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Hope and change.

They were two words that inspired a nation. They inspired me to stop partying as a nightlife reporter for the Charlotte Observer and spend the year writing about politics for the digital generation. As much as I loved the nightlife beat, something about the 2008 election told me it was going to be special. I wanted to chronicle that special moment, and hopefully motivate people my age to get active and vote.

Listening to President Obama’s farewell speech, I was reminded of those hopeful times. It wasn’t just Obama’s election that made us hopeful. It was the rhetoric of a unified country. A country not of red states or blue states. Although, I didn’t believe in a post-racial America, I like the idea that we thought it could be possible.

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These days the phrase post-racial sounds ludicrous as Obama mentioned in his speech.

“Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society,” he said. “We’re not where we need to be and all of us still have work we need to do.”

During his 2008 campaign and throughout his presidency, Obama challenged each of us individually to do what we could to make this country better. That’s what made me hopeful then. It was that sense of hope that made inauguration week 2009 unforgettable. Remember the hope pictures or the various celebrity videos? Inauguration week was marked by free concerts and events held throughout the D.C., but U-street was the epicenter for black people.  The same U-street that had been basically destroyed in the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. was celebrating the election of America’s first Black president.

The air was pregnant with love and hope.

Today, most of those same hopeful people that I knew then are full of fear now under a Trump presidency.

Obama reminded us of the challenge facing us today.

 

The children of immigrants that are vilified and ignored today will make up the majority of our population tomorrow. The lack of voter participation threatens our democracy. Terrorists threaten our lives and our sense of security.

“For too many of us it’s become easier to retreat into our own bubbles, churches, neighborhoods, social media feeds,” Obama said. “We all have to try harder. We all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens love our country just as much as we do.”

I love this country and neither Donald Trump nor his racist followers will stop me from loving this country. My ancestors fought, bled and died here. This is my country too.

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