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Tara Stiles Headshot

Barack Obama, My American Idol

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We're all relieved. The stress knots that had made an unwanted home in my stomach are finally moving out. I couldn't join my friends in the early celebration parties because I was too nervous. Chasing down news sources for the latest updates and glued to CNN, my iPone, and my MacBook, I was like a network anchor without a camera crew. Even when the election was called, I was nervous about the states that hadn't been counted yet. Could there be any way this wouldn't work? We all hoped, and voted, and told everyone we knew to vote, all we could do now was wait. And then he won. Our President, Barack Obama is finally here.

I was talking to a friend of mine who grew up in NYC. She's a gorgeous ballet dancer, a blend of Chinese, Russian, and Indonesian. We're both products of the My Little Pony generation who came of age on Sept 11. We semi-seriously joked about how we were prepared to move to Europe or Canada if November 4th had gone the other way. We talked about how for the first time in our generation, we were really proud and actually believed in Democracy as we teared up with excitement. Before Tuesday, we weren't so sure it was real.

We both believe with hard work, determination, and faith we will achieve our dreams, but we haven't seen a leader in our generation who embodied that. We aren't asking for someone to do the work for us, but we appreciate a leader who has accomplished so much and strives to help us change the world for the better. We feel like we are a part of a movement, kept in the loop, and even invited to participate in his campaign via emails and Facebook groups. George Bush never sent me an email about his plans to shoot wolves, or declare war, but that's probably a good thing. We might have sent back nasty emails, spam about Viagra, or a virus. There are more productive ways to spend time.

While I'm on the subject of wasting perfectly good time, American Idol is drawing some parallels in my brain to this election. Not that I'm a huge fan of the show, I am actually one of those people who get annoyed when a perfectly good conversation slips into a reality show debate. In less hopeful times (everything until Tuesday) it seemed like that show was the only thing that excited most Americans. We weren't even fully aware that things had gotten so dreary, but it could explain the overwhelming enthusiasm and ratings that show was getting. People lived vicariously through the contestants, cheered them on, got excited for them to live their dreams. When an undiscovered amazing talent sings on that show there is no question that person has every chance to succeed. Sound mixers and back up dancers aren't available as distractions. If the singer sucks, it makes for a few good YouTube clips (kind of like the Sarah Palin interviews), but that kid isn't going to have a big music career. Now we're hoping for Sarah's and for our sake that we see Ms. Palin fade back into the vastness of Alaska. This election proved that hard work, drive, determination, and hope won. Barack Obama is my American Idol.

One of my favorite teachers, Krishna Das, said when someone doesn't possess anger, greed, selfishness, and hatred, it's unbelievable the light that shines through. I think this is a big part of the reason we are all so emotional about Obama. We see the light shining right through him and it's lighting us up! It's about all of us. We've gotten zapped!

I'll admit I didn't have much of an interest in politics before this presidential election. Neither did a lot of other young people in America. We've all sort of accepted that we can't do much about our government, so we find ways to work around and do the best we can with our lives. Our government really wasn't our government. How could it be? That's just how it was and we hadn't seen anything different. Now, we feel like we are a part of something. We've been invited to participate in making the world a better place for everyone, by a leader who is actually our leader. People in NYC and around the world are smiling. I've gotten several random high fives in the last few days from strangers. It's in our nature to connect with each other. Before Tuesday, we have been going about our lives with our heads down. That has changed. Eye contact is being introduced back into our culture and this is just the beginning.

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