WASHINGTON — Nathan Paikai, an avid Donald Trump supporter from Honolulu, was emotional, even tearful, as he picked up his luggage at a carousel at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Wednesday afternoon.
It was his first trip ever to Washington, and he got so keyed up on the plane that he was unable to sleep during the flight. He sees a bright dawn in the advent of the Trump administration.
“I can’t explain the amazing encouragement I get from being in the nation’s capital,” he said. “I’m ecstatically excited for what will happen in the nation as we come together.”
In her home on Maui, Donna Howard was packed and ready to go to the airport, and was feeling emotional too. She was excited, and she was also fearful. She was preparing to depart for her first-ever political march in Washington, and she was worried that violence might erupt.
Howard, 74, a retired college fundraiser, said her dismay at Trump’s campaign language and subsequent election stirred her to make the trek for the Women’s March on Washington, which will be held Saturday.
“Some of the rhetoric stunned me to the core,” she said.
She sees the Trump administration in a very different light than Paikai. She thinks that under Trump’s presidency, everything her suffrage and civil rights activist forebears suffered to achieve is at risk.
“I’m trying to ensure that the things those folks marched for continue to exist as we go forward,” Howard said.
Nobody knows exactly what a Trump administration will bring, but the real estate magnate’s meteoric appearance on the international stage is stirring hope and inciting fear for millions of Americans. Some have found themselves moved in unprecedented ways to make the journey to Washington to make sure their voices and concerns are heard.
And nobody knows for sure how many people are coming to Washington. Some will come for the Senate confirmation hearings, some for Republican National Committee meetings, some for the inauguration and the parties, and many for the protest march on the day after the inauguration.
On Capitol Hill this week, confirmation hearings were held Tuesday afternoon for Ryan Zinke, nominee for secretary of the interior; on Tuesday evening for Betsy DeVos, nominee for secretary of education; on Wednesday morning for Scott Pruitt, who has been nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and on Thursday, for Rick Perry, nominee for secretary of energy.
The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, is gathering at the Omni Shoreham Hotel this week to select a new chairman. The party chairman, Reince Priebus, has been hired as Trump’s chief of staff and the party needs a replacement for him. Trump has selected Ronna Romney McDaniel for the post, and the party unanimously elected her Thursday morning.
The inauguration ceremony Friday is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of spectators, who will enter the fenced-in area under heavy guard to watch Trump be sworn into office.
The parties and galas during the week and following the inauguration are drawing a diverse crowd as well. On Thursday, for example, the Asian Pacific American Presidential Inaugural Gala will be held at the Mayflower Hotel; adult tickets cost $150.
On Friday there are many more choices. There’s the Native Nations Inaugural Ball, with tickets starting at $750; the Inaugural DeploraBall, hosted by the Gays for Trump organization, which costs $500 for the full meal; and the Great American Inaugural Ball at National Harbor, for a bargain-basement cost of $149 per person.
The Women’s March on Washington could be the biggest draw of all, with an expected 200,000 people.
Some participants are arriving on jets and staying at expensive hotels. Others are coming by train, by car or by bus.
Those with the least money have been invited to stay at what is called the “warming station” at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where guests will sleep on the floor. No shower facilities will be provided. Dinner on Friday night will be a “simple gluten free vegan soup,” according to the church.
Howard will be staying with her sister in northern Virginia. She’s coming for the march.
Paikai, a minister, is staying at a nearby Holiday Inn. He’s coming for the inauguration.
Paikai said he hoped that the Trump administration would “bring peace” to America and to the world.
Howard is more worried about peace in the immediate future for the women who participate in the march.
“I’m not 100 percent confident that there won’t be some roughhousing,” she said.
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A Kailua girl, Kirstin Downey is a special correspondent for Civil Beat. A longtime reporter for The Washington Post, she is the author of "The Woman Behind the New Deal," "Isabella the Warrior Queen" and an upcoming biography of King Kaumualii of Kauai. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.