Alum Donald Trump Jr. chooses not to uphold Hill’s commitment to truth and integrity

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As Donald Jr. get further away from his years at Hill so does his idea of the truth By: Claire Hartemink ’21

The gray sky seemed still as I stared out of the window during my afternoon shift. What was a slow Wednesday turned out to be anything but. The doorbell rang as a customer exited the store and, for a quick second, I decided to take a peek at my cell phone. To my surprise, I found an abnormal email notification. An email from Headmaster Zack Lehman reading, “Dear Hill Community: As you may be aware violent protests have erupted this afternoon in Washington DC…” After reading this, my thoughts were full of curiosity and confusion; what protests? I knew that the Electoral College was scheduled to count and finalize the votes of the 2020 election, but what violence? I was able to do a quick Google search and the rest has made history.

As I began to learn more about the events that occurred on Jan. 6, I kept hearing one phrase in particular, “incitement of insurrection.” Clips of President Donald Trump’s speech at the rally, just a few hours before the storming of the Capitol, continued to play across my screen. His choice of words and mannerisms did not surprise me; they were powerful and convincing.

“We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” President Trump said. These sentences are two of hundreds in this speech that invoke feelings of excitement and fear. The idea of not having a country or a place to call home is scary, and it’s something that anyone would fight for. He articulates this as if it means something to him though he is notorious for having no remorse towards immigrants. Although the president’s speech continued to perpetuate lies about the result of the election, as well as give hope to those who refused to believe in the facts, it was not astounding to many. This was Trumpism in its most destructive form.

What I was bothered by most was the act that preceded President Trump’s address to the rally. His eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also stood before the crowd of thousands of supporters on that afternoon. He took the stage in a very confident manner and used similar rhetoric to that of his father’s, careful and clever. Verbs like “steal” and “fight” were used frequently throughout his speech as well as phrases such as “glaring irregularities” and “statistical impossibilities” when claiming the election was fraudulent. The events of Jan. 6 will be yet another reminder in history that the choice of one’s words are so important. Donald Jr. is a well-educated man, having studied at both The Hill School and The University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from The Hill in 1996 and was a very involved member of the community during his time. It is no accident that Donald Jr. used the words he did at the rally. He used his liberal arts education to perpetuate lies and pump conspiracy theory. The emotional manipulation in his speech is what struck me the most. He wanted that crowd to believe in his family’s cause. But you have to ask yourself, what cause? Trump had lost the election.

Donald Jr. went on to say, “You can be a hero or a zero.” What definition of hero was he using? Are the people who defaced a building sacred to our country or disrespected the democratic process considered heroic? Here at The Hill, we study and admire heroes like the ancient Achilles and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Terrorists will never be remembered as heroes, so what makes these individuals different? In the end, they were all zeroes whose names will soon be forgotten. A part of me feels sorry for them; their lives potentially ruined due to the dirty work they were deceived into thinking was necessary.

As a member of this institution and soon to be alum, I am extremely disappointed in the fact that a Hill alum could use his education in a way to invoke violence and treason. The education that students at the Hill receive is life-changing and eye-opening. Donald Jr. and I have one thing in common; we have been given the opportunity and access to this type of education. Not everyone is fortunate enough to receive the gift we have. The thought that he could use this to manipulate other Americans is sickening. As a school we live by our motto “Whatsoever things are true,” and any member of the Hill community would tell you that honesty and integrity are valued to the utmost degree. Hill has taught me that one’s language choice is very important, whether that be through studying rhetoric in Humanities 3 AP or talking about a tenet of our honor code: “Our word is an expression of the strength of our character.” It is a shame to see someone with a diploma from this very school using the spotlight the world has shone on him in a negative way. Disingenuous propaganda is what Donald Jr. spread on Jan. 6, which led to one of the darkest days in American history. He helped incite this insurrection.

So to all members of the Hill community past or present, I urge you to think about the impact your words can have on the world. I hope you chose to morally abide by our motto “Whatsoever things are true” even after your days at the Hill are over. We, as a school and country, have seen the damage it can do when one fails to uphold our moral code. Let’s learn from this and do better.