Many Penn students may be embarrassed that Donald Trump, the only Penn graduate ever elected to the presidency, was impeached last month. Instead of passively lamenting Trump’s Penn affiliation, students should use impeachment as an opportunity to fight for policies they believe in.
Trump, a 1968 Wharton graduate, became the third president in United States history to be impeached following a House of Representatives vote on Dec. 18. The president was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after a lengthy inquiry into whether he pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden. While Trump is expected to be acquitted by the Senate, many believe that the impeachment casts a shadow over his presidency and reflects negatively on Penn.
Members of the Penn community may feel the urge to try to deny Trump’s connection to the University following the impeachment inquiry. Simply denouncing or dissociating Trump with Penn is not productive. He is a product of this school, and rather than denying it, students should own it and try to counteract the negative shadow cast on Penn by trying to remedy the issues enacted through Trump’s political agenda.
By focusing on Trump’s Penn connection, students allow the president’s actions to play an even greater role in defining the University. This could cause the public to eventually associate Penn exclusively with Trump, which would lead many to see the University in a negative light. Rather than passively lamenting this state of affairs, students should see the impeachment as an opportunity to improve the University that educated Trump and engage in positive activities to counteract Trump’s influence on Penn’s image. These might include civic engagement, political advocacy, or other projects that let students create positive change by fighting for issues they believe in. If students are sufficiently disturbed by Trump’s Penn origins, they should show people that politics and education at Penn are not limited to Trump.
Not only is local engagement a way of counteracting Trump’s influence, but it is more effective than just criticizing the president. Student or even administrative criticisms of Trump are unlikely to make a substantial difference in politics because they have no physical action backing them up. However, local engagement or political action could have profound effects in the community that ripple even to national politics. Rather than looking at Trump alone, students should focus on which issues matter most to them, then work to create the political landscape they want to see. Engaging with local representatives, attending marches and protests, or helping register voters are just some ways they could help build this change.
While Trump certainly is a prominent figure, he is just one of Penn’s many alumni. Focusing excessively on Trump’s impeachment diminishes the positive contributions that other alumni have made. In fields ranging from medicine to politics to entertainment, Penn graduates are leaders in their fields. Rather than denouncing Trump, Penn students should try to fix the institution that educated him, and use other alumni as their models for creating positive change.
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