I can't explain the high I've been on today. It's an excited calm. Even with all that is going on and all that is bringing stress and anxiety to my life, today, today I feel at peace.
Yesterday was the first presidential election I could vote in. I walked down to the Folk Center at 9 in the morning. The parking lot was packed, and cars were constantly coming and going. The line for my precinct was pretty short, but I would have gladly stood there for hours. One of my students came in to vote soon after me, which warmed my heart even more. Walking around campus and seeing every other person with their "I Voted" sticker felt SO good. I know that not all of those were votes for Obama, which was okay; to see SO many people care at all and participate felt great.
Later in the afternoon, I sat with my freshmen, waiting for Chad to come to class. One of my students, a girl from Lee County, said that she wants to vote and thinks she wants to vote for Obama, but doesn't like that he supports abortion. I then went into reasons why he is pro-choice and talked about how abortion is not an important issue now, that it's the war, the economy, healthcare, energy, education. And I told her to go to kentuckyelection.org before voting, so she could learn more about where the candidates stand. Another one of my students, a hardcore McCain supporter, started to rip on Obama, and we had a short back-and-forth before class started. That evening, I ran into my first student and she said, "I voted Beth, all because of you." And without any prompting, she told me she voted for Obama. I would've loved for her to have learned more before election day, but she did her part and participated in this election, and she can look back on this later and be able to tell her future children that she voted in the biggest election of our time. I love that.
I didn't want to watch the early coverage, but I couldn't help it. I had an exam to study for, a paper to write (still haven't), a song to learn, but none of that mattered. Some of my friends in the suite and I got together to watch the results. I was so nervous and excited and hopeful and terrified and cynical all at once. What a way to spend a day! We watched the Stewart/Colbert special, and when they announced around 11 that Barack Obama was the President Elect, we changed the channel to Fox News and saw the same thing. I jumped up and down, but then got nervous again. We've seen early projections before, and I couldn't bear the thought of getting excited and have it taken away. But shortly after, the ticker said "McCain calls Obama to congratulate him." That's when the tears started. I hugged my friends, one of them a girl from Zambia who has been more invested in this election than most American citizens (and I think that says a lot about what this means for our relationships with other countries and how we're viewed). But it wasn't until watching and listening to Obama that it began to feel real. I now know what it is to cry tears of joy. We have a long way to go, but we've come so far in this election. The amount of involvement, the enthusiasm has been amazing. I LOVE that we have elected the first black President, but this transcends race. This transcends partisanship. But it doesn't transcend us; it is us, and that's what makes it beautiful.
Instead of working on a paper, I'm catching up on the election posts on KFTC's blog, kftc.org/blog. Working my way from the bottom up, I just read a post on Tayna Fogle and teared up a little. Tayna is a wonderful woman, a grandmother, an activist, and a former felon. This was the first Presidential election she was able to vote in since she received her voting rights back. She said, "My heart was beating fast and I got a little teary-eyed. I cast my ballot for all of the races and I realized that I just voted in the most historic election of my life." People all across the state worked to get out the vote and help people get to the polls. At the top of the site now is a post from Carl Matthews. Carl is working on his Master's and is one of KFTC's Jefferson County Electoral Organizers this year. He's also a former felon. He just got his voting rights back at the beginning of August, and yesterday was his first time voting. 'Yes, for the first time in my entire life I felt empowered. I voted to make better lives for myself and others. "I have never voted anywhere in these United States. Today was my day. And what a great start to a new life!" These are the stories that get me going, that make me think that we really are in a moment, a moment to do good for this state, this country, for each other.
We are in a moment. It's our moment. Last night, Obama said, "This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change." So, let's get to it. Together.