Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes we DID

I consider Election Day to be an anniversary of sorts. I first started blogging -- it was a diary then, a journal -- on Election Day 2000, which was Nov. 7 that year. It was my first presidential election in which I walked into the booth, since my previous vote in 1996 had been via absentee ballot while at college. It, of course, was an historic election because of the tight race, the prolonged battle and the eventual Supreme Court intervention and the handing of Florida to George Bush, making him the president.

I get a bit sentimental over anniversaries, as many people do. At the least, I enjoy taking a moment to think back and reflect on that day, where I was then and where I am now. I look at the journey and what got me to where I am today. Yet looking back at my birth to blogging was always a little bittersweet, because that reflection had to include a questionable election and a country that had changed so much, with so little of it for the better.

But today I find myself in a much MUCH different place, and a much better place. I'm married. I own a house. I have a great job I enjoy, as much as I enjoyed the sportswriting (yet low-paying) job I had in November 2000. It also has me working nights, just as that one did (though I was off on Election Day).

Today, though, is also the day we elected Barack Obama as our president. I was following along with CNN on TV and online, using their fabulous Election Calculator to fill in what was decided and what was projected. Virginia was announced for Obama at 10:58 p.m. ET, and as they discussed that, I went to the calculator and looked at the totals. California, which was closing at 11 ET, would put Obama over the top. I barely had a chance to say that out loud to my co-workers when they broke in with another projection. "I guess this is California," I said.

Not quite.

At 11 p.m. EST on the nose, Wolf Blitzer stood in front of a huge graphic that announced Obama as the projected winner. At work, we cheered.

To their credit, the producers at CNN went to live shots of Grant Park in Chicago, Times Square in New York and other areas around the country that showed raucous celebrations and wonderful, beautiful, raw moments of emotion, of pure joy. As I watched it all and took it all in, I got a lump in my throat and something stuck in my eye. In fact, something kept getting stuck in my eye for the next several minutes as different scenes of celebration came across the screen.

I was inspired by this election, doing things to contribute and get the word out for the first time. I donated for the first time, I wore a button on my bag as I commuted to work and put a sign up in the front yard and a bumper sticker on my car. I considered the ways I could volunteer, but in the end my job made it a little too difficult. The long nights -- the overnights -- and weekend hours made many things unlikely for me, and I just didn't feel comfortable making phone calls. I'm not a good debater, and getting people to talk about something they may be hesitant to share is a reason I don't miss being a reporter.

And yet, this election and this result continue to inspire me. I feel a desire to become more involved in, if not politics, than at least community organizing. I was a part of it by casting my vote, but now I want to do more. I look forward to tomorrow, I look forward to January 20. I may take that day off and take the train to Washington to see history.

In the end, America voted and America got it right. Tomorrow is a new day, next year a new beginning. I've always been proud to be an American, but never more than tonight.

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