LINCOLN PARK — U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) sent Alcott College Prep students off to the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump Monday counseling them to have "respect for the institution and the process," but to heed carefully what Trump says in his inaugural address.
"What's he going to talk about? What's the president-elect going to say at his inaugural?" Quigley asked at an assembly Monday at Alcott's East Campus, which is sending 41 middle-schoolers to the inauguration next week.
Quigley is supplying the seventh- and eighth-grade students with tickets to the inauguration. Alcott East, 2625 N. Orchard St., is the only neighborhood campus in Chicago Public Schools sending students to the event.
"This is on you," Quigley said. "The president-elect said climate change is a hoax. Will he say that at the inaugural?
"The president's going to talk about your future," he added. "Government influences your life every day. If there's a war, they're not drafting guys my age."
Alcott Assistant Principal Navjeet Allen said the trip will be a great chance for students to witness the transition of power.
Quigley echoed that, saying, "One of the cornerstones of our democracy is the peaceful transition of power."
He added that "however the differences are" after "one of the most divisive, polarizing campaigns in American history ... while you may not agree with Mr. Trump's policies, there is respect for the institution and the process."
Quigley threw the assembly open to questions, and one girl said that while she was looking forward to the trip to Washington, D.C., she was not looking forward to seeing Trump take office.
"That's fair. That's fair," Quigley said.
Another student pointedly asked him, "Do you like Donald Trump?"
"There's always one in every crowd," Quigley said playfully before adding, "I respect the office. I don't like the fact that the campaign was filled with ... hateful thoughts, and at times it was very divisive."
He said he had supported Hillary Clinton and added: "You win some, you lose some."
"People often grow into the job," Quigley said, citing President Harry Truman after he replaced Franklin Roosevelt and adding, "I pray to the almighty that [Trump] will grow into this job."
Quigley urged the students to prepare by reading other presidential addresses if possible, specifically citing President Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural, toward the end of the Civil War.
"There are sections of the second inaugural in which Lincoln seems to be addressing today," he said.
"There's a lot of cynicism out there today," Quigley said. "You may see some things that bother you."
He mentioned the possibility of "disruptive" protests, which is one of the reasons for giving the students tickets to a secure area.
Yet he also pointed to the joys of public service and politics, mentioning how he had counseled a certain Barack Obama to stick with it after he lost an early campaign to U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).
"Democracy is not a spectator sport," Quigley said. "There's a world to save. Don't let anybody tell you you can't change the world. You can, and you have a moral responsibility to try."
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