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Framed by the presidency: What it’s like having your life surrounded by politics

The class of 2024 has had two eras of their life align perfectly with the American election calendar. Each presidency was incredibly formative for students.
The class of 2024 has had two eras of their life align perfectly with the American election calendar. Each presidency was incredibly formative for students.

Nobody — except maybe babies — is immune to the cycle of politics in this country anymore. Whether you’re an activist or prefer to stay out of politics entirely, it’s impossible to avoid it.

Since the 2016 election, this has become even more true. Politics is embedded in everything these days. It’s tiring. As a member of the high school class of 2020 and the college class of 2024, I’ve had a weird upbringing that’s been framed by the presidency of the time.

Donald Trump was the president for my entire high school career. I remember coming into school the day after the election, not even halfway through my first year of high school, and witnessing students crying in class and in the halls. I remember teachers having no idea what to say.

Nearly every day of my — and many others’ — high school career had at least one mention of the president and what batshit thing he tweeted or did that day. Social studies classes became about putting history in context with the current events more than it ever had in previous years for me. 

While presidential elections infiltrate everything in this country, having high school and college each be fully framed by a presidential term has changed the way many people think and act. One of my first college memories — mind you, I wasn’t on campus until late September 2020 — was watching the drawn-out count of the 2020 election.

That election set the tone for so much of my life here at Miami University. My journalism classes and interests are completely different than they would have been four years ago. Even if I were in the class of 2023, my journalism experience would have been different.

Classes that, for a time, focused on the state of journalism under Trump’s presidency have shifted back into a more standard practice. The field isn’t totally back to normal, but under a Joe Biden presidency, many people in the industry can rest — if only a little — easier.

The constant “enemy of the state” rhetoric is out of the Oval Office, leaving the industry battered but attempting to mend.

My friendships have changed, too. High school conversations would be full to the brim, constantly, with talk of Trump and the politics of the time. It was inescapable. So much was happening so quickly and in real-time, all of it during some of my most formative years, too.

Now, political conversations certainly come up, but there’s far less of an air of terror in our voices. My friends and I will have a brief chat about the next election but move on soon after.

Politics simply isn’t a 10th as consuming as it used to be.

Now, I think that’s genuinely a good thing. I’m glad that Biden is the president despite his shortcomings because I can make it a number of days without a groundbreaking news alert. But, I have to keep reminding myself that these two important periods of my life, high school and college, have been completely shaped by these experiences.

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The current and the former presidencies have formed our national discourse. I wouldn’t recognize my high school experience without it being nearly taken over by the Trump era.

I’m not sure I would recognize my college career up until now if the 2020 election were smack dab in the middle of my tenure here.

I’m worried about my and my colleagues’ next four years after Miami. Trump framed our high school experiences, and Biden framed our college experiences. High school and college are both breeding grounds for political discourse — sometimes it can even be beneficial to expanding one’s worldview.

However, our next four years are murky. Are we looking at a new era of Trump? Of Biden? Of some outsider? 

I don’t know. There’s now way to know yet. But, I do know that our next four years, our formative career-building years, are going to be framed by the next presidency and the discourse and cultural shift that comes along with it.

My best advice to my colleagues in the class of 2024 is simply be aware of how our lives fall into the context of national politics. It affects us more than you would think.

I can’t say I’m excited to see what happens in the 2024 election and how that will change my life professionally and socially. But, I’ll at least be paying attention and making sure I acknowledge the great weight this political world we live in is affecting my life on a day-to-day basis.

Devin Ankeney is a senior double-majoring in journalism as well as media and communication with a history minor. They have been with The Student for nearly three years and are currently the Opinion Editor, Business Manager and multi-section contributor.