Election 2008: Wake up, America

By Bethany Reinhart

Summer is suddenly over and school is back in full swing. We are back on campus, back in class and back to the grind. But unlike recent years, this year promises to be one of the most electrifying times on college campuses nationwide.

This year is not just another year. It’s time to stop and take notice, as it is a monumental and defining year in the progression of our country. Love politics or hate them, believe in the possibility of hope and change as promised by Barack Obama or roll your eyes at the never-ending rhetoric as many John McCain supporters do-it doesn’t matter. The 2008 presidential election is truly unprecedented.

Never before in the history of our country has a major political party selected an African-American as its presidential candidate. The choice of Obama as the democratic nominee has plenty to do with politics, but in the eyes of individuals throughout our country and around the world, the choice has even more to do with history, progression and our growth as a nation.

Regardless of which, if any, candidate you choose to support, I cannot think of a more thrilling time to be an American and, beyond that, an American college student.

For years, college campuses have served as epicenters for the politically inclined.

Academia tends to breed passion, and passionate individuals are very often drawn toward politics.

From the anti-war protests of the 1960s to the Kent State Massacre in May of 1970, to the Iraq war protests during the Bush administration, the common denominator is the involvement and unwavering voice of college students across America.

This year, we as college students have the opportunity to not only let our voices be heard, but to take part in shaping the history of our country. That doesn’t mean we all need to run out and vote specifically for Obama in November. Instead, we must simply acknowledge and reflect on this historic time.

For many of you, this year will be your first opportunity to vote in a presidential election. Regardless of how you feel about the candidates, follow this election closely. On Election Day, I hope you all head to the polls and allow your voice to be heard. Despite the final outcome, this election is one that we will eventually tell our kids and grandkids about.

We embraced Hillary Clinton, who stood a solid chance at becoming the first female democratic nominee. We engaged Mitt Romney, who showed the possibility of becoming the first Mormon to win the republican nomination.

Many Americans voiced frustration that race, gender and religion played a part in the election. On the contrary, the acknowledgment of our differences shows just how far we have come as a nation.

I have had the privilege of voting in two prior presidential elections, neither of which inspired, frustrated or engaged me the way that this campaign has. From the very beginning, this campaign has shown that we, as a country, are ready for the next step.

In November 2000, I wasn’t on a college campus surrounded by lively debates, but I did have the unforgettable first experience of voting for president. The political climate was nowhere near as charged as it is today, but I still clearly remember almost every detail of casting my first ballot. I voted by absentee, as I had to attend an out-of-state meeting on Election Day. I remember sitting at my kitchen table in my tiny one-bedroom apartment, newspaper clippings outlining each candidate’s position covering my floor, thinking this was my chance to change the world.

Looking back, maybe that was a little dramatic and idealistic. But even if my one vote didn’t change the world, it did change me. It solidified my right to a have voice and to take part in the great democracy this country has to offer.

If nothing else, I hope that each of you gain some sort of inspiration by the knowledge that you have the privilege of participating in this great democracy. Watch closely and get involved, because this year you will be involved in one of the most historical elections this country has ever seen.