Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's a New Day

This morning, November 5th, 2008, I was greeted by blue skies, warm sunshine, and a light, playful breeze that made the leaves dance as they fell from the trees.  With unseasonably warm temperatures, I walked my dog down the mainstreet sidewalk of my small town, comfortable in just a Tshirt and jeans.  As I walked along, I passed by people in thier daily routines of visting the Sweet Shop, the dentists office, the pharmacy . . . only today, something in the air was making it all seem . . . not quite so routine.  The mood was no longer the same.  

Across America in tiny towns like mine, we have all started getting used to the tension and worry that flows from person to person, growing like a mold, overtaking our lives.  We worry about the economy . . . about how we are going to afford the gas to get to work next week, or whether or not student loans will be available to us next year.  We worry about healthcare . . . about not being able to get treatment for injuries and illnesses because we can't afford health insurance, or perhaps we have insurance, but the premiums are so high, we fall short on the grocery budget for the month.  We worry about our brothers, sisters, uncles, and cousins who are fighting overseas . . . will they come home soon?  Will they come home at all?  

We long for the worry-free days that we once had, that have been slowly fading into our distant memories.  We wonder if our children will ever know a peace-time America.  

At 26, I am really only recently becoming truly aware of all of these concerns and how they affect my life and the lives of those I care about.  Maybe that makes me a late-bloomer, but better late than never, right?  

It is because of these worries that I decided that I want to have a say in my future . . . I want to make a difference in my country.  In the last 8 years I've watched as the greatest country in the world slowly sank deeper and deeper into the mud, damaging our friendships with other countries, denying and taking away the rights of her own citizens, and treating the constitution as if it were a useless piece of trash.  

And then election season began.  With it, a chance to change our dark future and reclaim our title as 'Greatest Country in the World.'  But this year, would we find a candidate strong enough and smart enough to lead us down that path?  We got our answer when a bright, young senator from Illinois announced his candidacy for the 2008 presidential elections. Barack Obama wasn't like most other politicians, and when he spoke, people quickly began to take notice.  

The more I learned about him, the more I liked him.  I would watch him speak about his vision for America, and I could easily see him leading us there.  I wanted to get involved, to make a difference, but I didn't know how, other than the random pro-Obama blog entry here and there. Fall semester came along at school, and it wasn't long before I saw a flier for the College Democrats club.  I thought that it might be a good way to learn more about politics, and to learn how to support Obama.  I was sucked in and overtaken by this club, never missing a meeting, and losing out on lunch and 1/2 an hour's worth of pay every time we met.  I quickly realized that the brilliant luster of the presidential elections was overshadowing the importance of local elections in my mind. I started learning about the various local candidates, and as the elections drew nearer, our club started getting out more and more and supporting democrats both local and national.  The weeks went by, and the excitement grew, with weekends spent walking door to door, attending dinners and luncheons and candidate forums.  

We poured our lives into supporting these candidates, leaving less and less time for ourselves the closer the elections grew,  climaxing with the last few days before November 4th, when many of us were awake for no less than 43 hours, canvassing, calling, pollwatching, and more. 

Election day was a tense, exciting, and emotional day, and I will never forget any of it.  I will never forget the things I did, the people I met, the feelings I felt, the places I went.  

And I will never forget waking up this morning, and this beautiful, warm fall day, and instantly sensing that new feeling that was wafting through the air amongst my fellow townsfolk.  It was a feeling of tensions melting away, of worries disipating, and of hope blooming all around.  Only hours before, as November 4th was coming to a close, America elected Barack Obama as her new president.  

I couldn't help but feel good as I drove to school, and walked to my first class.  In the hallway on the way there, I passed a woman I highly respect -- my Anthropology teacher.  As she walked past me, she smiled, and summed up my feelings in one simple sentence.  "It's a new day."   

As goosebumps popped up on my arms, and a smile formed across my face, I was filled with an indescribable sense of pride and hope.  We did it.  It's a new day.  


For me, the elections themselves weren't the only thing that was filling me with hope and joy. As this new day was dawning, something else was going on at a personal level, as well.  

I found myself surrounded by people who felt the same way as I did.  People who want to make a difference.  People who want a voice.  

The college democrats meetings usually consist of a core group of people, all as full of enthusiasm as I have been.  Through the meetings I met Brian and Brie and McKenzie and Cari, among others.  Canvassing together, we quickly became friends with not only each other, but also with Mike, of the LaSalle/Bureau Co. democrats.  I found myself wanting time to slow down . . . not wanting the elections to come . . . fearing the day when we woud no longer have a convenient excuse to hang out with each other every week.  

We are certainly an odd crew, I'll give you that.  

With McKenzie, you never know what is coming, but you can most likely bet on it being inappropriate and hilarious, and probably a little crazy.  Brie gets in on the crazy, too, adding to it her knack for delivering quips that make you say "Wait, did she really just say that?" There's never a dull moment with these two.  

Cari brings with her her own share of crazy, as well, and along with it a good dose of chaos that we all need to shake up our lives.  (not a bad thing, folks!)

On the calmer side of things is Brian.  Don't mistake his calm demeanor for 'no fun', however, as he's the king of the well-placed 'your mom' joke that will leave you laughing until your sides hurt.  

And then there are our fearless leaders, the Mikes.  First, Mike the teacher and college democrats advisor.  He helped to inspire and nurture the collective drive of the group, and I've learned a lot from him.  

Next, Mike the canvassing coordinator.  Mike became our glue.  We could always count on him to tell crude jokes, sling insults, be generally gruff, and then turn around and enforce exactly how much he appreciated each of us, not letting anyone feel like thier role was unimportant. We quickly grew to love him.

And now it's all over.  These last couple of months have been wonderful, and now I fear that it's gone.  I fear that I won't have the chance to be entertained by McKenzie's antics, or Brie's shock-statements much anymore.  I fear that I will no longer be regaled with Cari's life stories.  I fear that I won't get to enjoy Brian's out-of-the-blue silly voices that crack me up, or his philisophical math discussions that are so far beyond my realm of knowledge. I fear that I will no longer have Mike the canvasser's 'bad' influence to get me to lighten up and have fun, or his encouraging nature to push me to keep fighting to the end. Mike the teacher I'm garaunteed to see three times a week until December.

I hope my fears aren't realized, and that my new group of friends and I can find a way to continue our friendship.  I also hope that they all know how much they've meant to me over the last couple of months.  Thanks to each and every one of you for being a positive part of my life.  

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