by Kelsey Delmotte, SUNY Cortland, November 13, 2008

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After a long presidential race, we have a new president. Barack Obama has prevailed not only as the first African American president, but also as the man who will pull the United States out of the hole it has been in for the past several years.

While we are all Americans, it is clear that politics draw a clear divide down most of the country. And while it created conflict among voters, it also brought out a wonderful spirit of competition. More people were inspired to learn about candidates and be part of something that would make history.

Specifically among college students, Cortland hosted two election events on campus that allowed students to watch the election together in Sperry and Dowd. The turnout for these events was impressive, and people engaged in friendly discussions about the results as they came in. It brought students and faculty together, and while sitting in the room among fellow Obama supporters and debating with McCain supporters, I felt like something was happening that would change the world.

However, while we can appreciate the electricity that comes out of such a monumental occasion, it was evident throughout the campaign and during the closing speeches what kind of following each candidate drew.

John McCain, on more than one occasion, resulted to negative campaigning. During debates, he focused more on what Obama would not do instead of what he would do. He scared people to gain their vote, and in turn, attracted a large following of people who didn’t know any better. He targeted Obama’s inexperience, and then named Sarah Palin, a complete stranger to most Americans, as his running mate.

People who did not like Obama were convinced that he would bring terrorism into the White House, and repeatedly called him a Muslim. They looked at Obama and even though they opposed his policies, they concentrated on the color of his skin. During McCain’s concession speech, when he said, “I had the honor of calling Sen. Barack Obama to congratulate him,” he was met with booing. Throughout the campaign, McCain supporters were vocal in their hate for Obama, yelling, “terrorist” and “kill him” on several occasions. And yet, McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin did nothing. It shows that this country, even with a newly elected African American president, still has a long way to go.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, ran a relatively clean campaign. He focused on how he would change the country and turn it into a place where people were treated fairly. During debates, when attacked by McCain, he acknowledged his opponent’s remarks, and moved to the real issues at hand. He projected a positive, confident attitude and attracted followers of the same mindset. Barack Obama attracted people who wanted change. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement from the people around you to see what this country is capable of. Nothing sums that up more than, “Yes We Can.” He saw that we are a country of many different people, not just an elite upper class. He united his supporters with a phrase that is not class specific, or even country specific. He sees the United States as part of a bigger picture, and knows that we all need to work together in order to connect with each other, and with the world around us.

I hope that after this election people start to interact in a way that is more suited for a country of such diversity. At the election event in Sperry on campus, one student said that I was a “typical college student” for voting for Obama. However, a typical college student in the Northeast differs quite a bit from a college student in the south, as far as voting is concerned. As John McCain said, “Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans.”

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