The Spark of a Nation

Sean Fitzgerald

Barack Obama is more than our first black president. Much more. To limit the change and hope he brings to this nation simply by focusing on his race limits his potential. This is more than a racial issue, or even a Democratic or Republican issue. In the wake of September 11th, our country and its leadership was based on a culture of fear. Obama represents hope in that he is a proverbial new start. He represents a way for American citizens to let go of the mistakes made in choosing to invade Iraq, the fear and “either for or against us” mentality that has crowded the intellectual realm of the past 8 years with President Bush. Obama represents the possibility that we can let go of this scar and focus on progress.

This is not to say that John McCain is not qualified or capable of the same possibility. McCain is a hero, which cannot be questioned. He is a true American hero in every sense of the word and he has earned the respect of every American citizen with the service he has given to his country. I believe McCain would be a great president, but I do not think he is the best for the job.

Here is why: Obama represents the potential to create a paradigm shift in the political affiliation of our nation, in the same way that F.D.R. and Richard Nixon did. He represents such a change that after 232 years of our nation, beginning with about 60 years where our presidents were slave-owners, an African-American can be in the highest office of power our country possesses. But more importantly than all of this, Obama is a spark. He is a breath of fresh air. He is an ice-cool glass of water with a fresh lemon, little umbrella, and twisty straw after a heat wave. By this I mean Obama brings with him a rekindling of the American ideal, the possibility for growth and opportunity, at a time when idealism is suffocated by the perennial gangbang of the economy, political punditry, and complete apathy.

Want to know a secret? I was scared when I heard McCain’s concession speech. I had been a bit nervous all day since casting my vote, but when McCain gave his great concession speech, I started to worry a good bit. I began to ask, “Did I vote for the right man? Is Obama really going to be a great President like I thought?” I knew that I agreed with Obama’s stance on many issues, but I still began to wonder. But then I saw Obama speak. And something happened that I never imagined would happen.

I cried. Say what you want, I don’t care. During parts of Obama’s speech, I cried. It wasn’t out of happiness. My tears were out of pride. Pride in the American ideal, that opportunity is possible with enough hard work and perseverance. That Americans can be united regardless of harsh party lines and can believe in the possibility of hope and change and future prosperity, even in dark times. I had never seen an America so hopeful.

I’ve been to Arlington and seen the graves and the Faces of the Fallen and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Vietnam Memorial. And yet in that auditorium with my friends listening to the president-elect tell his nation about the hope we have for our future, about the opportunity for better days and a culture not ruled by fear, but by peace, a culture not focused on violence, but centered around diplomacy, I truly began to feel a sense of pride I had not experienced, a renewal in belief that cleaned the apathetic grime from the spectrum and gave me a new sense of faith in my country’s potential.

Some say, “He will just be assassinated.” The funny thing is, he doesn’t care. You can kill Obama the man, and Obama the President but you can’t kill the American ideal he stands for and brings to this country. Whether this is a Jimmy Carter “one and done” term or a fundamental shift in the political stance of our entire nation for several decades, rest assured that brighter days are ahead of us. The wounds caused from September 11th and living in a culture of fear, violence, and ignorance will not be permanently and wholly ameliorated, but progress will begin to be made. Obama represents progress. He brings change, opportunity, and most of all, hope. He is a spark. I have never in my life been more proud to call myself an American.