We have heard the same refrains over and over again: “The magic of 2008 is gone. His supporters feel disenchanted.” Certainly there’s some truth to this. There was not as much enthusiasm for a Barack Obama candidacy in 2012 as there was in 2008, and there will certainly be less excitement for the president’s inauguration Monday than there was on that freezing day four years ago as the first black president took the oath of office.
However, this inauguration holds special importance for Georgetown students. As the president begins his second term, many will discuss his legacy. And in every sense of the phrase, Barack Obama was — and is — our generation’s president. He is the first president who cared to reach out to us on new media. He is the first president who showed the impact people our age can have on the political process. He is the first president that truly listens to and works for us on important policy issues.
The results have been convincing. Many of us would not be here had the president not doubled investments in Pell Grants and reformed student loans. Because of his efforts, we can now refinance and settle debt within 10 to 20 years after college. At the same time, the president’s healthcare plan now allows us to stay on our parent’s healthcare plan until age 26, another difficult cost that we no longer have to worry about. Perhaps most importantly, though, Obama’s two-year deferred action policy on undocumented youth has helped to fight the unfair stigma surrounding these students — many who attend Georgetown — and are just as loyal and patriotic as every other American citizen.
But if Obama has stressed one thing, it is to never stop demanding leadership of our elected officials. That’s what we will be looking for in Monday’s speech. Four years ago, the president took to the podium, trying to reassure a worried nation that the job losses would stop and that together we would work to restore the great promise of America. Since then, he has led the economy back from the brink of collapse, improved our general standing in the world, and saved the U.S. automobile industry. What we expect now is not a plan for the next four years but one for the next 40.
If Obama is truly committed to carrying “forth that great gift of freedom and deliver[ing] it safely to future generations,” as he proclaimed in his first inaugural speech, he will address many of the enduring problems that challenge our future prosperity. This includes taking substantive steps to reduce gun violence in the United States, policies to close the ever-widening income gap and new incentives to wean our dependence on fossil fuels both in Saudi Arabia and in our own backyard to ensure a clean, habitable planet for future generations. Students turned out in record numbers again for the president so that these and other promises of his first four years could be fulfilled.
This is not to say that the youth who voted for Governor Mitt Romney have no concern for our future — quite the opposite, actually. Their legitimate concerns for out-of-control government spending and our broken immigration system will be given appropriate attention by the president during his speech. Consensus is already beginning to form on immigration reform, and if Republicans in Congress are willing to approach the deficit issue in a balanced manner, many of those who felt that the president did not deserve another four years will find that they actually have an ally in the White House who shares their concerns for our future.
Georgetown students should make every effort to attend Monday’s event, even if they do not have tickets. And it shouldn’t be simply to tell their grandchildren that they saw the inauguration of the first black president. Instead, this event is an opportunity to be a part of something big, a chance to watch first hand as the leader of the free world outlines what is sure to be the trajectory of the United States for years to come. Chances are that many of us will be affected on a personal and professional level by what the president lays out. It is our solemn duty as citizens of this great democracy to actively and continually participate in this process, and attending the inauguration of our highest-elected official is part of this process in guiding the direction of our country.
Trevor Tezel is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. He is the president of Georgetown University College Democrats.