After a certain point, my foot got very heavy and it was hard for me to keep from speeding through the massive plains. Barns, silos, great stretches of trains and the patchwork of fields laid before us. It seemed to never end.
We were driving out to Iowa for the day to register people to vote in a small town. Kathryn brought some CDs. As we got farther and farther away from Chicago, we played Alicia Keys’ As I Am loudly over the long stretch of highway. We talked and listened and talked and laughed.
In the small Iowa town, we knocked on doors, hands chock full of voter registration forms and pens, going from neighbor to neighbor. We talked to folks on the street and registered them, too. This was the first time I’d done something like this.
On Election Night 2008, four of us gals bundled up for a chilly night under the stars in Grant Park, Chicago. We felt lucky to have tickets. We didn’t know what to expect. When we arrived, there was a feeling that wavered between excited and anxious, and most of all, we were heavy with anticipation that something historical was about to happen. A new President of the United States will be elected. Who that would be none could say.
I cannot express how it felt to be with that gathering of what was hundreds of thousands of my compatriots on that cold Chicago night waiting, and how, at the same moment, we jubilantly, exuberantly celebrated together the election of a new president. The hugging. The yelling and the yelling again. The high-fiving. The jumping. The dancing. The hope.
This is an unscientific statement, of course, but this year, more of my friends than in 2008 said they voted early or absentee (including myself). Is it because we’re four years older, and somewhere in-between we realized how important it is to vote? Maybe we remember more vividly what happened on that November night in 2000? Or maybe the Arab Spring of 2010-2011 reminded us of the tremendous privilege we have to empower – and also to take from power – our leaders without military force or bloodshed? Do we just give more of a damn today? I’m not sure.
2008. It feels like a lifetime ago. The four women I was with on that Election Night, we’ve all scattered to the four winds: Belgium; Washington DC; and me in Manila, Philippines. Though only one of us four stayed in Chicago, we all remain friends. I think about the people I’ve welcomed into my life since then, and those I’ve had to say goodbye to. The good times and the bad. I think about the things in my life I had only started, or hadn’t started yet. I hadn’t started graduate school yet. Hadn’t started working for myself yet. Hadn’t taken those trips to Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo or later, Paris. Hadn’t started writing again yet. Hadn’t learned to be brave enough to love again yet. Hadn’t moved away from Chicago and started this epic journey. Not yet.
I’m not going to recount, or even attempt to recount, how our nation responded to the challenges that we faced these past four years. What is done is done, and how one chooses to read or interpret those events is between you and God and the ballot box.
Instead, I ask, how will we feel once we reach 2016? What challenges will we choose to confront, or be confronted with, in the next four years? Will we fight well and valiantly? Will we be able to look back on this time and say truthfully, for our part, that we did?