Today is the day! Fortunately, I have no modules scheduled for tomorrow, because I’m going to be up late watching the proceedings and doing some festivating of my own. It’ll probably all be streaming on my laptop, but I may be able to find someplace with a high-def screen that would consider switching from football to the inauguration. Of course I’m wearing my Mayanists for Obama shirt as part of the good times. Anyway, WOOOOOOOOT!

This is a bit of what I wrote just after election day. It is a bit long because of a (perhaps foolish) desire to capture every detail, so I don’t expect you to read it all. Skip to the end, if you’d like. As you can tell, despite a few days’ distance, I was still euphoric. The same is true after a few months, so I thought I’d fish it out for today:

Well, it was an exciting day from the outset. First thing I recall was waking up at 7:30 and hearing Sherri come back in the suite. She said she went down to Wohl at 6:40 to vote, but the line was already two hours long. I had worn my Obama shirt the day before, so I just left my Obama pin where it’s been all semester on my backpack and went to class. There were signs everywhere! Chalk on the sidewalks, signs on the doors, t-shirts, signs on the trashcans even, stickers, and blue soap on the door of the Subway reading “Vote Obama.” Every single window of the new polysci building had an Obama Missouri voters’ rights poster on it. That was a beautiful sight. I got stickered on my way to class with the I Voted Today one, and again when a friend and I were talking in the library with the Yes We Can one. The voting sticker I gave to Steph, who actually had voted that day in person, but had missed the stickering.

Work that day was markedly unexciting, since my boss wasn’t there and all we had to do was clean. Of the three of us, two were decked out for Obama (Ellen hadn’t been to the polls yet). Class was more interesting. Clay and Hirsch and I were early – we’re always half an hour early on Tues/Thurs – so we talked about whatever came to mind. It’s funny, but I don’t remember how much we actually talked about the election. There was the sense for me, at least, that the future was now out of my hands. I had cast my ballot weeks before, although, with the way our commissioner was acting, I was worried that it might not count. Now there was nothing to do but wait and see.

While we were all talking, there was a rustling outside the windows. It was a little, shriveled up, sour prune-faced old hag in dark glasses looking in at us from the shrubbery and scowling as if young people in class were the most disgusting aberration in the world. After giving us all a start, she proceeded to tear down the voters’ rights bills from the windows and skulk off through the bushes. I wondered aloud who peed in her cheerios. As it turned out, the university apparently got quite mad at all the flyering and spent much of the day neglecting its own recycling policies by filling the waste bins with pictures of Obama. Given their recent honoring of Phyllis Schlafly and the exorbitant amount of Student Union funds that went towards bringing Alberto Gonzalez and Karl Rove to campus – not to mention rejecting Obama’s request to speak (for free) on campus about his book – I can’t say I’m surprised. I wonder if they would have torn down McCain posters.

I hardly remember lab, though it must have been preparing our PCR products for the gel and beginning PCR on the T. sax. hindlegs. Mara and I decided to study together in Ursa’s for Wednesday’s bio exam. Between leaving lab and meeting in the café, I think I primarily watched the New York Times’ desktop monitor. I tried CNN, but they were mostly interviewing and doing nothing much useful. When Virginia’s results began coming in, I called my parents and continued wasting time fretting over what was outside my control. I just couldn’t escape the feeling that this was the most important night of my life, and I wanted to remember it, not waste it studying for some piddling assessment of my memorization skills.

As it happened, Mara and I didn’t get terribly much studying done. We tried, and we did work out a few problems, but my mind was on the neck and neck race in Virginia. Pennsylvania was already called for Obama, but if he could get Virginia…Then Mom called, saying NPR had just called Virginia for Obama. Damn, but that was a fine moment! For the first time since John F. Kennedy, my state had gone blue! At this point, I knew Obama had the election. Mara knew by my side of the conversation something was up, so I kept trying to balance two conversations at once with no success. When I hung up and could get the facts strung together, Mara and I pretty much abandoned pretense of work. CNN took a few minutes longer, but there was much cheering when they called my state. I was so proud! Steven, a staunch Republican, came over to study with us, which was pretty depressing for him. We and the staff were all so excited we couldn’t muster convincing sympathy for his despondency. And when they called the election! We were whooping and shouting and laughing. That’s what I remember most: I couldn’t stop laughing. All those months of fear and hope and dreamwalking after so many years (for one as young as I) of fear and shame and despair, all gone in a few minutes. It felt like the world had been lifted from my shoulders!

We nodded sagely through McCain’s concession and then the camera shifted to Chicago. It was the same sense of joyous expectation as on the finest of Christmas Eves as a child, and then he came on! And he spoke so beautifully while we were still laughing and floating in the air. We stayed fairly quiet through the acceptance speech, but when it was done, we just lost it. Looking at the international news reports the next day, I realized just how much the wording was geared to a global audience. It was perfect for us, and it was a powerful statement to the world at large. With that election and that one speech, I think we have done much to counter the last eight years.

After the speech, we figured studying was pointless, so Mara and I packed up and danced out the door. (Steven left just after the speech, since he was pretty down about it.) There were people whooping it up all over campus. I went up to my room to study more and was met with an extremely excited Sherri. I picked her up and we twirled around the room shouting “We won!” and “Barack my socks!” and the like and laughing all the while. I tried to sit down and focus, but with the screaming and pounding of hundreds of students celebrating on the swamp, that didn’t last long. I decided to run down to the swamp and join in for a bit, but they had moved into the dorms mostly, so I ran around part of the swamp, then out on Wydown to the park and back to the dorms – about 5k in all. And yes, I was still laughing.

A friend told me that someone over in the old dorms started playing We Are the Champions at full volume on their patio thrice through, and that the 500 person crowd eventually went back to the swamp (which I did hear several times throughout the night). It was a loud night, and I don’t know how I managed to touch the ground long enough to shower and sleep. All the while the laughter bubbled up and I thought my heart would burst. Even now, when I think back on it, I can hardly believe my own memories. I’m so proud of our country! I can hardly wait for the next four years. Mom and Dad and Charlie are going to the inauguration in January, the lucky people. I guess I’ll stay up and watch it on tv. For so many of us, for so many reasons, this was a great and triumphant moment. For so many of us, too, it was our first step in politics, and what a step! What shall we accomplish next?

So, what will it be? I have no idea, but I’ve got a few hopes, and today might make something of them. For the moment, though I’m just going to have some fun. Go out and enjoy your holiday!

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