President Biden’s visit to Mack Trucks draws crowds

Jonathan+Shreck%2C+who+will+be+a+kindergartner+this+year+at+Macungie+Elementary+School%2C+waves+a+flag+at+President+Joe+Biden+after+the+president%27s+tour+of+Mack+Trucks+on+July+28.+Photo+courtesy+of+Jeff+Shreck.

Jonathan Shreck, who will be a kindergartner this year at Macungie Elementary School, waves a flag at President Joe Biden after the president’s tour of Mack Trucks on July 28. Photo courtesy of Jeff Shreck.

Belle Lees and Emma Dela Cruz

Under Lower Macungie Township’s sunny skies and surrounded by over 100 politicians, employees, and reporters, Joe Biden made his first visit to the Lehigh Valley as president on Wednesday, July 28.

Biden arrived at the Mack Trucks manufacturing plant in Macungie at around 12:30 p.m. with the intention of promoting his Buy American policies and a recent $1 trillion infrastructure package, which focuses on improving healthcare, education, and transportation systems in the U.S. 

In the November elections, Biden won the Lehigh County electorate by just over 14,000 votes. Lehigh County serves as one of America’s most vital manufacturing and warehousing hubs. Hence, Biden chose the area as his visit and speech location in an effort to show his support to the county’s many blue-collar individuals and widen the 14,000 vote gap from the 2020 election. Biden’s proposals to the Buy American Act support American manufacturing, the working class, purchasing American-made products, and fair salaries for the working class. His visit began with a tour of the Mack Trucks facility and ended with a speech, which detailed his Buy American policies, praised local manufacturing companies, and reinforced the importance of America’s working class.

Local crowds gathered along Pennsylvania Route 100 near McDonald’s across from a Mack Trucks entrance in response to Biden’s visit to the manufacturing company. 

Nearby residents such as Missy Lichtfus gathered in hopes of catching a glimpse of the president as he passed by in his motorcade. Ted Wells of Lower Macungie Township, who takes advantage of his lunch break by taking a walk, decided to change his traditional walking route in order to go past Mack Trucks. 

Another resident, Chris S., also arrived because she hoped to show support for the president and counter the anti-Biden protesters that gathered along the road. She supports many of Biden’s values and policies, and especially believes in the need for unity in the country. 

Like Chris S., Bobby Bennett of Alburtis came to support the president and to have the opportunity to see Biden drive past. 

Bobby Bennett holds up a sign to show his support of President Biden. Photo courtesy of Thomas Hartill.

“I believe in a lot of his policies. Number one is the infrastructure. I believe we need that,” Bennett said. “Infrastructure right now is the main concern in America — getting over this virus and just getting jobs back and getting everybody back to normal.”

Tera Taylor-Green, who lives right by Mack Trucks in Macungie, is a Biden supporter who is pleased with his progress as president so far.

“I think he’s progressing as well as he can be, after assuming office in a global pandemic. That’s, I mean, he was already…in a tight spot,” Taylor-Green explained. “I think that the press is being hard on him about the deadlines for vaccinations because people have their own free will, and they’re either going to get vaccinated or they’re not.”

Like many other Macungie residents, Taylor-Green was excited that Biden chose to visit the Lehigh Valley and that she was able to witness the event. 

“This is history in the making,” Taylor-Green said. “Seeing the motorcades, you really experience [seeing] the leader of the free world right in our backyard. It’s kind of cool.” 

While Taylor-Green was very excited about being able to see Biden, she was not pleased with the Trump supporters who showed up to protest against Biden. 

“[Trump supporters] are brainwashed [and are] blindly following a narcissistic sociopath. He’s crazy. He’s not even in office anymore and he still has a following,” Taylor-Green said. “I feel like [with] every other president, people moved on. But for some reason, people are stuck in a Trump era, and that blows my mind. Any reason to hate, any reason to be negative, I think people hold on to, and I think that’s kind of sick.”

Tera Taylor-Green and Rob Mihok discuss their opinions about President Biden and Trump supporters. Photo courtesy of Denise Reaman.

Rob Mihok originally did not plan on joining the group of people gathering to watch Biden travel past Mack Trucks. However, he eventually decided it was important for him to go to show his support for the president, especially given his concern about the future of the country, as many Trump supporters do not accept that Biden fairly won the election.

“I believe our democracy is in danger. You may not grow up to live in a democracy when you’re my age. There’s no guarantee. Our democracy is the longest in the world, but every democracy dies,” Mihok explained. “…You don’t have to agree with everything Joe Biden has done, but I believe he’s a good man, and he restored honor and integrity to the office of the president.” 

On the other hand, people came to protest Biden and express their support for Trump. 

Tighe Hillegas of Slatington said he has attended many rallies in the past year. He said he was surprised but excited about the turn-out for the Macungie event. 

Standing on an opposite corner from the president’s supporters, Hillegas used a megaphone throughout the rally to express his support for Trump as well as his contempt for Biden.

Though he does support Trump, Hillegas believes it is important to be able to see both sides of an issue, and does not want to talk to people who will only support one side, no matter what. He has had good experiences with people at the rallies he has attended, even with people who held opposing political beliefs. Hillegas also recognizes the need for unity in the country, and hopes that younger generations will be able to overcome division in politics and unite to improve the country.

Most Trump supporters gathered on one side of the road while Biden supporters gathered on the other side. While there was some yelling back and forth and a couple of shouting matches, with each side chanting the name of the person they supported, Emmaus Chief of Police Troy Schantz believes that the event went well overall. 

“[It was] vocal but peaceful. That’s all we can ask for. They both have the right to do what they’re doing,” Schantz said. “….as long as they stay on the sidewalk, don’t get out in the middle of the street, and there’s no physical confrontations, that’s all we can ask for. They’re free to hold their opinions, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Additional reporting by Thomas Hartill.