SMC Witnesses Historic Election
America unabashedly manifested solid evidence of its vivid shift from comfortable traditionalism to thirst for a refreshed, unprecedented leadership yesterday when it voted Sen. Barack Obama into the presidential office by a steep landslide.
The Illinois senator's victory was announced throughout all of the television news stations at the early time of 8:30 p.m., after he swiftly passed the minimum of 270 electoral votes required for any candidate to win, while remaining over 100 points ahead of Sen. John McCain.
And as Obama took his place before a crowd of 240,000 at Grant Park in Chicago to deliver a speech with the powerful eloquence characteristic of him, students and faculty of Santa Monica College crowded around televisions in both the SMC cafeteria as well as the staff lounge to view this historic event: the election of the first bi-racial president of America.
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy," said the president-elect, "tonight is your answer." Obama spoke as though to a country disillusioned with both its current government as well as with the promise of opportunity for all citizens: an analysis which appears true since this year's elected President, chosen unanimously, differs drastically from our current President George W. Bush in political party, ethnicity, speaking-style, and basically every foreign, war, and healthcare policy.
And though Obama stated in his speech that the "challenges" of overcoming the consequences of the last eight years would be the "greatest of our lifetime," he literally promised that "we will get there" and once again create a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."
"It feels unreal," said Ian Goldberg, SMC art major, as he expressed his stunned joy at Obama's election. And countless other students in the vicinity reflected Goldberg's excitement. "I think that America's dignity is restored," said photography major Sabine Pearlman, "[and] now other countries will have a better view of us. I'm so relieved and glad that [his presidency has] become a fact."
In the staff lounge, Dr. Chui L. Tsang, president of SMC, socialized with other faculty as they snacked on refreshments and watched the elections. With a leisurely cheeriness, he shared his thoughts: "We [The U.S.] have always thought ourselves as a model of democracy, and we should be proud that we now exemplify it. Here, an African American can now run and make it. His father was an immigrant, he came from a single [-parented] family…this gives us all kinds of hope that in this land people are measured by talent and skill."
But many voters in this country dismissed this view and supported McCain last night, though this voice is scarcely heard in Santa Monica. Obama addressed this portion of the country as well, after honoring McCain for his military service to the country: "I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president, too." In fact, McCain himself urged the Americans who supported him to "not only support [Obama]…but to bridge our differences" and therefore help the new president lead the country toward improvement. McCain often graciously silenced the disrespectful sounds that erupted from his audience at the sound of his heart nothing but love for this country and the people in it, whether they voted for me or for Senator Obama."
Several of the viewers, such as Randal Lawson, SMC executive vice president, and SMC Trustee David Finkel, expressed satisfaction with the respect that the candidates attributed to each other in their respective speeches, describing their statements as "true" and "gracious."
Finkel also explained the importance of the election to his family in particular as having racial ties, even though he himself is white. "My grandchildren are black," he said, adding that watching this "historical" election with them gave him hope for the social changes within this country and therefore for their future. "I always tell them that they can be whatever they want to be, and their mother always tells me, 'don't give them a false sense of reality,'" he said, and added with a smile that "tonight, she apologized."
And Finkel isn't the only one who was pleased by the ideals that last night's victory proved. Louise Jaffe, vice chair of the SMC Board of Trustees, asserts that the election "says so much for the concept of democracy. The myth is true. And we see the same hope in SMC, since SMC is all about giving real opportunity to everyone. That's what we want."
Indeed, toward the end of his victory speech, Obama affirmed that "the true strength of our nation comes…from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope." This statement was followed by an audience's echoing cheers: "Yes we can."