Thursday, January 15, 2009

Anticipating the Inauguration

When I was a teenager, Ronald Reagan was president, and America was riding high on a hot air balloon of patriotism and materialism. Many of us had 1960s generation parents, but we lived during a time when our president told us he was saving us from the moral excesses of that generation, so we watched Dallas and Dynasty and dreamed of becoming a Ewing or a Carrington. My generation grew up with a movie star cowboy president. It was “morning in America,” but the air was pretty thin and smoggy.

I was known as a left-wing weirdo at my high school. Many of the boys, if they cared about politics at all, were young conservatives, Alex P. Keaton clones. Some of the girls in my senior class, when they found out I wanted to be a teacher, would scoff and tell me that I was “too smart for that,” or remind me that I would “never make any real money that way.” “Major in business!” they said as they shook their heads. In spite of this, I enjoyed being a lone liberal; it appealed to my adolescent sense of drama.

I took it for granted--and maybe took some pride in the idea-- that no candidate of my choosing would ever actually win, and Michael Dukakis confirmed that for me in 1988.
George H. W. Bush’s victory indicated to me that the 1980s would never really be over. I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, and I was thrilled and shocked that he actually won. My husband and I were young, struggling parents at that time, and I had hope that the world our son was born into would be a less cynical and more hopeful world than the one I had come of age in.

The 1990s did not exactly pan out like I had envisioned, and then the election of 2000 felt like a kick in the teeth. The re-election of George W. Bush in 2004 truly made me despair for the world we were leaving our children. My oldest son has been going through his adolescence at a time of unnecessary and immoral war, government-sponsored torture, tax cuts for the rich, environmental pillaging, and corporate piracy. It would be much easier for him if he were the kind of kid who didn’t notice or care what was going on in the world around him, but he’s not. He is smart, he cares, and he pays attention. This makes me proud, but it also makes me want to protect him from disappointment.

When the 2008 election season came around, the political junky in me came out as I watched every debate and every bit of election coverage I could. This time, though, it was different. I was seeing the election through my son’s eyes. This time, I did something I had never done before: I got involved. My son and I volunteered at our local Obama campaign office. He was motivated by his frustration that he would not be 18 in time to vote, and I was motivated by the desire that this time, maybe things could change. Maybe I could show my kids that we could make a difference. I went from arm chair liberal critic to campaign volunteer. I decided to walk the walk, so that my kids would feel like it was possible to love one’s country by working to change it.

On the night of the election, my oldest son and co-Barack Obama Campaign for Change volunteer went to watch the results at an election-night party at his high school, so I didn’t get to see the look on his face when the words “President-elect Barack Obama” were uttered on television for the first time. When he came home an hour and a half later, he ran down the stairs to the family room with his arms stretched out wide. “WE DID IT!” he shouted, and he grabbed me and hugged me.

WE DID IT. It is especially for that one word, WE, that I am so grateful to Barack Obama. My son deserves a leader he can look up to and he deserves a sense of ownership in the political process that I never, ever felt at his age. I know President-Elect Obama is human. I know he is a politician. I know that he will disappoint me, and I plan on speaking up loudly when he does. But for now, I can only thank him for proving to me that “hope” is not just a political slogan. It is real and tangible, and I saw it written all over my son’s face on election night.


  1. I don't know if this will work but here goes anyway--one of my favorite pics.:

  2. The picture Tina posted will work if you copy the address and paste it into your browser. :0)