Hundreds of thousands of people at the National Mall in Washington looked on Friday as Donald Trump became the 45th U.S. president, and a far larger audience around the country and throughout the world witnessed the event through live broadcasts. VOA reporters talked to people around the globe who said they are looking at the transition of American power with a mix of admiration and apprehension.
In Moscow, a “Russian Army”-brand clothing store flashed Trump’s image on an electronic billboard and offered discounts to American citizens. On the streets, reactions were mixed.
“We hope that relations between our Russia and America will improve, that they’ll find a common language in relation to Syria, that they will find a common language to get rid of what is going on there,” said Lidiya Voronova, a retiree.
A young editor at a newspaper who gave his name only as Sergey said Trump “is quite a controversial president in the history of the United States, but I hope he will gain the trust of Americans.”
Trump’s inaugural address signaled a new “America first” policy for the country:
“For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own,” he declared at the U.S. Capitol.
That attitude has unnerved some in Mexico, where the respected weekly magazine Proceso warns, “The war is coming.”
José Luis López Aguirre, a media expert at the Pan American University in Mexico City, says Trump’s use of Twitter and other social media to proclaim his views has widened divisions in America.
“He [Trump] is creating a community that is very adept at his aggressive, confrontational speech that tries to polarize American society,” Aguirre said, adding, “Because not everything he says is true.”
His university colleague, communication specialist María López Gutiérrez, has a different point of view: “I think that this possible threat of Trump has been greatly exaggerated. … We should be waiting, we are dedicated to communication, to give reality and not just the show.”
In West Africa, VOA spoke with residents of both Nigeria and Niger, who for the most part seemed encouraged by the new administration.
Muhammad Uba Musa of Maiduguri, Nigeria, said, “Americans have so much to write about Barack Obama’s administration. We are praying for him … [and] also praying for President Donald Trump to succeed in his government.”
Alhaji Bello Musa of Birnin Konni in Niger also was hopeful: “Despite President Trump’s heated campaign in the past year … our prayers to him are that he should try to unify the world. … We also hope he’ll help Third World nations reach their potential.”
Umma Issaka of the same region in Niger was more cautious: “Donald Trump’s statement [that he may] ban Muslims from entering the country, is our major problem. … Most importantly, one cannot distinguish between Muslims and Christians; the relationship between the two has a long history, which has been since the era of the prophets. He should be very careful with his words as a leader of a great nation.”
In Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, Abdul Hadi Arez, a retired attorney, says he believes that Trump will face some grave challenges in foreign policy. “Over the past 30 years, Afghanistan has been torn apart in a regional proxy war,” he said, and this trend has become even more pronounced recently, “Because we see Russia, China and Iran interfering in Afghanistan against the U.S.”
Emran Khan, a student in Kabul, is “concerned that with the arrival of the new president, Afghanistan will lose the aid we receive.” He hopes the United States will not shift away from efforts to eliminate the Taliban, because “U.S. commitment is necessary for our security.”
“We have been hearing about [Trump’s] America First’ policies since his campaign, and his extreme attitude makes us worry about what the future holds,” said Choi Seowoo, 22, who works at a finance company in Seoul.
“However, I am hopeful — or at least I want to believe — that rather than simply abandoning the traditional U.S.-South Korea alliance, President Trump will open a new chapter in the alliance by making it into a more modern relationship that fits the ever-volatile global society and politics.”
A 50-year-old North Korean defector who lives in Chicago, and asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, told VOA he hopes “Trump revitalizes the nation’s economy, so that people here can have a better life.”
And along with strengthening U.S. national security to protect Americans, the defector added, “he should increase pressure on Pyongyang by slapping tougher sanctions against North Korea.”
Another defector, 50-year-old Kim Chang Ho of Los Angeles, said, “There are scores of North Korean defectors who have arrived here through third countries, and they do not have legal status. … I wish the U.S. would give them a chance to settle here permanently.”
The inauguration attracted people of many different nationalities to Washington, both visitors and those who now live here permanently.
Nem Chhoeung is a Cambodian who lives in Clayton, Georgia. He told VOA he is very happy “because in our country we rarely see this kind of event.” He felt honored and privileged to be in the U.S. capital to watch the transition from one U.S. president to another.
Sen Son, a Buddhist monk who now lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia, shared the same joyous feeling of witnessing history.
“For me, as a Buddhist monk living in this country, I am happy to be participating in this event. This does not mean that I support [Trump], but I am enjoying this inauguration.”
Yehuda Glick, a visiting Jewish rabbi who also is a member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, told VOA he strongly hopes and prays — “that’s what I’m here for, to strengthen the relationship between Israel and the United States.”