While she sits in the front of the classroom, Palo Alto High School math teacher Deanna Chute presents material with confidence and passion. These traits would soon come in to play as she shifted her focus from mathematics to women’s rights. The day after the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, Chute was one of thousands of Americans who joined together during a peaceful demonstration outside of Washington D.C.
For Chute, her need to speak up became clear the day after the national election, in which Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump stunned the nation with his unexpected and controversial victory.
“The day after the election I was just physically shaking with the need of doing something, not necessarily knowing what that something was,” Chute said. “I was the classic example of someone who had their head in the sand and had no idea this [the outcome of the election] was possible.”
Like many other Americans, Chute felt as though the values and identities of too many people were threatened by the incoming presidential administration.
“Women’s rights and gender equality are issues that are very close to me,” Chute said. “I am a female in math, so I have certainly had my share of experiences and stories [about gender inequality].”
She needed to take a stand and she needed to do it immediately. For Chute, the best way to do this was by joining a peaceful Women’s March, which was held the day after President Trump’s inauguration in Washington D.C.
“Once I found out about it [the march], I started messaging people about it,” Chute said. “I needed to do something, and this was the quickest thing I could throw myself into.”
Determined to join the demonstration in Washington, she began to coordinate a trip with her peers from Paly. Special Education Instructional Supervisor Laura Bricca quickly expressed interest in accompanying Chute. Together, the two of them set off for D.C.
“We didn’t get there until one in the morning before the march,” Chute said. “We were way outside the city, and everybody was converging on Washington.”
The streets were filled with marchers who were all headed towards the demonstration. While moving through the dense crowd, Chute first noticed the obvious diversity of the demonstrators.
“It felt like every nationality, every age group, every gender was represented,” Chute said. “It was such a powerful, uplifting feeling to think that everyone was in this together.”
She was quickly inspired and moved by the sight of so many different people who were connected by their pride and love for their nation and democracy.
“What felt powerful to me was wondering ‘have we finally reached a place where all these people understand that oppression against anyone is oppression against everyone?'” Chute said. “The humanity of it all was overwhelming.”
Chute met a wide array of people, with whom she exchanged messages of acceptance, love and understanding.
“I don’t have to understand these people’s life choices, but I do support the right for all people to have a happy life and make those choices,” Chute said.
The group decided to turn some of the president’s comments into a symbolic source of unity.
“When Trump was commenting on the Inauguration attendance, he said something about the tarps that were covering all of the plants and blaming them for why it looked like there weren’t many people [in attendance],” Chute said. “Those very same tarps were confiscated by marchers.”
The demonstrators connected the tarps together and wrote the preamble to the constitution across the top. The rest of the tarps stretched for blocks and were covered in the signatures of all who attended the march.
“For an hour of the march hundreds of thousands of people were carrying this tarp, and having people watching on the sides sign it,” Chute said.
The experience inspired Chute to continue to be an activist back home and to motivate others to always speak out for their beliefs.
“I’m amped in a way that I never thought possible,” Chute said. “I was asleep at the wheel, and now I realize that I need to garner up my inner activist and figure out how to go forward.”
Chute discovered a network of people who are working to capitalize on the positive energy generated by the march and to continue to promote activism.
“I’m looking for guidance from people who know more than me and I’m following their lead,” Chute said. “I’m trying to learn as I go.”
Chute is one of the many of Americans who have been inspired by the recent demonstrations to become figures of positive change in their communities. She looks forward to continuing to make an impact and to fiercely standing up for what she believes in.