TALLADEGA, Ala. (WIAT) — Talladega College President Billy Hawkins has confirmed that the Marching Tornadoes will participate in the 58th Presidential Inaugural Parade.

“It will be a wonderful learning experience for the students in the band. It will be a teachable moment for them to understand the importance of supporting the leader of the free world, despite one’s political viewpoint,” said Talladega alumnus and Hampton University President William R. Harvey. “After all, the reason for being of any college or university should be to promote learning and not to enhance apolitical agenda.”

The administration did not accept the invitation to participate right away in order to hear and consider the thoughts and feelings of the Talladega College community.

“We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade,” said President Hawkins. “As many of those who chose to participate in the parade have said, we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power.”

Like President Hawkins, Harvey recognizes the value of participating in this historic event.

“In my view, it is an honor to be invited to the inauguration of any President of the United States. The college and its band are celebrating the peaceful transition of power—a hallmark of America’s democracy and swearing in of a new President,” said Harvey.

The announcement followed several days of intense debate on social media. Some people voiced strong opposition, while others said it would be a good opportunity to perform in the parade.

Talladega bills itself as Alabama’s oldest private, historically black liberal arts college.

The college was founded in 1867.