As soon as the confetti dropped after President Obama's speech, many people were already thinking to the months ahead. The capacity audience at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena (a last-minute change in venue from the much larger Bank of America Stadium) was excited, energized, and ready to start the final stretch of the campaign. And with the arena roaring with a thrilling enthusiasm, it could have been easy to get lost in the excitement of that new beginning.
But for me the moment was bittersweet because it wasn't a beginning, it was the end of one of the most exciting experiences of my life. I spent this past summer, the last one before I headed off to my freshman year at the University of North Carolina, as an intern with the Democratic National Convention Host Committee. It is impossible to describe the swell of emotions inside of me as I witnessed President Obama's reelection bid, this shining moment that my entire office had been building towards. I was obviously proud of the job we'd done, disappointed in some of the setbacks along the way, and saddened by the closing of a chapter of my life.
But beyond all of these emotions, I felt something more. I felt as though something inside of me, something that had been churning and growing within me for years, was finally fulfilled. I had been a part of something bigger than myself, and not just something tangible like the celebrations or the speeches or the convention as a whole. I had been part of the democratic process; I had helped create the moments that would shape this election; and in doing so, I helped shaped my future and create a lasting impact on the world.
Now, I get that I did not directly impact the confetti moment. I wasn't some major part of the committee that planned and executed this convention, nor did I play a direct role in the speeches or in the campaign leading up to it. But I did play a part, and I have come to appreciate how every part matters. I worked to help raise the money to throw the convention, though this was unlike any other convention of the modern age. Rather than rely on the money of corporations and lobbyists, the DNC was funded by the contributions of individuals, who were limited to a maximum donation of $100,000. This was actually a campaign promise of Senator Obama in 2008, to reform campaign finance reform so that the rich did not have an unfair influence in politics.
This idea, along with many others, struck a chord with me, motivating me to get involved. As a young American, it is important to find something that inspires you, that makes you want to change the world. We have to create an impact on the future, because we are the ones that are going to be living there. This election will set the course for our generation, on every issue from finance reform, to health care, to civil rights. We truly stand at a crossroads this November, and we all have a stake in this election. I was able to see firsthand that President Obama is a man of his word, that the rhetoric of the convention was put into play in reality, even if it came at a cost. My involvement and the front row seat it gave me in the political process helped affirm my faith in that process and motivate me to continue to be involved.
But beyond the difference I want to make in the world, getting involved in politics, no matter at what level, allows you to be part of a movement. For the past three months I have worked with some of the most determined people, all of us striving to reach the same goal. I have been part of the collective roller coaster ride with each glorious success and disappointing failure. I was in a place with like-minded peers from all backgrounds where, regardless of whether we won or lost, we knew we all belonged. Being part of a campaign or a convention means being part of something that is larger than yourself, making an impact on the world that no one person could ever achieve alone.
This is the election for the teenagers of America to make our voices heard. I got involved because participating in our democracy is more than casting a single vote or voicing an opinion once. I got involved to make an impact on the system, because, like many of my peers, I don't want the pivotal issues that will change the course of this nation to be decided by a group of people who have no idea what ideals those of us that will be living in the future wish to live by. As teenagers we are always complaining that no one listens to us; that our opinions don't matter; that our voices will never be heard. But working together, as one collective voice, we will be impossible to ignore. And you lose the right to complain if that is all you do. Get out there and make a difference. I did and I am a better person for it.