Historic win empowers America

“We’re watching history unfold.”

These were the first words my friend said to me over the phone Tuesday night, mere seconds after Barack Obama was named the projected winner of the 2008 presidential election, becoming the first African American to be elected to the White House. In that moment, I felt my spirits soar, and I dropped the phone to join the chorus of screams, chants and car horns that seemed to instantly fill my surroundings.

By using the nifty “live feed” feature on Facebook, I was able to keep up with the flurry of updated statuses from both Obama and McCain supporters. Many students welcomed the new president and embraced the change that would evidently come under Obama’s presidency. Others were vehemently opposed to our new president and expressed their sentiments quite vividly. Among exclamations of “GObama!” were extreme statuses that included statements about leaving the United States and championing Santa Claus as president for 2012.

Although I am an avid Obama supporter, I respect McCain, who fought hard for our country and just as hard for the presidency. It was heartwarming to hear that in his gracious concession speech McCain vowed to work with Obama and to help him better the country they both love. It reminds us that while Republicans and Democrats disagree on almost everything, we share a common theme in wanting what is best for our nation.

The past two years have been as nerve-racking as they have been fulfilling for Obama and his supporters. From watching him declare his candidacy and become the Democratic presidential candidate, to watching him struggle against negative campaign ads, Obama has come a long way from being the long-shot candidate. From making meager campaign donations of $5, $10 or $15, to standing in line for hours waiting to cast a ballot and anxiously watching the news as the votes came in, Obama’s supporters have come together to bring about the change we so desperately need.

‘Ecstatic’ could not begin to describe how absolutely wonderful I felt. For the first time in a long time, I felt truly proud to be an American. It seemed like only yesterday that I contributed my $15 to Obama’s campaign to stand 20 feet from him while he spoke at the World Congress Center. It felt like just yesterday that I stood with other like-minded individuals, collectively shouting “I’m fired up! Ready to go!” I was inspired and convinced that he would be the one to change our broken government.

Although my last editorial discussed the apathy that plagues so many of us, including myself for a short while, my faith in the power people possess has been restored. We have shown that as a generation, we are not as apathetic as we think we are. Though we may have sometimes been ridiculed for having so much faith and hope for any one politician, we stood firm for what we believed in and we opted for something different.

But change, much like history, cannot be made in a single day. Although we cast our ballots and voted for change, there is still much that needs to be done. The momentum and energy which carried Obama to the presidency should not die with his election.

We should continue to let our voices be heard in this presidency and the presidencies to come. Through our actions, we can stand united behind our president and together tackle the problems that face our country. Whether it be improving our economy, changing our healthcare and social security systems, striving to make education affordable or continuing to push for equal rights, this election has taught us all that we can do anything. We rallied together, nagged our neighbors to the polls, debated our ideas and, in the end, we were victorious.

It is our duty as Americans to follow up with our representatives, our senators and our president. Our responsibilities as citizens do not end with simply electing these individuals into office. Whether we decide to write letters, make phone calls or send emails, we should never be happy with just the status quo. We should always strive for improvement.

This election is a significant one for the history books. We not only elected the first African American to the presidency, but also showed that we as a people have the power to do anything. Never should we lose hope, but stand together and declare in one voice the slogan that has become so famous in this election: Yes we can.