One day I will be an old man sitting in a rocking chair yelling at those damn kids to get off my lawn. When that day comes and I look back and reminisce on my college years, the memory of last night’s celebration will without a doubt be my strongest, fondest, and all around best.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I spent the evening with 75 or so other College Democrats and Obama volunteers at the nation’s only Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity (founded a few decades before one Nathan Bedford Forrest founded another similarly named organization). And as a I noted in that post, there was a certain beautiful irony in celebrating the election of the nation’s first black president in a frat called KKK.
We hooted, we hollered, we drank, we cried, we screamed, and we cried some more. There was screaming for Jeanne Shaheen. There was cheering for Paul Hodes. There were tears for Ohio. I, who had never smoked so much as a cigarette in my life, had my first cigar. Several of us, myself included, made brief speeches in between candidate speeches and state projections. I spoke to the importance of respecting our opponents, McCain included, over the next few months and years, and will make a similar post on this blog soon. But the real joy is what came next.
Around midnight, not too long after Obama’s victory speech, someone said, “Hey! Let’s go join the crowd on the Green!” Although I was unaware of it, apparently a spontaneous celebration had started on the College Green, where hundreds of students had gathered to sing patriotic songs. We left the frat and ran right into them – forget going to the Green; the Green had already come to us! The crowd had left the commons to parade through the library and down Frat Row (or Webster Avenue, as the maps call it), where we poured out to greet them, dancing, screaming, exchanging high fives. 400-500 strong, we all marched further down Frat Row to the gates of the college president’s house. I hopped up on his wrought iron fence to get a good view of everything; my cell phone camera did an insufficient job but dartmouth.edu and thedartmouth.com had some great photos I’ve reproduced here.
The 500 of us cheered and continued to sing songs like “America the Beautiful,” and began to chant the college president’s name, James Wright. After a few minutes he came outside and slowly crossed the enormous lawn to greet us. We all chanted, “Speech! Speech! Speech!” I looked around at the crowd and said, wow, there probably hasn’t been a spontaneous mob this big yelling at the college president since they took over the administration building 40 years ago, and the tone of that event was more than a little different.
Surrounded by several Safety and Security officers with town police arriving every minute, President Wright repeatedly told us how much we inspire him and that this is our century. Afterwards he shook hands with dozens of students. I probably shouldn’t say this online, but what the heck, I’m a legal 21 and my generation has never known a celebration like this. Joe Scarborough compared it this morning to Armstrong walking on the moon, so I’ll just go ahead and post it – I had had more than one drink. A lot more. And instead of just shaking the college president’s hand, I gave him a big bear hug.
[8:05pm update: Oh, I almost forgot! There were also (illegal) fireworks! And not just small dinky ones, but a really big blue one!)
My generation showed up. Over 2000 Dartmouth students voted in Hanover - over half the student body - with countless more sending their absentee ballots home. Nation-wide, in 2004 56.6% of eligible 18-29 year olds voted, and while I don't have a percentage yet for 2008, 2.4 million MORE young voters showed up than in 2004. And we didn't just vote - we read, blogged, canvassed, phone banked, wore political clothing, and drove other voters to the polls.
What a night. And what a victory. The New York Times recap of global reaction is a stirring read, to say the least. My word, what a beautiful thing. I didn’t think we’d elect a black person president for another 20, 30 years. Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.