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“It’s a Good Day to Be an American”

Year in Review: 2008

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Raul Fernandez (top to bottom), Katie Campanola (CAS’10), Elizabeth Mehren, Lauren Chanel Allen (CAS’12), and Thomas Whalen.

Through December 24, BU Today is looking back at the most popular stories of the year. We’ll be back with new stories for the new year on Monday, January 5. Happy holidays!

Once 2008’s record-breaking, history-making election was over, it was time to look ahead. As President-elect Barack Obama began to plan his transition to the White House in 75 days, the world began to contemplate what took place and consider what will come next.

BU Today asked students, staff, and faculty to talk about their response to Obama’s election, and their hopes for his presidency.

Raul Fernandez (COM’00), assistant director, Howard Thurman Center
I saw a lot of smiles today. We had a watch party last night in the Thurman Center, and I’ve just never seen people that happy about anything. People were jumping up and down, screaming, tears everywhere — you name it. Today, I think it’s just kind of sinking in: what it means to have a black president, what it means to have someone who speaks to what young people care about. I think people are still a little bit in shock, but very hopeful about the days to come.

The racial and ethnic diversity we saw last night was amazing. We had black, white, Asian, and Latino students watching together, cheering together, and believing together. I think it speaks to the fact that we don’t ignore people’s differences. Barack Obama didn’t transcend race by ignoring it; he transcended race because we all have a cultural identity in him. That’s what makes him the man he is, and our president.

Katie Campanola (CAS’10)
In the next four years, I hope that there are changes. I would like for there to be an end to the wars, for the United States to get out of the recession, and for the international community to view the United States in a more positive manner. The election results show that the country is divided, so the major challenge Obama and the new administration will have is to bring both sides together to make changes.

Elizabeth Mehren, professor of journalism in the College of Communication and former national correspondent and New England bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times
I taught two different classes yesterday, and in both of them I threw away my syllabus because this is just such a moment of history. We studied the victory and the concession speeches.

The students talked about the inclusiveness of Obama’s speech, that he wrapped in so many different sections of America, including the disabled. There was a lot of discussion of the crowd, that it was so diverse, that that level of diversity is the new normal. The focus on change — they talked about that a lot. They talked about his use of language, the way he invoked Lincoln. On McCain’s speech, they said if he had talked like that throughout the campaign he would be president. I covered the 2000 election. I was on the Straight Talk Express. That was the John McCain I knew then.

Now Obama has to deliver. Now he has to show us whom he will surround himself by, whom he will chose to be in his entourage, who will be his brain trust, his best and brightest. He has an economy to fix and two wars to end. Need I say more?

Lauren Chanel Allen (CAS’12)
These results mean so much more than just a change from a Republican to a Democratic president. It represents a change in the ideas and attitudes of the American people. My hopes for the next four years are that Obama simply follows through with the plan he has laid out and that all of the people who are staunchly against Obama will see the good he is doing for the country and will support him. I also hope to see racism and prejudices die out within the next four years — it won’t happen overnight, but I can pray for that miracle.

The major challenges of the next administration will be, of course, our failing economy, the war in Iraq, and — a special case — racism. Getting Obama elected was hard enough; gaining the support and respect of all the people in Washington and abroad is another hurdle that, prayerfully, this administration will be able to overcome.

Thomas Whalen, associate professor of social science in the College of General Studies and author of A Higher Purpose: Profiles in Presidential Courage
On a visceral level, it makes you ponder how far we’ve come, and at the same time it makes you feel pride in the nation, that this great stain that’s always been on this country, from when we were basically an apartheid state, is now at least partially exorcised. I think it’s a good day to be an American.

I think — and this cuts across both foreign policy and domestic economic issues — Obama has to wind down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only are they draining us and hurting our world position, but they’re also draining us economically in a big way. We’re talking a trillion dollars. We have large standing armies abroad, and the money is going out and nothing is coming in. It’s having a negative impact on balance of payments, as well as adversely affecting the value of the dollar. So he really has to wind those wars down. In doing so, you get a twofer — you can help the economy and enhance our foreign policy image.

This story originally ran November 6, 2008.

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