Barack Obama and American Youth

This is the sixth of six posts today celebrating the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States. Congratulations to everyone out there who worked for Obama’s election and had a role in this vote for change. I’ll share my reflections at the end of this post.

Throughout the course of this election cycle the youth vote has been courted heavily. Now, “youth vote” is cliche and will become passe as young peoples’ emerging power as a voting bloc becomes more apparent; they, too, will be carved into subcultures and demographic groups and their age bracket will likely become irrelevant – just like in marketing and consumerism! In the meantime, I want to address the role youth have played in the election of Barack Obama.

Way back in January 2008 national media outlets were wrangling over the role of young people in this election. They angled over his “youth movement” and celebrated the various organizations pulling for the youth vote. Millions of youth were registered early, and when election day finally came they actually showed up – for some reason surprising the media – but not researchers like Peter Levine at CIRCLE. But not Barack. Nope, he wasn’t suprised.

In his election night speech Barack specifically acknowledged the young soldiers in Iraw and Afganistan, and young people who voted for the first time. He made a promise “every young American: If you commit to serving your community or our country, we will make sure you can afford a college education,” and he said we must “provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair.” Barack acknowledged there are a lot of students to teach in schools, and said he “will not settle for an America where some kids don’t have that chance.”

He also acknowledged his own daughters, Melia and Sasha, naming his pride in them.

I have done this analysis of Presidential acceptance speeches for three election cycles, and was never surpised that youth were never called out more than once or twice, even by Bill Clinton. Barack is naming his constituency, and I want to congratulate him for that. Barack does embody change I can believe in.

I am a Canadian citizen who has lived in the U.S. for the majority of his life; my green card lets me work and study here, and for that I’m grateful. It has been easy to be pleasantly detached from the electoral process, and if not totally turned off then mostly cynical. These last two years, and particularly this last six months, have been difficult to be either detached or cynical. After growing up with many African American heros in my own life and from history, and while spending much of my life wrestling with issues of race and white privelage, I walked cautiously into this election. That caution melted away today, and this is one way I’m celebrating. Another way will come in the morning when my daughter and I do a happy dance in honor of Barack’s election. Thanks for reading, and let’s keep this movement moving! Yes we can!

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

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