As it became clear that Barack Obama was going to become our next president, I was a bundle of different feelings. I questioned if I had done enough to try to elect someone who more closely matched my deeply held principles. I wondered why it was that I felt a great sadness but also a twinge of joy. I found myself wishing I could really like our new leader. On the one hand, I experienced a sigh of relief that our nation was moving past racial barriers. However, I also knew that the change coming was most likely something I would not rejoice over. My American heart was torn… and rightly so. That is the beauty of this country. Although I did not vote for our new president, the democratic principles that I believe in also allowed me to see the historical significance of the election. It’s a well known saying, and yet so true: America embraces all her children, regardless of race, upbringing, or party.
But how to reconcile these feelings? How could I balance the excitement of witnessing history with a pervading sense of doom to come? Once again, I had to put my trust in the unique system that we call our own. If the majority of Americans thought that Senator Obama could do the best job leading our country, I had to find a way in my heart to believe my fellow citizens. Along with these feelings, however, I had to decide how I would act as a member of what seemed like the minority in America.
Since the inauguration, I have debated whether I should actively protest President Obama’s actions—from the economic bailout plan to the opening of stem-cell research lines—or if I should give him some time and see if he can change my mind. Part of me thinks that everyone deserves a fair turn, but I also believe that I know the truth and that makes President Obama wrong.
This is the dilemma that faces many Americans at the start of each new presidency. When the man we voted for wins the office, it is a great feeling. We praise the republican system that lets its people choose those who lead it. When our guy loses the election, we feel as if the world is over as we know it and we threaten to move to Canada. We lament how the next four years are going to be terrible and everything that was accomplished in the last administration is for naught. But the truth is, we wouldn’t have it any other way and we most definitely would not move to Canada. Even though I will probably disagree with most of the things that President Obama does during his four years in office, I am still proud that it is the people who decided our leader.
This country that I live in is still one of the free and the brave. We are a nation in which not even race can determine an election. As I watched bits of President Obama’s inauguration ceremony, I felt for those who were seeing dreams come true. As the cameras panned over those African-American faces, overwhelmed by the significance of the day, I could feel their emotion. As the lens zoomed in on the generations who lived through segregation, I could not help but be touched. Another step has been taken in the history of this great nation towards equality and freedom. For those who had endured treatment that no human being should have to face, I could see the hope that they were experiencing. That is something that I will not forget, even in my hesitance to accept the man they looked to for this hope. I am too young to even have an inkling of the shame and humiliation that African-Americans faced leading up to the civil-rights movement. I pray that President Obama’s election will renew the African-American community, that all Americans will feel empowered in ways they never felt possible. I hope that young people will look to his achievement as a model to emulate.
While my American heart is still torn in two, I have decided to try to acknowledge the good things that President Obama will do over his four years in office. At the same time, I have pledged myself to continue the fight to bring this country back around to Republican ideals of limited government, lower taxes, individual rights, and family values. Just because I will not have the opportunity to vote for a new president for another four years, there is no reason why I cannot watch the horizon for the next great conservative leader. It is in this time of being in the minority that we should strengthen our beliefs all the more, but also reflect on what it means to be an American and why we love this country so much.
Kristin Striker is a senior from Galion, Ohio, majoring in Marketing.