Sellinger Lounge was packed last Tuesday night – apparently, there was a presidential election. I wish I’d had more notice. The media can’t just spring these things on us. Walking into the Leavey Center, I stumbled upon a room full of screaming, blue-shirted Democrats who erupted in applause every time the name “Obama” was uttered. I hadn’t seen so many excited Democrats since the release of the last Shins album.
I couldn’t see or hear the TV, so I decided to find a place where I could watch the election in peace and quiet – the Village C Alumni Lounge, where the College Republicans were hosting their own election “party.” I found about five demoralized yet devoted Republicans huddled around Fox News – their last beacon of hope. Some had lost interest. Two played pool. Others glanced at the screen, as if praying that the folks over at Fox News would throw the election to McCain. (Crazy? They did it for Bush in 2000.) But even Fox has to report the truth once in a while.
And what a truth it was – President Barack Obama. I’d waited two long years for those three words. I’d resisted the critics who insisted, “He’s too young,”He’s too radical,”He’s too Muslim.” I’d put up with the doors slammed in my face while canvassing for him in Virginia and Philadelphia. I’d gotten involved in the political process for the first time in my life.
And maybe that is Obama’s greatest gift to America. He mobilized us. When he set out, we were a nation disillusioned by missing WMDs, two failed wars, Abu Ghraib, the Abramoff and Libby scandals, FEMA’s Katrina response, global warming, pork-barrel spending and a $10 trillion deficit.
In the face of so much doubt and cynicism, Obama supporters rallied behind a single word: Hope. Hope that the next four years could be different than the last eight. Hope that Democrats and Republicans could find common ground. Hope that America’s youth could play a significant role in politics for the first time in generations. Hope that an African American, born in a time of anti-miscegenation and Jim Crow laws, could rise to the highest office in the land.
There are those who called Obama’s message mere rhetoric. Hope, they said, is just an empty word, with no substance behind it.
But that’s not the case for fourth grader Tatiana, who wrote a letter to Obama congratulating him on his victory:
“Dear President Obama,
I am so happy you are our new president! And it is not just because you are black, it is because you have some great ideas! And I wanted to be a singer, dancer and actress but you open new doors for me. You open the doors for everybody. Now I think that now I can be the first female black president!
Love (a 9-year-old), Tatiana
P.S. I won’t put TV before homework.”
How’s that for hope with substance?
Obama’s army of hope-mongers did more than just sit on their couches with fingers crossed – they marched. In the battleground state of Virginia, Obama supporters logged about 14,000 volunteer hours and knocked on over 100,000 doors. Virginia turned blue for the first time in 44 years.
We, the youth, also joined the ranks. On Nov. 4, an estimated 24 million young voters showed up to the polls – more than have ever voted in an American election.
Obama’s appeal reached beyond the Facebook demographic. He created a coalition of low-income voters, wealthy voters, African-American voters, Hispanic voters, Catholic voters, Jewish voters, urbanites, suburbanites, independents, Democrats and even some Republicans.
Speaking to more than 100,000 supporters in Chicago after his victory, Obama put partisan politics aside, stating, “To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.” I personally would have excluded Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
Perhaps Obama’s most admirable quality is that he refused to take credit for this army. He said, “.Above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you.”
Sometimes, the greatest general is not the toughest, the loudest or the angriest. Sometimes, a general’s greatest strength is his humility. Upon receiving the keys to the kingdom, Obama returned them to the people, giving every American – young and old, black and white, Democrat and Republican – a share in the victory.
And that is why Obama’s army took to D.C.’s streets last Tuesday night. That is why drivers honked and leaned out of their cars, waving American flags. That is why thousands of us gathered outside the White House, chanting “yes, we can” and greeting strangers as if they were old friends. We sang the national anthem – an appropriate tune that lacks any mention of Democrat or Republican. We came together, not to complain about the economy or protest the last eight years. We gathered to thank the man who brought us hope, brought us together and brought us victory.
“Rosa sat, so Martin could walk . Martin walked, so Obama could run . Obama is running, so our children can fly.”
Andrew Dubbins is a sophomore in the College. He can be reached at dubbinsthehoya.com. BREAKING NEWS appears every other Tuesday.