This is me in 2009 at President Obama’s inauguration.
Please try to ignore the poor photo quality and my hilarious outfit choice, and pay attention instead to how excited I look.
I was eighteen and a freshman at George Washington University. One of the reasons I’d decided to go to college in DC was because I knew I would have the chance to be part of the 2008 inauguration festivities. It made it all the more special that we got to celebrate Barack Obama, who so beautifully tapped into the imagination of me and my fellow students. I remember how cold it was that day. Under that hot pink coat, I probably had on three layers of sweatshirts, and even though I genuinely thought I looked adorable in that white hat, I really was wearing it to stay warm. We woke up when it was still dark and trekked to join the crowds coming from all directions, my new friends and I buzzing with excitement as we waited in line to get through security. It was the first time in my life that I truly felt like I was part of something bigger than myself, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve felt that way since. There was an incredible energy in the crowd, as if a huge weight had been lifted and everyone just wanted to dance. I’d felt great the previous November about my vote for Obama, but on that cold day in January, I knew I’d made the right decision, and I felt confident about what was ahead for our country.
Today, we’ll witness another inauguration. (I wrote briefly about my feelings regarding the election back in November.) For the past two months, I’ve been constantly engaged with the news. After placing my vote for Hillary and watching as Donald Trump secured a victory, I’ve felt a compulsive need to see what happens next, perhaps more than I ever have in my life. My choice for the rest of today, though, is to disengage. I will not be tuning in to watch the inauguration coverage. It’s important to be informed, but it’s equally important to know your mental and emotional limits. Most of the time, I believe that we should pay attention to milestone moments — even when we don’t agree with them — simply because they are history, but for me, part of the historic nature of today is my personal choice to take a break. I’m going to share this blog, send a few e-mails, stay off Facebook, spend the rest of the day outlining my book, and maybe even sneak a little trashy TV in there if I need it. I am protecting the magic of my experience back in 2009 and choosing not to engage in any additional negativity.
I shared this last week on Facebook, but I’m going to post it here today, as well:
When I was a freshman at GW, I voted for the first time in the gym of a Washington, DC public high school. My ballot was cast for Barack Obama. At the time, I was writing for the college newspaper, and on Election Night, I was assigned to cover a party at the RNC’s HQ at a fancy hotel downtown. I was entirely out of my league — and so excited. Like the rest of the country, I waited anxiously for the election’s results. When the networks declared Obama the winner, I quickly interviewed a few sad Republicans and took off for campus as fast as possible. I’d heard that my friends were meeting outside the White House to celebrate Obama’s victory, so I took off my heels and ran barefoot to Pennsylvania Avenue. I had never seen anything like it. I jumped and danced and screamed with people I didn’t know, totally overwhelmed by the sense of joy and hope around me. I wish I had photos from that night, but I don’t — I was too caught up in the excitement. As I watched our president’s farewell address last night — and again this morning — I was struck by how very blessed I feel to have come of age in Obama’s America. When I ran shoe-less to the White House back in 2008, I had *so* much to learn about “real life,” but eight years later, I know without a doubt that my faith in President Obama back then was the furthest thing from misplaced or naive. Regardless of your politics, I think that many of us can agree that the future feels scary right now, but I am infinitely grateful for this man and the standard he has set for his office. Thank you, Mr. President.
Times are weird, but we have each other. I appreciate that I’ve been able to witness such strong leadership, because it gives me hope for the future and for where we can go next. Let’s love, love, love. Always love.