America is a country that, at its heart, wants to believe in itself. While some might say (and rightfully so) that we are overly enamored with our own greatness, I think what most Americans really want is to to be worthy of our standing in the world. We want to live up to our better angels. We want to trust that the best is still ahead of us. We want to believe in the good in all of us.
But it's hard, if not downright impossible, to do any of that when you don't feel good about yourself. And, at this point in our country's history, we just don't. There is nothing wrong with individual Americans, per se, but there is something terribly wrong with the country as a whole. After eight years of division and strife, war and recession, we are tired, scared and plain worn out. What we're looking for, quite simply, is hope.
The hope that we can overcome our differences. The hope that we can heal out broken government. The hope that the American dream still exists. And, for me, Barack Obama is that hope.
Now, admittedly and proudly, I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. I will forever be grateful to her for those 18 million cracks. She never ceases to amaze me with her intelligence, passion and heart. She would make a great president. It was an honor to cast my ballot for her and something I'll cherish always.
After the primaries, while there never was any doubt that Obama had my vote, my heart wasn't quite with him yet. It took time, both to heal and to grow. Slowly but surely, it happened. The more I heard him speak, the more I watched him work, the more I witnessed his temperament, the more I knew that this was the man who could create the America we yearn for. The America that is smart, the America that is just, the America that is kind.
Presidential politics have always been a delicate art of making grand themes and big ideas seem like humble kitchen table chit chat. We want our politics to be personal. Yet this election, I can't help but take things personally. When I think about what it would mean for America to elect Barack Obama president, the more hopeful I feel.
I feel hopeful not just for the changes he promises or the policies he promotes, but for what he represents. Make no mistake, I am voting for Obama because I think he has the better ideas. He will be a smart, thoughtful, capable and fair leader. Still there is another part of me that knows it is the unquantifiable impact of his presidency that will leave the most lasting impression on our country's history.
I grew up in the Midwest, an Asian-American kid in a small college town. So I know what it's like to live in a place where you stand out. I know what it's like to go to school and be different. I know what it's like to look on television and never see yourself. As a little girl, it was what I didn't see that shaped my earliest aspirations. I couldn't be a news anchor, because I had never seen any Asian news anchors. I couldn't be Miss America, because I had never seen an Asian Miss America. I certainly couldn't be the president, because I had never seen an Asian president – or woman president for that matter. Luckily, I had parents who instilled in me the true limitlessness of my dreams. And, thank heavens, they set me straight about the whole Miss America nonsense, too.
So when I think about what an Obama presidency would mean for generations of children growing up today, I feel a welcome tightness in my chest. It's not just that he would be the first African-American president, it's that he would be a symbol of the true limitless of the American dream. Maybe a little girl growing up in a small town will look at him and believe that it really isn't the color of our skin, but the content of our character that matters. And maybe she believes that one day she too can be president. Now that's hope. Happy weekend, all.