I grew up in a strictly conservative home. I remember mowing the lawn and doing other Saturday morning chores as we listened to rebroadcasts of conservative talk radio. My sisters and I jokingly called ourselves “ditto heads,” just like our dad. From a very early age I was so inspired by the political scenery that filled the stage of the American democratic process. I wanted to be an actor on that stage.
During middle school I conducted mock elections, involving the seventh and eighth graders. Completely independent of any class assignment I worked what seemed like endless hours for the weeks that preceded the 1992 election, all to show my dedication to the American political process. I unabashedly shared my political views during lunch hour debates, class room discussions and family get-togethers.
Politics were an oft taboo topic at the dinner table, especially when grandma came to visit. Grandma grew up during the depression. She was a part of the “New Deal.” She had witnessed an era of great promise and knew the power of the American spirit. And through her years she also came to know the shame of failing to live up to the dream that our culture inspires in the minds of countless men, women and children all over the world. Grandma used to always wonder aloud, “How on God’s green earth did I manage to raise and entire family of Republicans and not a one Democrat?” It always made me laugh. I have to say that those heated family debates over a good Thanksgiving turkey inspired me to be the man that I am. I was so eager to register to vote and participate in my first Presidential election and like Grandma, help shape the world and the history of this Nation.
Well that day finally came and I found myself six thousand miles away from the soil in which I sprout my roots. I stood on the shores of a beleaguered African Nation, staring westward across the sea that divided me from my home. I had seen the worst of humanity as the land was torn in two by civil war and families divided by religion and politics. I had seen the best of mankind as even the most impoverished and hungered hearts gave all they had and more to provide for the guest at their door. I knew that this experience was not unlike my Grandmother’s struggles and it truly shaped me. I made sure that even though I stood an ocean away, my voice was heard back home as I sang a tale of heartbreak and hope. I made sure that I stood behind the one that I felt would do the best job. I made sure that I made my impact on history. I voted for the first time ever, and it felt good.
It wasn’t long after that our own Nation was torn apart at its very foundation. My grandma had told me that she remembered exactly where she was and what she was doing the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed, and the day Kennedy was assassinated. That day, 9.11.2001 will be the day that I will never forget exactly where I stood and what I was doing when our Nation trembled from its very core. It was on that day that I started to wonder what direction our Nation, our culture, our people were headed. It was on that day that I wondered where our Nation truly stood in the eyes of the world. It was on that day that I saw ordinary heroes and shadowy villains stand at the threshold of a war that was bigger, broader and more brazen than just good versus evil. It was on that day that I began to doubt our leaders and doubt what the generations before me held, “in my best interest.” What kind of a world was my generation to inherit? What kind of Nation was being prepared for me and those after me? Would America still be all that I thought her to be?
I can’t help but be proud of the land I call home. I can’t help but be proud of these United States. I do puff out my chest when I speak of the ideal of America. I stand a little bit taller when I share what I believe America can become. I hold my head high when I tell a foreign host that, “Yes, I am American.” I never want to lose that sense of honorable humility. When the war in Iraq first began I walked the streets of Europe amidst the million man protests in London, Paris, and Geneva. And I did it all with my tiny, bold banner of freedom, my stars and stripes sewn to my backpack. People were curious. One Iraqi man in Paris even asked me, “Are you proud of your President now?” I humbly replied, “Of course I am.” He only smiled in nodded in approval.
I may not agree with everything that those before Mr. Obama have done but I salute them for their efforts. I applaud them for holding their beliefs as I have held to my own. I cannot say that I have stood on the literal battleground to fend off the foes that would attack my native land and tear apart that which is most dear to me. I cannot say that I bear the scars of the enlisted man or woman that stands as a shield against the bullets of our enemies. But I can say that I do wear the uniform of an American, in all that I do. I do fight a battle each day to stand up for what I believe in, within these borders and outside of them. I struggle against those that would oppress us, whether I live in this Nation or on shores across the ocean. I am proud to be an American. I am proud of what America stands for and Mr. Barack Obama has restored that pride and that optimism to this entire Nation. He has lifted up the spirits of a people that I believe were feeling a sense of abandon and loss. He has brought inspiration to those that had lost their faith in the American way. He has restored a sense of cohesion and joy to this journey toward tomorrow. He has ignited a fire in the hearts of this people, the American people, in a way that few others before him have been able to master. He has managed to fill a void in the lives of all in our great country.
We lost Grandpa just two years ago. After 58 years of marriage I can only imagine the sense of loneliness Grandma must have felt. Her memories are filled with moments they had spent together and I’m sure few were without him. With him by her side she was able to take her children across country for new exciting opportunities. In their marriage they raised four talented children, who brought them eighteen grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. Together they taught us all the lessons that formed our childhood. Together they manned polling stations, carried out petitions, and fought for what they believed. Grandma hasn’t seen much of the world in her life; she’s never been to New York or Washington D.C. She’s never seen Eiffel Tower or the onion topped roofs of the cathedrals of St. Petersburg. And ever since losing Grandpa it seems her world has gotten smaller. I want to change that for her. I want to give her that once in a lifetime opportunity to stand at the foot of history.
Grandma believes in the power of the Presidency. Grandma trusts in the man that will be sworn in to that office in just a few short days. I haven’t seen her as happy about something since she lost her dearest Husband. I haven’t seen her smile as much as she did the day she learned that Barack Hussein Obama would become the 44th President of the United States of America. This man, this humble, charismatic, thoughtful man, this man has brought pride and joy back to my Grandma’s life again. She sees hope in him. She sees a genuine love for the people he will serve. She sees commitment to even the most insignificant, meek grandmother from Idaho. She doesn’t have much. She has her family. She has her faith, and once again she has a Nation she can believe in and be proud of. She is not alone.
From all I have ever learned never has a man, just one man, inspired so much good and so much change and so much truth and so much hope in the hearts of this nation since the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Mr. Obama stands at the foothills of a great and daunting task. It is clear that he faces that task with quiet dignity and a bold sense of responsibility. He has already made it past one great hurdle; for it is clear that he has inspired the overwhelming confidence of this people. He has brought relief and repose to those that struggle simply by giving them his word to do his very best and to make change. He has inspired a nation and the world to make a difference with his famous mantra, "YES WE CAN." I have never felt so strongly about an individual that I’ve never met. I have never been so sure about the capacity for good within the life of just one man. I look forward to the great things this man will do.
Well I’m no longer that naïve boy from my past. I am just an average American fighting to make my place in the world and make my mark. I have always dreamed to play a part in history but more than anything, right now, I want to see history through the eyes of the wisest woman in my life. I want to see her, Grandma as see looks upon the buildings and the foundations that have been the backdrop to countless scenes that have made this Nation what it is today. I want to see her face as she bears witness to a true miracle in her lifetime. I want to see her as she meets a man that she stands with in ideology and in principle. I want to accompany the woman that has stood on the sidelines of so many victories in so many other people’s lives, as she, herself plays her part in one of the greatest moments in this Nation’s history.