Wow today makes exactly one year since I voted for change. Since we voted for change. I like to feel like it was my vote that made the difference, but truth of the matter it was all of our votes that made the difference. I needed you to vote just as you needed me to vote. I remember the excitement and anxiety that I felt that entire day. I work from 7:00am – 3:30pm so I got up extra early that morning just so I could get to the polls early and walk around all day with my “I Voted” sticker on at work. I’m usually the one that hits the snooze button a couple times, but on that particular morning I had no problem getting up. As a matter of fact, I was up before the alarm went off. The polls opened at 6:30 and I was in line at 6:15. It was raining, but I like so many other people didn’t care. We huddled under our umbrellas as we waited to get inside the building. Once we made it inside, it was so many people that all of the privacy booths were full. The poll workers gave us the option of going to a public table. I had to be to work at 7:00 and I had nothing to hide so I went and sat down at the table. As I was finishing up my ballot a man walked up to the table and stated “Now I’m going to sit down here and let ya’ll see who I’m voting for, because there’s only one choice” I along with all the other voters at the table immediately started laughing and gave him a nod letting him know that we felt the same way. He then sat down and said “Now somebody come and help me fill this thing out. I’m 52 years old and this is my first time voting.” A poll worker came over to help him as I was running my ballot thru the machine. I was voter number 116 and it was only 6:50am. I could only hope that the other 115 voters ahead of me had voted for Senator Obama as well.
When I got in my car I called my mom in tears. For the first time in my life, I felt like my vote had made a difference. I drove the 5 minutes to work with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart. I pulled into the parking lot and had to take a moment to gather myself. I couldn’t help but think about my parents, both of whom served in the US Military. My great- grandmother who at the time was 94 years old and had never thought an African American governor let alone a President was possible. My little sister who although wasn’t old enough to vote, would reap the benefits if Senator Obama won. I was consumed by the emotions of “what if”. What if this time my vote really made the difference? You see my first time voting was in 2004 during the Bush/Kerry election and Former President Bush won by a landslide, so I felt like my vote didn’t matter. I’d watched P. Diddy lead all of these “Vote or Die” campaigns and for Former President Bush to win by as many votes and he won by, I felt like this country girl from North Carolina marking a block on a ballot couldn’t possibly make a difference. But my ancestors had fought so hard for me to have the right to vote that I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from casting my ballot. As I got out of my car a fellow coworker saw my “I voted” sticker and stated “Gosh I hopes he wins” as she opened up her coat and showed me a “Yes We Can” button hidden inside. Here was this hippy looking Caucasian woman as excited and anxious as I at the possibility of Senator Obama becoming president. She gave me a hug and we both walked into the building. I’d seen this particular woman a number of times, we’d never talked, we’d never even spoken, but for those brief moments she felt like a life long friend.
I could barely work all day. My mind was everywhere. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t do anything but hope my vote was heard. My coworkers and I had done so well by not discussing politics in the work place, but on that day, all rules were out the window. We couldn’t help but talk about the excitement of possibly seeing a dream our ancestors, and some of us if we’re honest, never thought was possible, become reality. After work I went straight home and curled up on the couch and watched every news channel I could watch. I knew the winner wasn’t going to be announced until later that night but NOTHING else mattered to me. It was me, the couch, my blanket, the remote, and the TV. My mom and little sister tried to get me to go to a watch party at a local church, but I refused. I wanted to be home. It wasn’t that I was being anti-social…I just felt so strongly about Senator Obama that I wasn’t sure how I would have reacted had he not won. I didn’t want to throw something and it accidentally hit someone, or break someone’s belongings, so I felt like it would be best if I stayed in my own little world.
I was watching the election results and I heard the anchor say “Senator Obama has won Pennsylvania” I screamed and broke out into tears. It was at that moment that I knew Senator Obama was destined to become President Obama. Not long after they announced Pennsylvania, the west coast polls closed and his picture popped up on the screen. The words under his picture read “President Elect Barack Obama!” I paused the DVR box and just stared at his picture on the TV for a while, shaking my head. I knew what I was seeing, but I didn’t believe it. I knew I’d hoped for change, but the thought that it had actually come was too much for me to take in. He did it! I mean WE did it! America got it right! They looked past his color, his age, his experience, the controversial remarks made by his former pastor; they looked past it all and saw that regardless of all the naysayer’s he was the best person to lead America. As the tears ran down my face I heard my cell phone ringing. It was one of my friends from work. My voice cracked as I said hello, she stated “OMG Chelle he did it, we did it Chelle, we did it, OMG we did it. I am so happy right now you just don’t understand!” “I know” was all I could get out as we cried on the phone.
After she and I got off the phone I couldn’t help but think about how things had come full circle for President Elect Obama. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. As disappointed as I was that Senator Kerry lost the election in 2004, it had to happen that way. I borrowed a saying from a guy on BET and it has become my personal motto, “Yesterday happened like it did so that tomorrow can happen like it should.” Had Former President Bush not been re-elected, Senator Kerry would have been president 2004-2008. Then former Senator Obama wouldn’t have run. It took Senator Kerry running, former Senator Obama speaking at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Senator Kerry loosing, and former President Bush failing, for us to get to this point.
I’m usually in the bed by 9:30 or 10:00 but I stayed up just so I could watch my future President give his acceptance speech. He said quite a few things that motivated me, but what stuck out the most was him saying “If there is anyone out there who doubts that America is a place where anything is possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer…” He was 100% correct. That night was my answer. I went to bed that night smiling from ear to ear, in my green “Yes We Can” shirt. It was no longer just a catchy phrase; it was now a call to action…A call to provoke the change that we all voted for. I was ready and inspired to do my part and for the first time in my life I knew that it was nothing, absolutely nothing that could stop me.