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February 22, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Obama, Biden are accessible

Before their inauguration as president and vice-president, Barack Obama and Joe Biden plan on taking a “whistle stop” Amtrak trip from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. They will make stops in cities such as Baltimore and Wilmington, Del. The tour is touted as a means to make this inauguration accessible to more citizens than in previous years. However, as Jan. 20 nears, concerns are being raised about the safety of the trip.

According to CNN, worries over sabotage of bridges and tracks along the train’s route, the security levels at the train stops, and potential harm to chemical plants along the route are some of the reasons this trip could be dangerous.

While there are certainly risks involved in this trip, the “whistle stop” tour would show an awareness and possibly campaign promises relating to public transportation and rail travel and would bring back a level of excitement and awareness to Americans about the inauguration of a new president.

I remember when President Clinton embarked on a “whistle stop” tour in the 1990s. There was a sense of palpable excitement surrounding this trip, and I remember being stopped at a railroad crossing in Toledo when the train went past our car. It was such a memorable experience, and I felt as though I was part of history. This specific trip will not travel near the Midwest, but it will be a throwback to the political meet and greets of the past.

For years, our presidents have been surrounded by secrecy and security (for legitimate reasons), protecting them from harm. However, in attempting to protect them from harm, I believe they also are too hidden from the American public which votes for them. Simply because this election cycle is over doesn’t mean the elected should be removed from access to the voting public until it’s time for re-election.

As Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said, “Remember, the Secret Service has taken the president to Iraq and to Afghanistan, to some very hostile places around the world. I’m comfortable that we have the skills ” to protect the president-elect in Pennsylvania and Baltimore and Washington, D.C.”

If Vice President-elect Biden can travel to Afghanistan as he did this past weekend, but there are concerns about him traveling in his own country (as well as his birth state and the one he represented in the Senate), the concern shows a level of distrust of American citizens. There are likely many people who wish to harm the men, but if both the Secret Service and Homeland Security do their jobs, this trip can be a success.

Vice President-elect Biden made it clear during the election cycle that he prided himself for taking the train to Washington from Wilmington and back, and he and president-elect Obama supported Amtrak and similar rail programs during their Senate tenures. Rather than being whisked away in an airplane to arrive in Washington in time for the inauguration, the men can show their support for the government service by actively using and possibly promoting it. Although many of the stops are unannounced, the major stations in which the train will stop are large, enclosed or above-ground stations where security could control the arrival and photo opportunity moments between the crowd and the incoming president and vice-president. Additionally, although not all of the stops are public knowledge, it’s likely that the government has alerted and worked to secure potentially dangerous sites along the routes.

The concerns raised about this trip are certainly not invalid. One can view the image of the Iraqi reporter throwing shoes at President Bush with the Secret Service seemingly out of sight and worry the same situation could arise on this trip, regardless of Secretary Chertoff’s affirmations. However, for nearly two years, these candidates traveled around the nation promoting themselves on the campaign trail, and they remained safe.

Washington, D.C. will be a very busy place this weekend, and I can only speak for myself in saying that while it would be exciting to view a presidential inauguration, I would not want to deal with the millions of people in the area for the event.

Although students in Bowling Green would be too far away from the event (if only the trip went from Senator Obama’s home state, it would come through Toledo!), this trip would help many people take notice of the change in command without traveling to our nation’s capital.

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