Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Letter to My Children

Mom and Dad,

Thank you for the box of cookies and the card! The 7-layer cookies were shared (really!) with my roommate and a few of my new friends here at college. I can't wait until Thanksgiving when I can see you two and all my old friends again.

Things are going great so far! Everyone is so friendly and I am really liking my classes, especially my History course. The professor is really funny, and he challenges us at the same time. One of our big papers due at the end of the semester has to do with comparing a big event in our lifetime with a big event in our parent's lifetimes. Would either of you be able to help me with that?

Looking forward to November,

PS: Sending more cookies is OK.



Hope this batch of cookies made it to you! Dad may have taken one or two before I was able to tape the lid shut...

We're happy to hear your first semester at college is going well! Dad got caught up in your question and spent days writing a response to your question, so I passed on this homework assignment, professor. Here is his response, see you in just under a month:


I'm glad you are having fun in college and your professors are giving you a good challenge. As for your question about a big event in my lifetime, I would say one of the biggest events was the election of Barack Obama as the first African American President of the United States. When he got elected in 2008, I was halfway through my teaching certification program at the University of Washington.

In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost the electoral college, putting George W. Bush in office for his first term. In 2004, John Kerry lost to George W. in another close race. Both of those elections were heart-breakers for me, because it seemed obvious to me how dumb George W. Bush was, and how our nation was spiraling downward in almost every respect (Iraq War, Patriot Act, Economic Recession, Housing Crisis). In 2008, we had a very interesting election because Obama would be the first African American elected President, and on John McCain's ticket, Sarah Palin would be the first female Vice President. Many people think Obama ended up winning because McCain chose a prom queen from Alaska as his Vice President instead of a more conservative pick (aka old white male).

I remember election night on November 4th. I was invited to an election party (my first) with some of the other students in the teaching program. Caroline, a student who was also living with her parents at the time, invited a few people over to her place in Kenmore to watch the election. I headed up to Kenmore and I still remember the horrendous traffic on the way there, and the big rain storm. I had the windshield wipers on high, and still could not see. I secretly thought the big rain storm was a good metaphor for washing George W. out of office, whether McCain or Obama won.

I was one of the first to arrive at Caroline's house, and her parents were just getting reading to head out to a Republican election party. I think everyone who came over to Caroline's that night was rooting for Obama. As the night progressed, the news stations colored in the various states red for McCain and blue for Obama. Obama was looking good from the beginning, winning almost all of the electoral college votes in the North East (has your teacher told you about the old electoral college yet?).

Everyone in the house stayed pretty mellow, even though Obama was exceeding expected results. Back in the electoral college days, certain states were called "battleground states" because their voters were divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida were the big three states both Obama and McCain needed to win in order to clinch the Presidency. Obama first won Pennsylvania. Then Florida. Then Ohio! We couldn't wait until 8pm, when the West Coast polls closed and predictions could be made for WA, OR and the big 55 electoral votes of California.

The INSTANT the clock turned 8pm, the news station reported that Obama was predicted to win all three states. The bump in electoral college votes to his total nudged him over the 270 mark needed to clinch victory, and we cheers'd. Shortly after, McCain gave his address to the nation, surrenduring the election to Obama. McCain's speech was probably the highlight of the night for me, because before the election I really liked him. He was a person who seemed to reach across party lines to get things done. But when the election began, he veered way towards the Republicans in order to get their nomination, and ran a dirty campaign with commercials that distorted the truth about Obama (at least in Washington State). His speech reminded me of the original McCain that I liked, the McCain who is America first, politics second.

I remember waiting around for Obama to give his acceptance speech for a while. We were getting antsy, because we all knew how good of a speaker Obama was, and this would be the speech of his life. Now, I hope mom doesn't notice this part, because I've tucked it in way down here in the letter, but since you are in college I think I can let you in on the drinking game I started before Obama's speech. Every time Obama mentioned "America" "Change" "Unity" or "Freedom" everyone in the room had to take a sip from their alcoholic beverage. I obviously would not recommend this until after your 21st birthday, but it does spice up acceptance speeches!

Obama gave his great speech and the camera kept panning to Oprah Winfrey and Jesse Jackson in the Chicago audience, weeping. Obama must have said the four key words three dozen times, because everyone's drinks were finished, and after I finished my beer I counted an additional 20 drinks I was supposed to take (but since I was driving, I called a rain check--don't drink and drink, EVER!!). Caroline's parents actually made it back to the house before Obama gave his speech, because they were actually closet Obama supporters (with lots of Republican friends). Even they participated in the drinking game, albeit with soda instead of more intoxicating beverages.

I happened to bring an old bag of fireworks to Caroline's, just in case Obama pulled out the victory. I had roman candles, bottle rockets, tanks, sparklers and bees. We walked up the street and fired them all off and had a great time. The neighborhood was a really nice one, and I assumed mostly Republican, which made shooting off the fireworks that much better! The fireworks marked the end of the night for the party and I drove home with a really good feel for the future of the United States. I actually saved this quote from the Los Angeles Times the next day:

World reaction to Obama victory: Elation

"There's a feeling of hope that things will be right in America," Randa Habib, a Jordinian writer and political analyst said Wednesday. "Obama can make you once again respect the U.S. for its values and democracy and all those things we had forgotten about over the last eight years."

This quote accurately describes how I felt about his election. The biggest reason I voted for Obama, even more important than our crumbling economy, was the World's view of America as a bully. With Bush, our standing in the world was terrible. I felt the most important aspect of the election was our World standing, and I knew the World wanted a change from the boarish Republican foreign policy. Obama's election put a smile on my face and I knew our country was finally taking a step in the right direction after 8 years of idiocy. Obama's biggest difference from Bush is that Obama actually listens, instead of just talking in generalizations.

One of the most noticeable things about the 2008 election was the voter turn out. Records were set for voter turn out that year, and the surge in voters continued to all elections since. 2008 was a big turning year for people to get out to vote, and for people of all races to feel like their voices and votes were important.

Love you, hope this helps!

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