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WKU history professor, state rep. Patti Minter explains significance of 2021 presidential inauguration

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 11:47 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - In United States History, it is tradition for presidential inaugurations to be a textbook example of what a peaceful transition of power looks like.

“That is what is so significant about it,” Dr. Patti Minter said. Dr. Minter is not only Kentucky’s 20th district state representative, but a legal history professor at Western Kentucky University. She pointed out that inaugurations can also hold some of the most famous speeches made by former presidents.

“In the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln had his second inaugural and gave one of his most famous speeches,” Dr. Minter said.

It is a day of celebrating the nation, and while many will still celebrate on Wednesday, it definitely will not look like your typical inauguration day. It will be more of a private, televised event as security measures are tight. This comes during the COVID-19 pandemic and the early January breach of the nation’s capitol building.

“We will see something that is much more private than what we’re used to, but it is also something designed to show that we move together, and no matter how divided this country is we begin the process of working together, and national healing and reckoning with these issues that next day,” Dr. Minter said.

Donald Trump has publicly said he will not be attending Wednesday’s inauguration, though Vice President Mike Pence stated he will be there.

“Every president in my lifetime has been greeted by his successor,” Dr. Minter said. “Those norms are designed to send a message to the world that this is a democracy and even when we disagree there is a peaceful transition of power.”

This inauguration also comes at the heels of political unrest caused by false claims of election fraud, and the second impeachment of 45th President Donald Trump.

“There is just no precedence in the modern era,” Dr. Minter explained. “It’s remarkable and a sign of a very divided nation and this inauguration does provide the opportunity for the American people from every walk of life to say ‘this is what we need to do to continue the democracy and the republic for which is stands.’”

Another historical moment that will be brought to life on Wednesday is the swearing in of America’s first female vice president. Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris is also a woman of color, adding to the monumental moment.

“So many firsts in one person, and it’s powerful, it’s really powerful. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and I’ve noticed so many of my friends and neighbors in Bowling Green who belong in AKA, and the pride is just emanating off of them. It is just such a big day for so many people,” Dr. Minter explained.

Joe Biden will also become the second Roman-Catholic president of the United States.

“He’s not a first, but that is a big deal too, and I know that is something a lot of people from that denomination will celebrate as well,” Dr. Minter said.

While teaching history classes at WKU this spring semester, Dr. Minter is also living through these big moments of American history, that she will one day teach her future students.

“I keep notes at moments like this because I want to go back and capture in real time the way I would if I was a historian looking at someone else’s source,” she said. “I want to know how I was thinking and how I was feeling at the moment that something like this happened.”

Usually several WKU students from the political science department would take a trip to the inauguration, something that is not able to happen this year.

“It’s a reminder that something terrible happened, and it happened because this country is divided more than any other time, and we need to work together to move forward,” Dr. Minter said. “One day there will be a better day and the people will be on the mall again cheering and watching as their new president and vice president go down the street.”

You can watch the 2021 Presidential Inauguration on WBKO’s ABC channel at 11 a.m. Central time Wednesday.

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