We are.

Natalie - Vincennes, Indiana
Entered on November 5, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

The words ran through my mind, and they finally sank into my soul. A single tear escaped from the corner of my eye, as I watched in my dorm room in southern Indiana as Barack Hussein Obama was elected as the forty-fourth president of the United States of America. All I can remember thinking was this is truly amazing.

Never before has such a rush of emotion, a rush of hope, such a rush of passion, and a rush for the future filled my existence and switched on my soul. In that moment, history inundated my mind and reminded me of how incredible we really are.

I thought as long as a woman can stand up on something so ordinary and everyday as a bus and fight for her rights of personhood, I will listen. As long as a single man can shake the chains of prejudice and raise his head to deliver a speech for the future, I will dream. As long as the tears flow from the victims of hate and towered destruction of the few whose wretchedness was not contained, I will defend. As long as the tortured victims of natural disasters can struggle through the debris and attempt to piece back their scattered lives, I will help. As long as the forgotten Marine in the desert heat can clench to his ripped picture of his sweetheart, while still fighting the brokenness of bitter hearts, I will persevere. As long as a black man with little beginning, external support and untraditional ways can win the presidency of the United States of America, I will hope.

Though my past has divided me through sexual abuse, neglect, and low self-esteem, I will prevail through the inspirations and continuations of those who are greater than my mind can even fathom. The great voices of my indirect ancestors and my very generation have allowed me to stretch forth my own voice and care toward those who need it most and even those who won’t say thanks. Some people try to keep me down at times, but I refuse to stay down: I will live. A black man overcame and inspired the world. But black is not black, white is not white, handicapped is not handicapped, Native American is not Native American, intelligent is not intelligent, Asian is not Asian, Hispanic is not Hispanic, attractive is not attractive – American is American, the world is the world! Responsibility, confidence, struggle, priorities, vision, support, thought, passion, love, and unity are. We are.

Never before have I been exposed to such sweet diversity and perseverance toward the next age of life. The faces of those before me, the faces of the American people, the faces of the world: they show the twinkling eyes of hope; they show how beautiful unity can be; they show me exactly how to overcome and just be. People are complicated. People are hurt. People are broken. People are beautiful. People keep me alive and living toward something bigger than myself.

This I believe. This I hope. This is my reason to fight past the barriers that have been set before me to overcome. I am a person. I am a spirit. I am a voice of change. I am a future.