There is a picture in a false sepia hue of a bunch of U Chicago students making ‘Os’ with their hands at the back of a tiny yellow school bus. We were a small group that signed up for Students for Barack Obama on the campaigns early website. Just ten of us on a campus of thousands, making the 8 hour round trip to the University of Iowa where we would join our Hawkeye teammates for the first week of caucus doorknocking. This was November, a full three months before the caucus, but I remember it was cold and I was underdressed. I remember needing gloves after six hours of doorknocking, and I remember dreading the four hour ride back home. But we took that photo. Ten years later there are lawyers, doctors, a principal, a diplomat, a Nay officer and two veteran campaign professionals (yours truly and a dear friend of mine I met for the first time on that trip who worked for Hillary and the DNC) whose very adult identities were forged in that first frigid trial by fire. Tonight I was thinking about that, thinking about holding the hand of the woman who is now my wife when we watched the inaugural eight years ago. Thinking about the times we stayed up early or late to catch the motorcade as it went by our first apartment during the first term. Thinking about that moment in Grant Park. Thinking about our anxiety alleviated when he decisively beat my former Governor and being awoken by the triumphant sound of the motorcade of the re-elected President as it made it’s way past 51st street on the way to Greenwood.
I caught a brief glimpse of the President tonight when he was walking out of Valois on 53rd, just as I did when he was just the senator down the block at the Hyde Park Borders. My only two physical interactions with the man were at a distance, but both times as a neighbor. I am still proud to have played a small and early role in that campaign, and so grateful to continue this work. That my nieces and nephews and someday my own children could be elected President even though they aren’t white. That one of our closest friends can say to each other ‘my lawfully wedded wife’ at one of the most loving weddings I’ve been too. That once again I can rely on the government to help me find an affordable insurance plan in between jobs. There were always areas of disagreement and disappointment. There still are, even aspects of this speech fell short of the call to resistance I feel is needed to protect the very American values that elected this unique man and put his wonderful family in the White House. But tonight I didn’t feel like an adult, dispirited by losing campaigns and anxious about keeping my health care and hacking together a middle class life for myself and my family. I felt like that kid on the bus.