Little known fact: for about a year, while I was in high school, I contemplated a political career. I was a volunteer intern with the Democratic Coordinated Campaign in 2000, and I was hired as an intern for Senator Feingold’s office the summer between my junior and senior years. For a tiny while I thought to myself, you know what, I could be a damn fine president. Yes, I really did.
And then I realized, come on now, I’m biracial. I’m a woman. The daughter of an immigrant. It’s impossible in my lifetime. I can’t. I won’t ever be given the chance. Give up. And then I gave up.
Now imagine a girl, in high school, a teenager, mixed-race, black, Asian, Latina, native american, any girl who would have been held back by being who she was born as, imagine her having that dream today. And then watching Barack Obama’s speech tonight. And not giving up.
It’s the dreams of those young girls and boys that actually brought me to tears tonight, not anything that was said in that packed stadium in Denver. The tenuous hope, so easily taken away, that there could be a generation of children of color raised in an America with a biracial black man as its President. The dreams they’d be allowed to dream, and really believe in. The burdens of their parents that they wouldn’t feel at all. Just eight years ago, when I was in high school, dreaming, that seemed a complete impossibility. An impossibility.
I was wrong to give up, though I can’t take it back, my life is on a very different path now, and my heart is elsewhere. And I had my reasons not to hope. So far this election cycle I have been very, very doubtful about Senator Obama’s chances. He’s not President yet, he still may never be, but I’ve already been proven wrong. And I revel in it.
I didn’t believe that Americans were ready to nominate someone like Obama. Someone who looked like Obama, and had his background. I didn’t believe it because, as my family moved around the world, every time we moved back to the US, I was met with prejudice, nonacceptance, hostility, and ignorance. Not uniformly, not from everyone. But over and over again. In everyday incidences that, one by one, pounded it into my consciousness that I was not accepted, I did not belong, and it was because of what I look like, who my parents are, and where we come from. Somewhere in the back of my head, I believe that most people believe that I’m not a real American. And Barack Obama, a man with a background quite similar to mine in many respects, well, I couldn’t believe that people could put aside those prejudices that I’d felt so often in my life, and accept him as one of their own. I’m still not sure I do believe it.
But it’s not impossible anymore. And that’s enough to impress me, and amaze me, and humble me. I thought too little of America, because I was convinced that it thought so little of me, and of people like me.
Thanks for proving me wrong, Senator. You have my vote.
Liberal Arts Dude sez:
I must say I was very surprised reading the above from my sister. If you’ve read enough of this blog you will learn that I do plan on voting for Obama this coming November but my vote is a qualified one–Obama gets my vote but … and then a litany of disappointments and skepticism of the failed populist promises and betrayal of working peoples’ interests by the Democratic Party will follow.
Obama sounded like a true populist last Thursday. He said all the right things and got my hopes up that maybe, just maybe, he is sincere about this “Change” business and that if he wins in November, he will be able to change the culture of Washington DC and politics for the better. Because he is counting on the support and mandate from an organized and engaged citizenry. As he said, the election is really not about him -- it’s about us right? The citizenry whose hopes have been aroused by his candidacy and are now engaged and organized to participate in this grand experiment called Democracy.
I was impressed by the Obama campaign’s ability to elicit the type of response he did from my sister last night. Not a lot of politicians have been able to do that. Certainly not in my short lifetime. I’ve also never seen a campaign mobilize and raise money from so many ordinary people and get their hopes up.
An old story once said about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when a constituent met with him and made a great case for enacting reforms and policies. Roosevelt’s response: “That is all great. Now go out there and make me do it.” The story focuses on the importance and the role of the constituency in pressuring politicians from below in enacting the types of policies they want to happen.
Obama said he is running on a platform of Change. Let’s get out there and make him do it.
Cross posted in An Ordinary Person.