will create division among the people. Ivy made a good point that instead of being outraged with Trump supporters, we should bridge the gap between us and unite as one.
Ivy thinks we should create the evolution locally and work our way up to the top. She also wants to focus on what the Trump supporters want changed and shrink that gap created by this election.
I just want to say a huge thank-you to my parents for letting me go and to my sister for coming with me.
Also, thank you to all the amazing, inspiring people I met. And I simply cannot forget the lovely Patricia Krahnke and Kady Lane. I would not have been able do any of this without you. Thank you.
Editor’s note: The Brown County Democrat reached out to local Republicans through the party chair and through social media, but was unable to find any going to President Donald Trump’s inauguration who could commit to writing about that experience.
Chris Ratzburg is a Brown County High School sophomore. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.