While it might be obvious by the political material on the ULOT that the majority of its writers have a strong liberal leaning, I am honored to write this because I have personal reasons behind this endorsement. Simply put, I became a teacher because of Senator Barack Obama, my life now forever changed.
In the summer of 2006 I was working in Washington DC as an editorial assistant and part-time reporter for a political journal. Anyone who has interned in Washington DC can tell you two things: (1) you don’t make any money and (2) you, however, will have many opportunities to meet very important and inspirational people It’s too bad you can’t eat inspiration, but the small, intimate meetings with these American leaders are truly remarkable and have become some of the most poignant moments of my life.
One hot July day, less than a hundred of my fellow interns/assistants/drones packed into a small theater in downtown DC, where we had the pleasure of a closed door informational session with Senator Obama and the late Tim Russert. For me, it was an absolute pleasure, for I had, at the time, played around with the idea of pursuing a career in political journalism (hence, the non-paying internship) and I had the opportunity to meet both my political and journalistic inspirations. There I sat, in the front row, notebook in hand, ready to write down the inspiration that would sustain me through the beginning of my budding career. At that point I had just graduated from college, and any advice was desperately needed.
Instead, I got something else. After the humorous introductions, Obama called out to us to dedicate our lives to “something greater than yourself.” He framed his challenge by explaining his journey to office, the now well-known tale of community organizing in Chicago’s South Side, followed by a successes at Harvard Law School and a career in Civil Rights law in stead of Wall Street firms. His story is undeniably inspiring; what I didn’t realize was how much it would resonate with me, how it upset my inner-being.
I looked at my notebook, where I was frantically scribbled down his words. Preceding the page was notes on a story I was researching about low-income housing in the DC area. Preceding that was notes about residents of Chicago’s South Side, still without power in the midst of a heat-wave. Nestled between my arm was that day’s Washington Post, containing stories of bombings in Iraq and the North Korean nuclear test. Amidst all of this, I realized that Obama’s message was uplifting, but it was also urgent. And as a journalist, my job entailed being analytic and not pro-active towards the events unfolding before me. It was a glum moment because I realized that I was not satisfied with my job as a journalist, not because it wasn’t challenging, but because I was shaken by the world around me, perturbed by the grave injustice in the world. It was then that I promised myself to embody the pro-active efficacy Obama promoted in all of us, to “be the change we wish to see in the world.”
With the end of the speech, the crowd rose in unison, the deafening sound of applause drowning out any final comments from either Obama or Russert. The inevitable rush to the stage overwhelmed me, and in my haste to get to the stage I lost my trusty reporter notebook. It was appropriate, I realized, following my epiphany. As I got to stage, I was greeted by the Senator, who shook my hand and smiled. Now, at that point I had spent a lot of time in Washington and I knew a little something about politicians. Looking into his eyes as he shook my hand, I realized there was something special about this man.
I went back to California and soon became attached to his campaign, at first when he formed his exploratory committee, and later once the campaign took full bloom. Once teaching began I had to leave the campaign, but I have always kept in touch with my Obama connections and I have followed his trajectory to election day. And as I teach government to high school students in the Bronx, I keep that speech in mind, that advice he gave to us that warm July day. I do this because Obama’s faith is not only in my students—as I have—but in me as well. And while my classroom is intended to be a non-partisan forum for examining politics, I realize that Obama’s candidacy is truly powerful with my students. Simply put, it puts their parents and families’ dreams into context; that their wish that their child become president transcends hyperbole and manifests itself into the realm of actual possibility. It is this audacity of hope, this belief in a greater world, that fuels me everyday to get up and trek to the South Bronx. It is an elixir of eternal optimism, the belief that idealism should always trump realism if that realism tramples down those who need uplifting.
On behalf of the ULOT staff, hard-working teachers dedicated to something greater than ourselves, I am proud to officially endorse Senator Barack Obama for president, partly because his inspiration has changed my life forever, and mostly because we share his belief in the audacity of hope, the belief in the world as it should be, and the power of the average American to accomplish extraordinary things.