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A Madison Election Celebration

I voted for Barack Obama yesterday, but without the enthusiasm so many other people did.  When I went to the polls yesterday, I considered not voting for president because I just didn’t care enough about either candidate.

After Obama gave his acceptance speech last night, a friend and I walked down to State Street (a main drag between campus and the capitol in Madison).  As we sat in at Paul’s Bar having a drink, an impromptu march of thousands of students went by outside.  They were chanting, carrying American flags and Obama signs, singing, just exuding this joy I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a mass of college students.

The Wisconsin State Journal got some great pictures of the event that you can see here.  A local Madison blogger also got some video that you can watch here.  The photo at the top of this post is one of the best images from the evening I’ve been able to find.

As I was walking State Street last night, standing on the sidelines of this massive and inspiring celebration, a quote from Susan Orlean kept going through my head:

I have a kind of missionary zeal to tell my readers that the world is a more complex place than they ever thought, to make them curious about things they’d never ordinarily be curious about… I’m very curious about people’s personal attachments. I don’t really care what they’re attached to. As I write in The Orchid Thief, “I suppose I do have one unembarassing passion. I want to know what it feels like to care about something passionately.”

I’ve always felt like my emotions are pretty even-keeled, but I share Orlean’s curiosity about others.  But last night I didn’t want to be a curious outsider.  I wanted to feel that momentum, that passion, that excitement for politics and America that I could feel from those students.  I’m excited to see if this enthusiasm can hold.

Photo from Madison.com

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  • benjaminwheeler November 5, 2008, 1:47 pm

    Up until a few days before the election, I wasn’t going to vote for Obama, but was instead going to vote Cynthia McKinney. I changed to Obama after a lot of thought, and I sat and I waited and I watched as people in TMC with me watched the returns and watched his speech, and some of them were crying, others holding back tears, others smiling and shaking. And I felt detached from that excitement, like it wasn’t truly mine, but when I heard him speak, and thought about what had just happened, thought about what that could mean for us, I realized that for the first time in seven years, I was proud to live in this country again. I wasn’t proud that I voted democrat, I wasn’t proud that John McCain lost, I was proud that the voting process worked. Obama made me proud last night, but, like he said, this itself isn’t the change, and now we need to work to make what we have better. But I’m hopeful.

  • Kim November 5, 2008, 3:42 pm

    Ben: I’m hopeful too. Part of me wishes I had been in Morris for this. I can only imagine the joy there must have been on campus. I think voting for Obama in such a decisive way makes a statement, but statements don’t mean anything unless we work to change. I want to see the thousands of students who marched last night get involved and make a difference in a big way, and I’m hopeful that will happen.

  • CuriousC November 5, 2008, 3:58 pm

    It’s nice to watch the news today and it was all so quietly hopeful. It was nice.

    AND. I must read this book, The Orchid Thief. I’ve wanted to read it a long time and now seeing you quote this, means I need to get it sooner not later.

    Thank you, C

  • Rebecca Reid November 5, 2008, 8:01 pm

    It’s always the better of two evils. I wish there was a third party that was more in the middle!

  • Kim November 6, 2008, 8:24 am

    CuriousC: Yes, the news a was hopeful over the last few days. I haven’t read The Orchid Thief yet, but it’s one of those books that I would read immediately if it ever came into my house.

    Rebecca: Minnesota, my home state, has consistently had a pretty strong third party, but it’s not usually in the middle. It would be nice to see politics opening up more, I think.

  • Andi November 8, 2008, 4:43 pm

    A good friend of mine and former professor were having breakfast this morning and talking about the enthusiasm accompanying the Obama election. She and I have both been totally caught up in it and completely inspired. That led us to discuss the fervor for JFK that we never understood until now. Until it sweeps you up it’s hard to understand that attachment and zeal. It’s a good feeling, and I really hope it lasts.

  • Kim November 10, 2008, 9:00 am

    Andi: I agree, it’s hard to understand unless you’re swept up. It’s been inspiring to see so many people excited about America after the election, especially given the cynicism we’ve been seeing lately. I hope it lasts too, and can be turned into positive energy for change and not just fizzle out.

  • bexadler November 10, 2008, 12:57 pm

    Personally, it was a great moment for me. I feel so hopeful about Barack Obama as president – not because I think he’s going to change the world in a day, but because he talks about our (us – you and me) ability to make change happen. I feel like it’s been a long time since someone reminded the American people that we’re the ones who have the power – and then got us to act on that. Seeing the numbers of people who turned out at the polls was proof that he’s inspired us.

    I’m also hopeful because the international community is excited about this choice as president. I think it says huge things that other countries were out in the streets celebrating with us when Obama was announced President-elect.

  • Kim November 10, 2008, 7:38 pm

    bexadler: I like his ability to inspire people individually too; it’s a quality we haven’t seen in a president in quite some time.