Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where Was I When Obama Was Elected President? The Sequel

On the suggestion of some frisbee friends - actually, it was our porteño friend Emilio, who stayed awake until at least 4am before having to wake up at 7am for classes - we made the long trek out to Palermo to see history unfold. We stepped out of our taxi at around 11:35pm (we are now 3 hours ahead of EST, as Julia's parents are well aware) and an older American couple greeted us with the good news that Obama had just won Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. And honestly, for me, that was the brightest moment for the next two hours or so. The bar was so incredibly hot that I couldn't stand to stay inside for more than fifteen minutes at a time. We had finished frisbee practice not too long before and it was as if I had never left I was sweating so much. Some of the time I stood right by the entrance so I could still see the projection screen. At one point an American approached me and asked, "¿Quién es el president?". I told him I did not know, that Florida and Virginia and other key states were still up in the air. At this point he felt it necessary to whip out his driver's liscense and show me he was in fact from Florida. I congratulated him for his state of origin, and he moseyed on into the bar with a lady in hand. Before long I mustered up the courage to dive back into the mess of spectators, eager to reunite with Julia and our other friends. We eventually moved towards the back screen, where we witnessed Virginia go to Obama. (Quick note: in these elections, doesn't it seem far to ominious when they project a state? "Just in, Virginia has gone to Obama" sounds as if they've converted to Obamaism, like an Eastern European country that fell to Communism during the 1960's. Why can't we just keep it to something less foreboding? Probably for the same reason that CNN felt the need to keep up those silly holograms throughout their entire coverage: ratings. Yes, the horse race of American presidential politics is so compelling! Back to the drama...).
At this point I had gotten over my perspiration and decided to stick it out in the middle of the cheering hoards. We awaited the polls to close on the west coast, hoping that these states would push Obama over the edge. The countdown appeared on the screen at thirty seconds, and just as the other countdowns for polls to close, it turned into New Year's Eve in November. Hands raised, fists pumping towards the ceiling as the numbers counted down. And once the clock hit zero, something changed. The crowd's once high noise level had retreated to an anxious hum. Time slowed down for a few moments as the screen showed a breaking news alert, not a mere projection, and we all knew what was to come: BARACK OBAMA HAS JUST BEEN ELECTED TO BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! Within milliseconds, the crowd erupted. People were jumping up and down, hugging friends and strangers within reach, some crying out of pure happiness. I did my fair share of jumping and hugging but mostly found myself staring at the screen in disbelief. I join the hundreds of thousands who describe the experience as very surreal, because it was. I tried to describe to Emilio why everyone (by that point it felt like everyone, for if there were any McCain supporters in the bar, I'm sure they had vacated the premises once it became obvious he would lose in an historic rout - not to mention the fact that they were painfully outnumbered) was so happy: because we weren't sure we would ever see this come to be, because we had been conditioned to expect the worst out of our leaders thanks to the past 8 years, because we finally saw the opportunity to bring about the change we saw necessary, because we would no longer have to walk the streets of a foreign country and feel self-conscious because our President displayed a complete disregard for other peoples, because we felt a renewed faith in our fellow citizens, because we saw the torch pass from one political generation to another, because we finally had a president who would inspire hope and faith in country for all. He understood our emotion, even giving me pats on the back when I started to get misty eyed during his acceptance speech. I only hope that we as a nation take up this collective charge to make change and do not waste the election of a truly great President, and more importantly, that this initial step towards more complete freedom and equality leads to more and far reaching measures that make a minority presidential candidate normal, or failures such as the gay marriage ban in California unthinkable. Today, I'm more proud to be an American than I was yesterday. And for all of the endorsements of Buenos Aires I've made, I would have done anything to be back in DC for election night and been able to take part in the celebration that took place. Those of you who were there, I envy you.


Zach Rolf said...


Shelley Rolf said...

i'm sure that we all remember where we were AND where you were when obama was elected. it's a new day. cleats, hot sauce and pb will be coming in less than 2 weeks (hannah, jake and i, too !) ! we can't wait to see you. xoxo