I was lucky enough to receive tickets to go to Obama’s Election Night rally in Grant Park last night. The experience for me was surreal and overwhelmingly emotional. I felt lucky—not just to be at the front lines of this historic moment but also to be a part of a country like ours.
I spent the first part of the rally ecstatic, pumping my fist against my chest whenever Ohio’s results were pulled up on the Jumbotron and screaming, “THAT’S MY STATE!!” When CNN finally project Ohio for Obama, though, I felt quieter, calmer. It was as if I finally was allowing myself to believe that this could happen. I had made calls to my hometown in hopes to help Obama win, and while I got hung up on and sneered at a few times, I also talked with undecided voters who were truly concerned about our country and who seemed to lean Democratic by the time we finished talking, with Republicans who were voting for both a black man and a Democrat for the first time in their lives, and with other Democrats who were making calls themselves and who had voted in the early Ohio voting.
Here it was, Ohio’s electoral votes going to Obama, and I felt the pulse of the crowd against me and the rush of screams around me but I was floating outside of myself, completely peaceful.
By the time Obama’s rally was pumping celebratory music and playing a video montage that played on the emotions of a proud American, I was—like everybody else it seems—in tears. I replayed in my mind the last eight years of my life and all that has changed and imagined what changes will happen for me now—hopefully, for better this time.
But it was Obama’s speech, the full text of which is available here, which most resonated with me. In the last few months, I’ve been reading up a lot lately on Lincoln and feeling some strong emotions about our sixteenth president, so when Obama said the following, he truly touched me:
Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House -- a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -- I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.
Coming from such a conservative area, I know full well that there will be people who will never accept Barack Obama. That’s fine. But the important thing is that for those of us who believe in him, and those who might come to believe in him too, Obama represents a true shift away from that petty partisanship and negativity that has so sharply pitched liberal against conservative in the last eight years.
It would be disingenous of me if I didn’t mention that I wasn’t always such an Obama supporter, as evidenced even by this blog. But as the other candidates fell away and Obama’s policies took stronger form, I became one of his believers. Standing and cheering among his other supporters last night, I could begin to imagine a better America where our rights and freedoms are not stripped from us and we are given the freedom and benefits we deserve. I am so proud and just wanted to share.