I remember the first time Hillary Clinton ran for president. It was 2008 and I was only eleven years old. I remember how exciting it was to see a woman — for the first time — assuming a role in society that for myself, at such a young age, had only seen taken by old white men taught in my feeble history classes and worn-out textbooks. My family encouraged my enthusiasm for her campaign; they were excited too. My mom took me to a rally (my first political rally) with Bill Clinton on a school night. I didn’t get home until way past my bed time and I thought I was the coolest fifth grader around.
I didn’t understand a single thing Bill Clinton talked about that night, and I don’t remember anything he said either. I just knew how thrilled I was to be in the same space as a former president, and felt the excitement reciprocate from all the people around me. At one point during the rally I asked my mother why this talk was so important. She explained to me that the Clintons were trying to make people happy again. I retorted with something like, “Well why don’t they just give everybody money?” My mom and the people surrounding us laughed as she whispered, “No, honey, that’s what the Republicans do.”
The 2008 election was the first time I realized my friends didn’t think the same way I did. They didn’t hold the same ideals that I had been raised on. I was shocked to find out that many of them didn’t want Hillary Clinton, or any Democrat, in office — and I was even more shocked to discover that they liked George Bush, while my parents would calmly tell me that he was a terrible president.
When Hillary Clinton didn’t get the nomination, my family was devastated. Being the proud Democrats they are, though, they sided with Barack Obama, the man who would lead our country for the next eight years. But my family loved Hillary Clinton. I mean, they loved her. At one point, I remember my dad questioning out-loud if he should still vote for Obama after he appointed Joe Biden as his running mate, and not Hillary Clinton.
Nevertheless, my family voted for Obama. And then they voted for him again. He grew on us and, having appeared on my television during dinner night after night for eight years of my life, I now feel very close to him. He’s the first president that I’ve truly experienced, and I’m so incredibly happy that I’ve experienced him well.
I’ve been able to watch him grow with the times, being the first president to truly utilize social media. I’ve grown up along with his two daughters who have blossomed into gorgeous young women. I’ve been inspired by Michelle Obama — a woman so educated that she met her husband by overseeing his internship in Chicago — and her work to inspire children not only to be healthier, but to pursue education and careers.
The Obama administration has represented our country in every way that the United States should be represented — with love, passion, elegance, intellect, wit, understanding, and compassion.
This power couple — this power family — has dominated the White House for the last eight years and I truly hate to see them go.
That’s why I rushed, very last-minute to the rally Obama gave on my campus last Wednesday.
I hadn’t been able to take the full day off from classes like most students had. I’d been sick for the last week and was still recuperating with decongestants and long naps. I got off work at two. The rally was supposed to begin at two. I ran.
And they let me in. But having a full book bag, secret service wouldn’t let me through. I pondered on my options and decided to leave my book bag, full of expensive textbooks and a MacBook Pro, on the side of a fence, unattended, as I grabbed my wallet and took off for the field.
It was estimated that there were 16,000 people on Hooker Fields that day. It was a summer day in the middle of fall and the sun was relentless. People were dropping left and right and paramedics were rushing to help. It was hard to get many people water because everyone was so compacted, you couldn’t get through.
I stood on the outskirts, unable to see anything, but listened, waiting patiently for the one person I had come to witness.
I’m sure that many people would have been incredibly upset if they hadn’t been able to actually see the man himself, but all I wanted to do was hear him. I wanted to hear the voice that had filled my living room since I was eleven years old. I wanted to hear the voice that reassured people like my aunt that she had the right to marry anyone she wanted to in our country. I wanted to hear the voice that had provided me with the reassurance that America was the greatest country in the world.
No, I’m not talking about James Taylor, but I was awfully excited to hear him too.
When President Obama began speaking, it wasn’t like I was in the presence of a celebrity or a politician. It was like seeing my dad for the first time since going off to school my freshman year. It was like hearing Nanny, my grandmother, reminding me as a child of just how much I was loved. It was like the soft hugs and cuddles with my mother when I had trouble falling asleep at night. It was like coming home.
And with home there is love, there is always love.
And I felt that same love at this rally of over 16,000 people. It may have been 85 degrees that day, but I didn’t feel hot — I felt warm. There was an omnipresent warmth enveloping Hooker Fields. I felt it walking up. I felt it going through security. I felt it as James sang “America, The Beautiful.” But I especially felt it when Barack Obama took the mic.
It’s this love, this compassion that we all feel for one another — people of different backgrounds, races, religions — that is stronger than any wall, than any Supreme Court nomination, than any hate-fueled Donald Trump rally.
I’m against partisanship. I’m against labels. And I tried very hard, for very long, to understand Donald Trump’s purpose, his motives. I tried to understand. But all he’s shown me is a campaign that has been built solely out of hate and fear and shoved down the throats of Americans that feel like they’ve been wronged.
You can vote for Donald Trump in this election, and I’m not going to stop you. But I could never vote for a man who makes my stomach churn the way it does. And I could never support a person who has built his entire life and success on the backs of others, without so much as a thought of gratitude. I could never side with someone who has built a campaign not to inform and progress, but to scare and tear down — the only building being done to make barriers.
Ever since I was a child, I was taught love. I was raised on Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” and I grew up singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” with my grandmother. The terms “gay” or “lesbian” were never in a derogatory vocabulary for me — people were free to love who they wanted. I was constantly reminded of how much I was loved and appreciated, even when I was contemplating suicide. I was raised on love, and Donald Trump does not reflect what I was raised on.
And that’s why I could not vote for Donald Trump.
Instead, I voted for a candidate that has always made sure I was okay, who has looked after the less fortunate and the hungry. I voted for a candidate that will continue the legacy of a president who has countless times preached on love. I voted for someone who feels like home, who I know will make sure our country is a home for its citizens and those in need of refuge. I voted for a candidate who will make sure every citizen is given equal rights and opportunity. I voted for Hillary Clinton.
So here I am, appealing to you, regardless if you’ve voted yet or not. I’m here telling you my story, why this election means so much to me — and why it means so much to many other people. Because I know I’m not alone.
Please vote today. It’s not just a responsibility, but it’s the only way to try and make American feel more like home.
Photo Courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons