This I Believe

Jason - Phoenix, Arizona
Entered on February 3, 2008

Over the course of the past several months I have, like many others, been ardently following the coverage of the 2008 Presidential Election, and for the first time in my life I feel compelled to comment on my support for a particular candidate. I feel something, I actually honest-to-goodness feel something in response to words being spoken by a public, federal official. Perhaps feel something is not quite the correct phrasing, seeing as for years now I have felt apathy, loathsomeness, and overall spite towards nearly all elected federal officials. I have felt leaderless for essentially my entire voting-aged life, being too young to really remember men like Reagan who have come to epitomize leadership (at least for some circles).

Recently, much attention has been focused on the fact that no matter which candidate receives the Democratic nomination for President, nothing short of history will be made as either the first woman or a black man will be a legitimate option for the voting denizens of the United States come this November. Now, clearly and necessarily so, the coverage of this potentially historical election has focused much on race and gender. I reckon that there’s just no way around this fact thanks to portions of our nation’s unfortunate past. I have listened to commentary, polls, and live discussions all asking the same question: “Who will you vote for, the first black President, or the first female President, and why?”

And it’s at this point that my compulsion to speak out becomes so overwhelming that I want to shout, whisper, and cry all at the same time in hopes of relieving my perceived impotence in the face of what I have come to view as the irrelevance of my vote, my voice, and my opinion when placed alongside of the American Federal government. I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton come November, and it has nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman. I will not be voting for Mitt Romney, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he is a Mormon. I will not be voting for Mike Huckabee, and this despite the fact that I most certainly consider myself an ardent follower of Christ. I most certainly will, however, be voting for Barack Obama, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he is black.

This is what has been so frustrating for me, a 28 year-old white Irish-German Lutheran, over the past few months, as I feel that I and so many others have been pigeon-holed into declaring that I am either voting for the first black man or the first woman for President. Of course there is no way from a media standpoint around this fact, but is it really that hard to understand that for the first time in my life, when I listen to Senator Obama speak, I actually feel a sense of hope, a twinge of intense admiration, and an undeniable urge to follow this man and it has nothing to do with his race, gender, or creed? For the first time ever in my life, a Federal official is evoking these positive compulsions and feelings. Like so, so many others, I am tired of Democrats and I am tired of Republicans, I am tired of looking at my bullet list of issues and matching it up to a particular candidate, I am tired of being told that if you are a Democrat you must vote for these issues and if you are a Republican you must vote for these. Our nation needs, desperately needs a leader. Man or woman, black or white, we need someone to inspire, someone to dream, anyone to stand up and say, “I believe, I have hope, and I know we can do it,” and for no other motivation other than the motivation to serve.

I honestly don’t believe that it matters one bit any candidate’s plan for this that or the other thing. Really, are Dems and Republicans all that different anymore? So many of these officials seem so disengaged from the heart of the nation it’s no wonder that, however unfortunate, so many people simply decide not to vote because, frankly, what’s the point? No matter who wins and no matter what their plans may be, will anything really change? Senator Obama, again and for the last time, is the only federally elected individual to ever induce from me any sense of anything different, any sense of pride, and most importantly right now any sense of hope.

So there it is all wrapped up in a tidy little nutshell. I need a President at this time in my life, and I want to follow for the first time in my life, and this has everything to do with the kind of human being Barack Obama seems to be, the kind of individual he is, and the leader I hope he will be. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.