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Sam Koppelman Headshot

Obamaness

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I've unequivocally and publicly supported President Obama since his 2008 primary campaign. And throughout his Presidency, whenever I've been asked why I still support him despite the prolonged economic downturn, I've answered with the facts. Only the facts. That his policies are working. The Affordable Care Act has provided millions of Americans with health care, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell has enabled hundreds members of America's armed forces to be open about their sexual orientation, his college loan reforms have made it much easier for high school students across the country to pay for college, his bailout of the auto industry has led to GM becoming the number one automobile manufacturer in the world, blah, blah, blah. But as his poll numbers dropped and as many Americans became more and more disenchanted with President Obama, I have had a difficult time explaining both to my friends and peers, as well as to myself, why I still care so much about Obama succeeding.

But last week, after seeing the President's State of the Union and travelling with 30-or-so other students from my school to register voters on behalf of Obama's 2012 reelection campaign in Norristown, Pennsilvania, I have been able to pinpoint why. The President's "Obamaness," what makes him who he is, is why I am still so passionate about him. When I arrived in Norristown, my classmates and I were greeted by passionate and young members of the Obama campaign, ll of whom are working 13 hours a day, seven days a week on behalf of the President. None of the backlash against Obama (for his supposed desires to make America a European socialist country, his regulations on banks that are supposedly restricting economic growth, his inclination to give in to Republican desires, etc.) have slowed down Obama's staffers in the slightest. And as I was sitting in the Democratic Party's Norristown offices making phone calls on behalf of the Obama campaign, I realized that the "Obamaness," that motivated me to ask strangers on the other side of the phone if they'd be willing to volunteer and help the President is the same "Obamaness" that made me such a big supporter in 2008 and inspires his staffers to work so hard on his behalf.

"Obamaness," the essential essence of Obama (his charisma, his compassion, his drive) is what enabled him to defy race and become the first black president in a society that is still so unequal. This essence is exemplified by the ability to switch from joking around and making fun of almost every important political figure in Washington (including himself) one night, to telling the World the next night that U.S. Navy Seals had killed Osama bin Laden. Talking about specific people all across America who he is trying to help with his policies. Making corny jokes. Playing basketball. Raising children. His smile. We always knew who Obama was and what he stood for (whether we liked/supported him or not). And when people began to wonder if he really was who he said he was in regards to race after seeing enraged sermons from Obama's long-time pastor, Jeremiah Wright, Obama delivered one of the most memorable speeches of my lifetime explaining the differences in the experience of whites and blacks in America, as well as his own, personal relationship with his race. The fact that we knew so much about him is the reason that his race never defined who he was as a person or as a candidate. And his openness, which is so different from most politicians, is what has kept me so passionate about Obama. I don't just care about Obama the politician. I care about Obama the person. Even when I've disagreed with his policies, I've known that I support his agenda and his view of what American can and should become.

But because the idea of "Obamaness" may still seem vague, I would like to provide you with an example of a time in which Obama's true nature came out and differentiated him from almost every politician in Washington. In July 2008, less than a month after then-Senator Hillary Clinton dropped out of the race and endorsed Obama's presidential campaign, Obama took a trip to the Middle East. At this point in the race, with a pretty large cushion in the polls against John McCain, Obama did not need to take any risks (after all, if Mitt Romney has taught us anything this primary season, it's that it's easy for politicians to play it safe while ahead). That said, speaking to a gym full of American soldiers, Obama asked for a basketball, and in front of thousands of American soldiers, Obama took a three pointer. And drained it. Now, obviously, missing this three pointer would not have drastically effected Obama's campaign. In fact, I can almost definitely say he would have won had he missed the shot. But what's so amazing about Obama's three-point shot is not only that he took the risk to take a shot in front of the troops, but that he went for it all. A long-range shot. Throughout his political career, President Obama has brought this three-pointer mentality with him with everything he's done. When people said a healthcare bill would never be passed after Ted Kennedy passed away, Obama worked tirelessly, took a three pointer, and rattled it home. When John Boehner and many other Republican house members said a deal to raise the debt ceiling would not get passed, Obama sat in meeting after meeting making sure the government was not forced to shut down. And I am confident that Obama will continue to give it his all, no matter the political cost, to pass bills he believes will be beneficial to America.

One of the main problems Mitt Romney has had throughout this political campaign (and in his 2008 campaign as well) is that nobody really knows that much about him. Sure, people have an idea of his political policies and his career as the CEO of Bain Capital, but I bet most Americans don't even know his real first name. The reason candidates as ridiculous as Herman Cain have been able to surpass Romney in polls is that we had an idea of what the other candidates believed. And in the general election, when Americans are forced to choose between President Obama and all of his "Obamaness," and Mitt Romney with whatever he's interested in doing (football?), it's hard to believe that the citizens of America are going to choose a candidate who they know so little about.