Penn State Students Reflect On An Unusual Presidential Inauguration

Jan 21, 2021

2020 was the first year many Penn State students could vote in the presidential election. Several politically active students shared their reactions to Wednesday’s inauguration.


Maliha Reza is an electrical engineering student and a member of the Penn State College Democrats. She remembers voting for Barack Obama during a mock election in elementary school. Reza expected her first time voting for a president would be similar.

“My second-grade teacher took a picture of me putting my ballot into the ballot box, and I thought ‘I’ll be doing this in like 12 years whenever I’ll be eligible to vote," Reza said.

But the COVID-19 pandemic meant voting looked different than she expected. Reza voted by mail-in ballot. Then she made plans to attend Biden’s inauguration, wearing a mask and socially distanced. When pro-Trump rioters invaded the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, Reza once again canceled her plans to take part in Democracy first-hand.

“It would have been magical seeing so much hope and so much joy in the air," Reza said.

Instead of attending the inauguration, Reza tuned in at home with her family like she did when she was younger. 

Sam Ajah is a sophomore studying mechanical engineering and another member of the College Democrats. Ajah spent the day with his 10-year-old brother who he said is “very excited” to see Biden become president.

Ajah worries about what could happen after the inauguration, because Donald Trump still has a lot of supporters in the country. 

“We honestly don’t know what the next four years or even the future will look like," Ajah said.

Ajah said this inauguration is likely to affect the event for years to come. He believes it was the safest inauguration in history with the heightened security.

“I don’t think we’re going to get another lax inauguration. Like we saw with 9/11, the moment one bad thing happened we straightened up, we tightened our national security laws, we gave up some of our rights to ensure these events won’t happen again," Ajah said.

Trevor Grim is an engineering science student and President of Turning Point USA at Penn State. He voted in his first presidential election in 2016. He said the past few months have been unpredictable compared to four years ago when he watched the inauguration with his high school history class.

Grim voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 and said it’s a “shame” Trump didn’t attend Biden’s inauguration. He believes a peaceful transition is a “tradition.”

“I think there’s a lot of merit to a lot of the symbolic things we do. Not having an outgoing president welcome in the incoming president, whether or not they agree politically, I think is a loss for the country," Grim said. 

Grim said Trump was right to question Biden’s win after the election. But he believes Trump and his supporters should now accept the results.

“I’m rooting for Joe Biden to be a good president. I’m not optimistic that he will be, but I’m rooting for him to succeed," Grim said.

Despite the riots at the Capitol, Grim said he doesn’t anticipate more unrest or turmoil after the inauguration. He believes Jan. 6 didn’t have an impact on the inauguration process this year.

Junior Morgan Watt is hoping the next inauguration will look a little more normal. She’s Vice President of the College Republicans club at Penn State. She said she’s sad she won’t be able to go to a presidential inauguration with the group while at Penn State.


“We weren’t able to see the public at the inauguration and how far back the crowd is and how many people he drew out. That was kind of disappointing, because this is a really exciting day in American history," Watt said.