Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Election Day, At Last!
Woke up at 6AM. Tim and I had already agreed that we would vote first thing in the morning, since the lines would be too long after we both returned from work. I hopped into the shower and then walked over to our polling site, a house two blocks from our home. I was the first person there; but by the time Tim joined me, the line was already to the street.
At 7AM, the owner of the house came outside and announced the polls were now open. I applauded and entered. It was a bit chaotic, but I signed in and took my ballot to the voting booth in the corner. I waved to Tim to come vote in the booth next to me. We had marked our sample ballots ahead of time, so were able to vote very quickly. Nonetheless, I almost started to cry when I opened the booklet and saw Barack Obama’s name. Regardless of the outcome, this is the single most historic election I’ve ever voted in. It is almost impossible to express the enormity of this day.
Exiting the polls, we greeted our neighbors as they waited on line. We have an Obama lawn sign in our front yard, so it’s no secret how we voted.
“What a great day!” I exclaimed, barely containing my emotions.
We then saw Nick, our next-door neighbor’s youngest son, with sample ballot in hand.
“Is this your first election?” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
Just as we got home the sky, which had been rainy a few moments before, opened up to reveal patches of blue.
“Maybe it’s sign of good things to come,” Tim observed as he jumped into his car to head to work. I went inside, wondering how I’d ever be able to concentrate on anything but the election today.
If I didn’t have to teach this afternoon I would have sat in front of the TV all day waiting for the election returns. As it was, I called Tim as soon as class ended at 5PM.
“Has Obama won yet!?” I asked half-jokingly.
He hadn’t, of course. But even though the polls just closed on the east coast, Obama had already racked up 100 electoral votes. Unlike 2004, when Tim and I went to bed not knowing whether John Kerry had won or lost, this looked to be a short night. I rushed home.
Over the next couple of hours, we watched as people around the country gathered in anticipation of an Obama victory: students at Spellman College and Indiana University; African-Americans in Harlem; and thousands of supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park. Never in my 36 years of voting have I ever seen anything like it.
Then suddenly, at one minute past 8PM, NBC newsanchor Bryan Williams came on and announced the election results. Thanks to California and our neighbors to the north, Barack Obama had surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed and won the presidency! Unbridled joy erupted in Grant Park, while an emotional Tom Brokaw cried.
I, too, cried—and haven’t really stopped yet!—in relief and happiness that a new era is about to begin in America. To me, it’s more than Obama being black or even a Democrat—it’s about having a brilliant, articulate president who has captured and reengaged the imagination and hope of our nation. Sure, he has far less political experience than his opponents; still, he has already proven himself a magnificent leader and motivator of young and old alike. He listened to the people and they responded in kind. It is now our turn to do whatever we can to help him succeed as president.