Yes We Can

What a difference four years makes.

Like many people I am still processing the historic events of last night.  What comes to mind is the road traveled and the comparative experiences of watching elections in 2004 and 2008.

In 2004, New Englanders were coming off one of the greatest comebacks in sports history and the exorcism of an 86 year old curse. We were Red Sox obsessed.  After the election, I heard people say that it was a tradeoff.  Bush/Red Sox? Bush/Red Sox? Perhaps, we just didn’t think that the country could reelect George W. Bush.

I spent Election Night 2004 at friends of my roommate in Providence, Rhode Island.  Everybody was either an engineer or medical student.  Working for a non-profit arts organization I was a bit of an outsider.

After the Presidential Election was called for Bush, I left.  Someone said to me that people in American would riot and revolt.

She was wrong.  They didn’t riot and revolt.  They became organized.

Election Night 2008 was different.  I was at home with my roommates and friends and friends-of-friends.  The room was fulled with law students, former union organizers, and activists.  Some had been up in New Hampshire that very day helping bring people to the polls.  Others had been canvassing over the weekend.  I had made calls from home using the Obama Campaign’s website.  Every little bit counts.  We were all invested in the results.  We all wanted it.  Badly. So very badly.

The night after the election in 2004, I went to a Celtics vs. Sixers game.  It was my other roommates’ idea, and he had scored three tickets for $15 each.  There were plenty available.

How times have changed!

That night we were riding home on the Green Line and two of us gave up our seats for an elderly couple.  They were so appreciative and remarked that we must be Democrats because were so nice.  They told us what it meant to live in Massachusetts.  They talked of resiliency and hope.  They were returning home after seeing the opera.  They had gone to a BosTix booth that afternoon to find discounted tickets.

They wanted distraction.  Just like us.

Tonight I need no distraction.

The past few days have been an emotional rollercoaster.  It started out with this brooding feeling on Monday.   A colleague told me that she felt like a large snow storm was coming.

By the evening we all had learned of the passing of Barack Obama’s grandmother. The speeches.  The tributes.

After midnight, we learned of Dixville Notch’s results.  Raised in New Hampshire, I had a teacher whose daughter lived in Dixville Notch.  Presidential politics is serious business.  In New Hampshire it is a matter of civic pride and community obligation.

Dixville Notch made it all real. The voting had begun.  Anxiety rolled in.

I watched Obama’s concession speech from the New Hampshire primary, “A More Perfect Union”.  I remember watching it with tears of hope rolling down my face last January.   I watched the wil.i.am music video.

I went to FiveThirtyEight.com and saw that Sean Quinn had keep on with his thread of quotes from On The Road and dedicated William Shakespeare’s “Saint Crispian’s Day” speech to the volunteers and organizers.

Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;

A colleague’s Facebook status changed to “fired up and ready to go.”  I watched Obama’s campaign speech from that night.  I was, too.  I knew it would be hard to sleep that night.

Tuesday went by so quick and before I knew it I was home awaiting guests.  Throughout the night I was on the phone with my parents and old friends in Ohio.  One had emailed me after the 2004 Election telling me that he was going to move because he didn’t want his children raised in a red state.

He doesn’t have to move anymore.  But, I would welcome him to New England anyway.

Two laptops, cell phone reports, and channel flipping helped us all feel busy.  It kept us occupied.  It kept us moving towards the moment.

When 278 was reached joyful tears filled the room.  Emotions.  We all stayed there.  Waiting for the speeches.  Captivated.  Witnessing history.

“America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

“This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

“Yes We Can.”

- President-Elect Barack Obama’s prepared remarks, Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Now the work begins.  We haven’t a moment to lose.

2 Responses to “Yes We Can”

  1. Thacher E Cleveland November 5, 2008 at 10:32 pm #

    For real, Nick. It’s going to be a rough road still, I think, but for what seems like the first time in my adult life, I have real hope and faith in my government. The past 8 years have made me kind of cynical, thinking that we’re just going to get let down. That’s 8 years ago thinking, I think. We need 8 years from now thinking, and that’s the thing that’s been really given to us.

  2. Nicholas Peterson November 6, 2008 at 10:40 am #

    Tad, thanks for the comment. There is no doubt in my mind that it is going to be a tough road. I feel that all many people want is to have hope and reclaim the idea that anything is possible. It’s hard to believe it has been eight years. I was staying in a hotel in Akron, Ohio when I watched Gore concede on national television. The Obama campaign’s strategic use of technology and online community organizing has inspired me that we all need to rethink our approaches and understand ways we can all be more effective.

    It’s going to be hard, yes. This is a gift and an opportunity. We cannot waste it. It is time to “put our shoulders to the wheel.”

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