One of my favorite quotes comes from the poet Tyler Knott Gregson: “Out of the darkness, we can make light.” In so few words, he conveys a very simple concept: There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, but only if we seek it. Silver linings do not come freely.

It can be difficult, I know, to believe there will be light in the wake of this presidential election. After all, as I went to sleep early Wednesday morning with Donald Trump just shy of 270 electoral votes, I thought the world was going to end. Being quite the dramatist, I literally thought the world would implode or explode sooner than America would elect Trump into the highest office of the country.

But, as it always does, day came, and the world didn’t end. Nov. 9, 2016, was just another day, albeit an extremely gloomy one. A depression seemed to settle over campus as students trudged to and from class (or skipped class entirely) with morose faces and empty eyes, wondering how, how, how could this possibly be reality? But don’t mistake this depression as defeat. No, we were merely taking our rightful time to mourn. And when we were done, when the shock had settled and our hearts finished sinking, we found strength and solidarity in each other.

That is our silver lining.

Of course, it’s disheartening to know that the glass ceiling is still very much intact, that America will seemingly elect anyone, no political experience required, into office as long as they’re not a woman. My heart breaks for my Muslim and Mexican peers who suddenly have to fear for their lives, and I’m angry that the results of the election have emboldened closet racists to threaten and harass people of color, even here in Ann Arbor. I’m sickened by the acts of hate and intimidation expressed on campus. I’m scared that all the social progress made in the last eight years on behalf of the LGBTQ community, women and minority groups will be eradicated. I’m disappointed that rape culture is so real that half of the country is willing to allow a man who brags about sexual assault to be the face of the country. I’m frightened that, with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, no one will stop our future president from building a wall, defunding Planned Parenthood, deporting undocumented immigrants (many of whom grew up in America and know no other country as home) and so much more.

Yes, I am disheartened, angry, heartbroken, sickened, scared, disappointed and frightened, as many of us are. But that’s the important part — we are not alone.

Walking across the Diag and seeing messages of acceptance and kindness scrawled across the red brick in the wake of the election, it’s clear that this university is devoted to diversity, safety and compassion in such a polarizing time. The swirling chalk around my feet — with messages such as “You belong here” and “Love trumps hate” — moved me to tears. The vigil on the Diag the night after the election was haunting, as candles illuminated the faces of hundreds of students who showed up to support marginalized peers and mourn together.

Students again stood in solidarity with those who felt endangered after the election. Music, Theatre & Dance senior James Ross Kilmeade organized a protest against intimidation Saturday night after a student was threatened and forced to take off her hijab. Other students have volunteered on Facebook to walk those who feel unsafe home at night.

Despite this horrible incident, it is heartening to see that, for every act of hate this election has procured, this university and its students respond in love. I may be disappointed in Michigan as a state for voting the way it did, but I couldn’t be more proud of the University of Michigan for striving to make the campus welcoming and safe for everyone. It would be easy to sit back and say, “We’re screwed,” but the overwhelming action stemming from pure passion shows we will not take this loss lying down. In the midst of this darkness, the love and compassion of students is the light we need.

As we enter this trying time together, we must preserve our small and tentative light, harvest it and let it grow with love. In other words, we cannot stop. We must continue to fight together against hate, racism, xenophobia, sexism and homophobia with peace and unity. We must continue to protect our Black, Mexican, Muslim, LGBTQ and female peers from those who feel emboldened to be awful. We must continue to make our voices heard. We must make this loss worth something. We must make something good out of it.

And when the going gets tough, we must catch the rare silver linings. Though she did not win the electoral vote, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, which shows that a majority of this country doesn’t support Trump’s message. This election, despite its result, has sparked important conversations on race, immigration, women’s rights and so much more. The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have received an outpouring of support and donations in the days since the election. A map of the Electoral College if just millennials voted is overwhelmingly blue. We students, in all our anger, passion, generosity and empathy — we are the future. And in these dark times, we must be the light.

Ashley Zhang can be reached at

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