We asked writers from Iowa and beyond to share their stories of where they were, what they saw, and what they felt on November 4, 2008. Links to more stories are below.
I was born in 1968, and what a year it was. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were killed, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and God was declared dead on the cover of TIME. That was a lot of weight to carry on our little baby shoulders. While we were too young to know the details of the history that had just transpired, we knew that the world we had inherited was so low, there was nowhere to go but up.
When, on election night, Barack Obama said, “This has been a long time coming,” he spoke to us not only as someone at the cusp of the baby boomer and gen-X generations, but as a leader, as a uniter, and as a witness to the long span of history leading up to this unique day.
We felt the power of these words. History flashed before our eyes. We could hold our heads high that we have moved forward, that we are making progress, and that we as a people could see the glass as half full instead of half empty. It was awe-inspiring to observe the swell of hope that carried our nation and the world, and to see that it was possible. It was if the world was waiting for a catalyst, and the arc of time could not sustain the momentum. For that moment in time, our country was not removed from the rest of the world. We were being carried on the backs of the international community, like a sports hero after scoring the winning goal. Kenya and all of Africa were beaming with pride, bells rang in Indonesi, flags waved in France, Germany, and Siberia. The Internet was viral, and we all caught the bug.
I knew the moment I saw Barack Obama that I wanted him as my president. There are times when you just know something, and this was one of them. I have always been inspired by leaders whose intelligence and wisdom resonate with the need of the time. I see Barack Obama as the fulfillment of the dreams set forth by Martin Luther King Jr., who was in turn inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and his principles of non-violence. These are all men of honor, and of strength that stems from a might far greater than any weapon. It is a strength that stems from integrity, from knowing that their purpose on this earth is for the greater good.
My generation may have carried the weight of the previous generations who witnessed the hardest of times, but it was the youth of this country that saw for the first time a leader who spoke to them. The youth felt listened to and respected, and in turn they rose to the occasion. They caucused, and rallied, and reclaimed their country.
I have never understood the issues of race fully, as the color of one’s skin is such a random thing. I have always felt that people who judged others based on something so arbitrary were not people I could relate to in any way. I am guilty of judging people who judge. The youth saw the randomness of color and race, and as Will.i.am sang so beautifully, “we are one people, that we are one nation,” and in reality we are one world.
This is a new day. I wake up every morning satisfied in knowing that we all were witness to a very large step for our nation, and an even larger step for mankind.
"I drove to Grant Park, Chicago, on Nov. 4 …" by Mo Ellis
"I was so nervous I could barely walk straight…" by Neil Fauerso
"I was where many were—at home…" by Thomas Dean
"My account is a simple one…" by Tracy Chipman
"I was on vacation with my sister in Paris…" by Donna Schill
"I did NOTHING on election night…" by Shane Brown