This I Believe

Michael - Newtown, Connecticut
Entered on January 5, 2008

I remember a year ago, in my second semester of college, when one of my Political Science professors told everyone in the class to close their eyes. She told us to picture our ideal president. After a minute or so, she asked us what we had seen. The small class agreed unanimously that our idyllic president was a tall man with broad shoulders; he had salt and pepper hair, and possessed a winning smile. After presenting our exhaustive list of characteristics, our professor asked a question to the class which changed my life. What color was our ideal President?

As the only African-American in the class I have to admit, in my mind, my president had been white, just like every other student had imagined him. After realizing this, I felt something was wrong, like I had made a huge mistake. Afterwards I walked back to my dorm with mixed emotions. Apart of me was shocked, and another part was deeply ashamed. Why hadn’t my president looked like my father, or my brothers? Why couldn’t my president look like me?

I have very little doubt in my mind that if you asked any minority college or high school student in America to describe to you what their model president looked like, at least ninety percent of them would have imagined a white man. This scares me. Our country is founded on the idea that any person can accomplish anything regardless of sex, race, or religion. If young minorities can not imagine a president that looks like them, that speaks like them that grew up in the same neighborhoods as them how can we ever expect there to be a non-white president?

I fast forward one year to the democratic caucus in Iowa. The night the voting took place, I shut my computer down at around seven o’clock. I went out to see some friends, but my radio was turned off, instead I drove in silence. When I got back home, I stayed away from the television. I didn’t want to hear anything about the caucus until all the results were in. To say I was nervous was something of an understatement, that night I went to bed unable to sleep. It felt like Christmas Eve. But instead of a bike or a new drum set, I was wishing for something much bigger.

The next day when I found out that Obama had pulled out a victory, I felt as if Iowa had voted for something larger then just one man. Iowa had voted for a sign of change, they had voted for a bright spot for young minorities. They had confirmed something that I had learned only a year ago. They confirmed that a president can be Black, or Asian, or Hispanic, just as much as our president can be white. I believe that Iowa is merely the tip of the iceberg. I believe that it is my right to close my eyes and picture a president that looks just like me.