Those who know me well know I was nothing short of a train wreck these past few post-election weeks. I don’t think anyone expected me to take the results to heart the way I did — and quite frankly, neither did I.
I sat at the bar with tears streaming down my face as I watched the only television actually covering the election results. The venue, jam-packed with intoxicated college students and recent graduates, continued to nonchalantly sing karaoke as if this Tuesday was no different than any other.
Unable to handle any more of the Brave-New-World-dystopian-novel-esque atmosphere of election night in a Richmond bar surrounded by apathetic drunks, I headed home. Not only did I head home, but I also got in bed — and I got in bed so well that I didn’t leave it for days.
I found solace in the dark solitude of my bedroom for almost 72 hours as I slowly went through each of the five stages of grief (and I sure nailed isolation, anger and depression right on the head). It felt like a long-term relationship had crumbled in my hands, and as dramatic as that sounds, that’s nearly what happened.
As a millennial born in the mid-1990s, I spent the fundamental years of developing my self-identity and political views with the ever-so-poised and intelligent Barack Obama in the White House.
I went through puberty, began middle school, experienced my first crush, learned how to drive, applied to college and moved away from home all during Obama’s two terms.
I was taught about Dred Scott v. Sandford and Plessy v. Ferguson with a Black president in the oval office. I learned about the struggles of the women’s suffrage movement and the ratification of the 19th Amendment while the first lady held not only one Ivy League degree, but two.
I was shown what it meant to be a leader; to choose love over fear and authenticity over deceit. I experienced the quiet power of transparent leadership and the positive impact of capturing the human essence while holding an authoritative position.
Relating to Obama was effortless. He laughed with us, cried with us and, most importantly, he served as the backbone of our country and our source of encouragement during turbulent times.
And as one of the virtually unparalleled orators of our era, Obama never failed to speak powerfully, exuding both respect and sincerity.
Although I am saddened by the inevitable end to Obama’s inspiring eight years, as well as by the man our country voted to replace him, I refuse to lose hope.
With the transition of power steadily approaching, it is crucial, now more than ever, that we apply these same admirable qualities to our own lives. The national platform may no longer be as sophisticated or respectful, but that does not require for our individual lives to follow in the president-elect’s footsteps.
In other words:
Be transparent. Act ethically and speak honestly. Allow others to trust you and trust them in return. Authority does not outweigh integrity.
Actively seek out unbiased and reputable news sources. Acquire a healthy dose of skepticism when dealing with all forms of the media. Inadvertently absorbing and passing along false or severely skewed information can only hurt you.
Be kind and open-minded. Attempt to understand those whose opinions differ from your own. Educate yourself on issues you know little about and refrain from arguments if you recognize your lack of knowledge on the subject. Focus on learning rather than on conflict.
Participate in state and local government. Understand politicians’ platforms and vote in state and local elections. More often than not, these levels of government have a more substantial influence on your daily life than the federal government.
Support and donate to organizations that work to put your progressive views into action. If you are pro-choice, for example, consider donating to Planned Parenthood. The ability for these organizations to continue to exist and aid others depends solely on funding.
Be confident. Others may doubt you or your capabilities (or your American citizenship and demand you present your birth certificate), let them. You owe no explanation nor evidence. Your righteous actions will speak for themselves and prove said individuals wrong simultaneously.
Stand your ground and stay true to your morals. If you believe something is wrong, speak up. As South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
We may be in for a long four years, but at least we’re together for the ride. If we continue to believe in the power of the people and act accordingly, nothing can stop us.
Eleanor is a junior print journalism and philosophy double major with a concentration in ethics and public policy. She often writes about issues of social justice and human rights, and her dream career would include traveling the world as a documentary filmmaker. You can usually find Eleanor binge watching an entire television series in one night or planning her next backpacking trip.
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