It's All Over -- It's Only Just Begun
On January 3 of this year I was in some little apartment in New Rochelle, NY fresh off a hearty celebration of the new year. That night we cut on the TV to CNN to check out the results of the first Democratic primary in Iowa. At this point I couldn't tell you anything about the candidates: there was a black guy, a woman and the local guy. I was supporting John Edwards simply because he lived in Chapel Hill (and we see how that ended up).
As the returns come in, it becomes clear that Barack Obama, some senator from Illinois, had won Iowa. "Wow," I thought, "that's awesome that he won that primary. I never would have guessed."
But I didn't put any more weight on it than that. I still figured Hilary Clinton and Edwards were the real players. My thoughts were confirmed when Clinton won the next primary in New Hampshire.
Fast forward to April 28: Obama holds a rally at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill. By this point Obama and Clinton were for all intents and purposes alone in this race. I was swept into the sea of change and was giddy at the thought of seeing him speak. I got there two hours early, settled into my seat and enjoyed the Liquid Pleasure band that provided entertainment before he spoke. His speech was electrifying as always. I was hooked.
But realism tugged at my brain: there is no way that the country is going to pick a black man over a white woman for the Democratic party. Why risk alienating moderate or more conservative voters with that pick? Then the country proved me wrong.
Wily old veteran John McCain stepped up on the Republican side and seemed to be a formidible opponent to the young Obama. Then after a series of mishaps and self-destructive moves from the right, it suddenly seemed like Obama was the favored candidate.
Until this point I believed in Obama's message of change and hope and love, but I just knew that it was too good to be true. I didn't think that Democrats would pick him as their candidate, why would conservatives and moderates lean toward a black man over a veteran and prisoner of war with more experience? Fortunately, the rest of the country was swept up in Obama's hopeful message. They realized that a change is exactly what we needed, and it was time to get a fresh perspective in Washington.
Even with most of the pundits predicting an Obama victory (landslide victory, according to some), I couldn't help but be nervous on Tuesday. Polls could be wrong or minds could change suddenly.
As the results started pouring in and CNN talked to holograms, I got goosebumps. Pennsylvania goes to Obama. Ohio goes to Obama. While these were not total surprises, they were two key wins that almost cemented Obama's victory. Then it got even more exciting. Traditional Republican states started to fall: Virginia, Iowa, Indiana, Florida. Even blood-red North Carolina is still split with Obama leading by less than one percentage point.
The nation spoke. Actually, it yelled. The world celebrated with us. It's a new day in America and the excitement is electric. Sure, it won't be easy. The economy is in the tank and we have to deal with Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran. But I'm excited about where Obama will take this country, and I hope that we will unite behind him. McCain impressed and moved me with a beautiful concession speech about coming together as Americans.
It was a historic night with Obama being the first ever African-American to be elected to the presidency. It's something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, much less in my first 25 years on this Earth. I've never been more proud to be an American.
Unfortunately, there was a dark side to the election last night. Proposition 8 in California, a proposition banning gay marriage, was passed. For a state that was so one-sided for Obama it's unsettling to see them set homosexuals back in such a fashion.
But in the end, we have taken a large step forward in this country and this is an event that I will always remember.
As Obama said, "Change has come to America." I think it's about time.