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Friday, November 07, 2008

Yes, We Can: How The People Won The Presidency.

On November 4th, 2008, the people of the United States of America elected a new President in the person of Barack Hussein Obama. Mr. Obama received in excess of 350 Electoral College votes, greater than 64% of those available, far more than the 270 he required to secure the Presidency.

On the way to victory, he and his team won key and critical states carried by George W. Bush in 2004, including Ohio and Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico in America's heartland, and hotly contested Florida, the fourth largest State.

With numbers still coming in and votes still being tallied, the election is being touted as one of the highest numerical and proportional voter turnout ever in the United States of America, at least in the last forty years.

The run-up to the election also saw massive registration and voter education drives, ensuring that the average eligible voter knew that he had both opportunity, reason and right to exercise his franchise.

The campaign race featured the vilest rumours and mudslinging, race baiting and fearmongering. And still, on the early morning on November 5th, the United States' first minority President Elect took to a stage in Illinois to thank his supporters - American and otherwise - via the international media.

For all of Obama's oratory and his ability to inspire, none of the above could have been achieved without the individual activism of his supporters, the people on the ground. Says Obama in his victory speech (Full text transcript, Audio at NPR.org):
...above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to — it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington — it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this earth. This is your victory...

This is our moment. This is our time — to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.
It is a clear example of what a determined people can do, to bring about what they believe to be right for their country, and for each other, and for themselves.

In the face of bigotry (despite losing a number of Southern states, the Democratic candidate showed growth in his support base throughout), the threat of disfranchisement, and lies, tricks and various other shenanigans, the people who Obama inspired, the people who felt a connectedness to the man who they would have be President, ensured him victory.

It is clear testament to the word of another inspirational young man who, on January 20th, 1961 at his own inauguration advised his people to think not on what their country could give to them, but of what they could give to advance their country.

It's a lesson that we as Trinbagonians could stand to learn, that to achieve the things we want, to make our country a better place, it's not enough to sit on our hands and complain.  We need to move.  We need to act. We need to be positive.  We must work.

I extend heartfelt congratulations to President Elect Obama, and to the people of the United States of America.  They have showed the world what a people united can do, and one hopes that we take example here at home.

Yes, we can.

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