“Nursing leaders have called upon all nurses to be heard, from bedside to boardroom and beyond. Not all of us share the same political views, and that is how it should be.”
By Karen Roush, PhD, RN, assistant professor of nursing at Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, and founder of the Scholar’s Voice, which works to strengthen the voice of nursing through writing mentorship for nurses.
On Saturday, I marched with over a million others in Washington, D.C., to protest the policies and rhetoric of the incoming Trump administration, along with millions more who marched in sister protests throughout the world. It was a day marked by exhilarating solidarity, determination, and hopefulness.
People of every age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation—all the ways you can try to divide people—stood together. Many carried signs and banners: some funny or clever plays on words, many serious messages of inclusiveness or demands for rights and action. Throughout the day strangers exchanged smiles and nods, silently saying to each other yes, look what we’re a part of—isn’t it amazing?
No one was prepared for the numbers that showed up, including the organizers. Local businesses and hotels that had welcomed marchers to use their bathrooms and recharge phones were quickly overwhelmed and had to shut their doors. Portable toilets were on the other side of the National Mall, which was blocked off by the crowd, so people, ourselves included, walked for blocks and blocks in search of a bathroom. Moving anywhere meant nudging your way slowly through shoulder to shoulder streams of people, moving in all directions. At times we found ourselves, after much nudging, back where we started and still not sure where we actually were!
The march was scheduled to start at 1:15, after the rally in the morning. As the day went on and the start time passed, we heard from many around us that there would be no actual marching because the route itself was jammed with protesters from beginning to end. Then around 3:30 PM or so I spotted a movement of people, all going in the same direction. We jumped down from the wall we were standing on and joined in; finally, we were marching!
We marched. We chanted. We sang. We cheered. But perhaps the greatest source of pride—we did it all peacefully. Earlier that morning, as my friends and I waited in a line of thousands at the train station in Baltimore, two women in red “Make America Great Again” hats and pro-Trump sweatshirts joined the line. No one harassed them; they stood in line with us, expressing their point of view, as we all have the right to do.
In the early afternoon, I came upon an enthusiastic group of nurses from the New York State Nurses Association. They were doing what nurses have always done: advocating for the people who count on them for care. Nursing leaders have called upon all nurses to be heard, from bedside to boardroom and beyond. Not all of us share the same political views, and that’s how it should be. There is strength in diversity. But when we believe there is a wrong to be righted—from Florence Nightingale to Lillian Wald to these nurses on Saturday—we will always be among those who stand up.
One of my favorite chants at the march was a call and response. Someone would start by calling out, “Show me what democracy looks like!” And we would answer, loud and sure, “THIS is what democracy looks like!”