Four Years Ago

8 Nov

In November 2008 I was serving with the 101st Airborne in Iraq.  This is how I was feeling the day after Barack Obama was elected President of the United States of America.

November 5, 2008, COB Speicher, Iraq

On November 5th, 1992 I was 10 years old.  The night before, William Jefferson Clinton had been elected the 42nd president of the United States.  My 5th grade math teacher, Mrs. Leyton, wore a Clinton/Gore pin to school to show her support for the president-elect, and I told her something to the effect of “well I think that Bill Clinton is going to ruin this great nation with higher taxes.”  We were instructed to write in our journals about our post-election feelings and I wrote that I was in mourning for our country.

Fast-forward 16 years and I am now a LTJG in the Navy, serving with the Army in Iraq.  The polls on the east coast started closing at 3 am local time, so I woke up in the middle of the night, wrapped myself in a blanket to guard against the recent chill in the air, and watched the election returns on AFN.

The soldiers I work with took to calling me their “election headquarters” because I kept up so well with the polls throughout the seemingly interminable election, and I was always more than willing to share both the facts as I knew them and my endless predictions.  Over the past few months my moods have vacillated depending on the plethora of polls.  After the Republican National Convention I was flying high and nothing could get me down, but after the market started its freefall and McCain’s polling numbers followed I was increasingly agitated that the only thing I could do to stop Obama’s blue wave was to cast my Pennsylvania absentee ballot and hope for the best.  An eternal optimist, I remained fiercely convinced that one of my personal heroes, Senator John McCain, could pull off another upset and land himself in the White House all the way up until I actually saw Senator Barack Obama’s supporters dancing through the streets of Chicago, and one of the men I admire most give a deeply gracious and moving concession speech.  By the time our first African-American president delivered his acceptance speech I was already out the door on my way to a meeting, but I read the transcript later and was impressed by his words as well.

Being a political junkie, November 4th was like Christmas in autumn for me.  As much as I wanted my candidate to win, I also love the political process.  Watching the numbers come in, painting the once grey maps blue and red and proving the pundits either right or wrong gives me no small measure of satisfaction, and this year it was especially gratifying to see the tremendous voter turnout.  I’ve grown up quite a bit since Clinton’s first victory, and I no longer wallow in misery at the thought of my candidate losing.  Granted, I was disappointed and am concerned for the future of our country, but the same optimist in me who hoped for a McCain upset now prays that I will be proven wrong and that President Obama will govern with wisdom and strength.  On January 20th he will become my commander in chief, and I will obey his lawful orders as I support and defend the Constitution.  My candidate lost, but every time Americans participate in a free and fair election democracy wins.  The increased interest in our legacy of government for the people and by the people is certainly something to be optimistic about, especially because the great honor of my life is to put on a uniform and defend that freedom every day.

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