Laura Hershey: Writer, Poet, Activist, Consultant Rotating Header Image

What the Obama Victory Means to Me

The election of Barack Obama has so many different meanings. Around the world, millions of people watched yesterday as Obama declared victory, and each one experienced her or his own particular mix of emotions. Some, of course, were reacting to the changes ahead with dismay, anger, even fear. But a large majority were clearly moved by feelings of joy, relief, anticipation, astonishment, expectation, healing and — that word that has rung across the land throughout this campaign — hope.

I see his triumph from a variety of perspectives.

As a Coloradan, I’m elated that our state went so blue! Even though Obama had already reached the requisite 270 electoral votes before Colorado’s ballots were counted, I certainly feel more at home here in my home state than I ever have before. (And I’m proud of all the hours that my sister-in-law Lynn Marie, and my nephews Henry and Daniel, put into canvassing Denver neighborhoods for the Obama campaign.)

As a person with a disability, I felt a powerful sense of belonging when Obama, during his victory speech, acknowledged the diversity and inclusiveness of the United States — “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled…” During his campaign, Obama convened some very smart disability policy advisers, and crafted a thoughtful, progressive disability issues platform. Nevertheless, his election night speech was the first time that I had heard Obama implicitly tell the whole nation that disabled people are an integral part of our society.

As an activist, I’m excited about the possibilities for grassroots advocacy and change from the bottom up. During the formative years of his career, Obama worked as a community organizer, and I believe he still respects and values that process. Throughout his campaign, he has challenged us as citizens to engage in our communities, to work proactively for the changes we want. I am confident that he was referring to more than just getting him elected. For activists, just as for the President-elect, the real work is just beginning.

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