This Is Only The Beginning
By Charlotte Price
It looked like it was going to rain throughout the day, but not a single downpour left the clouds in the sky on November 4, 2008. Like any other morning, I woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast, and joined the thousands of other New Yorkers making their daily commute to work.
On this day, however, there was something different. The tension and excitement in the air was so thick one could swim through the streets of New York City crowded by strangers’ faces holding on to something we had almost forgotten. They were holding on to a light of hope, and in hours they would know if Presidential candidate Barack Obama would be handed the chance to start the fire we have all been waiting for.
Jackets, T-shirts, scarves, and hats were littered with buttons showing a proud Obama next to his signature campaign words of “Hope” “Change” and “Yes We Can.” I was met by the worried faces of people who had stood by their country the past eight years feeling detached from government and helpless. As an American, they made their way to the polls and prayed that no matter what the outcome, the end of this day would be met with fairness and the voices of Americans would be heard.
More than 133 million people showed up to the polls. According to a New York Times article by Michael Falcone, “Between 21.6 and 23.9 million Americans in the age group from 18 to 29 years cast a ballot,” improving the youth turnout by over two million voters since 2004. At the end of the day, around 11 pm, America had spoken and I could hear his name being shouted from the streets.
Every news channel declared, “Barack Obama elected President” and according to CNNPolitics.com, Obama won 349 electoral votes defeating Republican John McCain who had 163. Finally the clouds let go of a little moisture but I couldn’t tell if it was really rain, or the tears of the thousands of New Yorkers next to me screaming and crying because their hero had made it. In Harlem, Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza, Union Square, St. Marks Place, and little pockets all over of the city, people were rejoicing.
I raced backed into the city from Brooklyn and joined my dear friend Maureen McGowan in the Manhattan streets where strangers were hugging and kissing each other, taxi cabs were honking, musicians were singing Obama’s name, bars were declaring $1 drafts for election victory night, and thousands of faces with their tear filled eyes of hope marched through Manhattan shouting how wonderful it was to be alive on this historical day.
McGowan, a 21 year-old student at Marymount Manhattan College who raced home to New Jersey to vote for Obama looked to me and shouted, “We are going to tell our grand children about this day!”
The celebration went on until the early hours of the morning and the next day, and after only hours of sleep if any, people still carried their post election glows and I wondered if the night before had been a dream.
This election was a monumental moment in history. There were victories on so many levels. The first African-American was elected President, Sarah Palin will not be in a high-ranking governmental position, and a genuine man untainted by the greed and deception that politics can so easily bestow upon its participants is bravely standing up to the challenges that face our country.
Obama reminds us in his speech that we face a labyrinth of troubles, “Now, I know you didn't do this just to win an election, and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead.”
We are in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the great depression. We are in a war that drains not only our nation’s funds but also our morale and standing in the world. Education and health care are slipping through the cracks more and more each day, and drastic steps must be taken to save our environment.
Barack Obama cannot change this all on his own. This is a magnificent time when Americans can unite and through collaboration, bring about the changes we have wanted for so long.
Kirsten Harris, a 22 year-old Barack supporter from Indiana told me, “For the first time since I can remember, I am proud to be an American.”
Well, it is time to take that pride and individually do what we can to help our new President face these challenging times ahead of us. Barack Obama so eloquently stated that, “This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change.”
On November 4, 2008, from the moment I left my Brooklyn apartment to those life changing seconds when Barack Obama was elected the President of the United States, I knew I would remember this day for the rest of my life. Now it is time to make every day for the next four years, and for as long as we can, live up to expectations we set on election Day.
It was an amazing victory, but this is only the beginning!