First thing I did on the morning of Wednesday, November 5, was call home to speak to my older brother. Essentially, I called to brag. For the first time since I’ve been eligible to cast one, my vote had helped elect a president. My brother’s had not. His response, however, stopped me in my too-proud tracks: “I’m optimistic,” he said. “I think Obama’s a good candidate. I didn’t think he was the better candidate, but I think he’s definitely capable. Now I guess we all get to hold him to the high standards he promised, right?” Beyond the shock of hearing him admit to some confidence in Senator Obama, what struck me was my brother’s simple reminder that we’re all invested in what’s to come. After the dust of division has settled, we’re all back in the same boat.
And there is much that unites us. Most of the rhetoric used in the campaigns for the presidency seemed to suggest that Senator McCain and Senator Obama’s platforms were antithetical to each other. It’s the nature and purpose of campaigning: to delineate between you and the other guy. But, quietly, without much fanfare or attention, common ground surfaced. As both Obama and McCain sought separately to put their fingers on a singular American pulse, we all ended up saying similar things in different ways. The country decided it was ready for some change, clearly. We want our troops safe—and home, eventually. We seemed to come to a near-consensus on moving towards national energy independence, and on taking initiative to get in better step with our environment. It was in the “how,” not the “what,” where our differences emerged. Now, I feel it’s essential that the country continues a vigorous dialogue on those things that divide us. It is the diversity of our beliefs that gives us power. It’s in the friction, in the push and shove, it’s when we seem most off-balance that we are strongest. But, hand-in-hand with that healthy tension, let us not ignore the very real goals we all hold in common. In answering the question “Where do we go from here?” I begin by proposing that we all start together.
The campaigns were characterized by extraordinary energy and activity on both sides. We all have witnessed, over the last several months, the remarkable power of volunteerism. I saw, firsthand, Republicans and Democrats inspired to get off the political sidelines and jump in on the action. Young people, especially, found faith that their actions would bring results and their voices would be heard. These are the fruits of hard-fought campaigns that we should be proud of, and the material for a firm foundation as we begin to discuss where we might go from here.
The answer seems elementary: Let’s pursue change. Together. Let’s unite to make the sacrifices necessary for America’s energy independence and for a healthier relationship to our environment. Finally, let’s take my big bro’s advice. Let us all—those who voted for Obama and those who didn’t—hold our next president to the sorts of standards we expect from great leadership. Let’s keep the thread of communication between the president and the public taut. President-elect Obama must feel the healthy pressure of our watchful attention. If something awful were to happen while we weren’t looking … well, the blame would be partly on us, wouldn’t it? No more fast ones pulled. We’re all watching now.
And we’re watching because we’ve been engaged. Our passions have been excited. But we also understand that passions can be taken advantage of. So our patriotism will remain passionate, but it will be purposeful. It will be pointed. May our endeavor, and our country, be blessed.