I remember discussing with my friends the historic significance of a black man and a woman running for president, but I thought running was as far as it would go; I didn’t expect either of them to win. As the campaign progressed though, it seemed more and more possible that our next president would the first of their kind.
My older brother sparked my interest in the campaign. A graduate of Penn, he was living in Uganda to research malaria when the presidential campaign began. He has leftist, socialist ideals of government and encouraged me to get involved and ensure Obama’s victory.
He stressed, however, that Obama was only the better candidate, not a savior, as he was portrayed by much of the Democratic media. He explained that it would take a lot more than electing a black president to affect social change, but that in the meantime, I should spend my summer in Colorado campaigning for Obama.
I elected not to do so, feeling unprepared, but my interest in Obama’s campaign grew. I was especially struck by his oratory skills and charisma. I was also hopeful about his healthcare policies, since both my mother and boyfriend cannot afford their own healthcare.
There seemed to me to be something fresh about Obama; he could relate to the young and old, the well-off and poor, the colored and non-colored. He was raised by a white, single mother; so was I.
He grew up as a symbol of a multiracial union, something that I think is especially American and beautiful. He has a complex, non-traditional background (who doesn’t?), and this makes me respect him and relate to him more than any other politician I have encountered.
Two of my fellow English majors at Loyola Marymount University, Blaire and Liz, also saw Obama as “the change we needed.” Liz was impressed by his healthcare policies because she has never been able to afford healthcare and hopes that will change. She also wanted him to win the presidency so that her boyfriend, a marine and John McCain supporter, would not be sent off to war. Blaire was abroad in Europe when the campaign began and admits that she didn’t grasp the monumentality of it until she returned home and decided she liked Obama.
Obama’s victory will hopefully signify to the rest of the world that we are not the close-minded, Evangelical, white Americans Bush has made us seem. Obama’s diverse background will highlight our country’s history of diversity and non-traditional, yet loving families.
“It shows that, for once, we’re in agreement with the rest of the world,” says Liz.
Blaire says that while abroad it was obvious that other countries viewed Obama as the best candidate. This can only reflect well on us now that he has been chosen.
As for my generation, by turning out in record numbers to cast our ballots we proved that we are not as apathetic as we seem. When we want something, we go out and get it, and for once we wanted something meaningful.
The large appeal of voting this time around is largely due to the Internet, YouTube and the tendency of youth-oriented companies to market the candidates as brands and trends. Obama’s campaigners worked the system, appealing to young voters with witty T-shirts and catch phrases, while McCain distanced himself from the youth by saying he was “technologically illiterate” – a tragic mistake.
By electing Obama, my generation has shown that we are in fact capable of affecting change, something even I was skeptical of. For a generation with such a short attention span, we held it together long enough to realize we wanted a new perspective in the White House. We have also shown that color finally does not matter.
I can get behind what Obama’s presidency says about my generation. My biggest concern is that my compatriots learn to grow accustomed to what Obama represents: a nation of acceptance, eloquence, equal opportunity, peaceful global relations and – gasp! – maybe even socialized medicine.