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Hope-Storm on the Horizon

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Message Sarah Swatosh
As the excitement in the Siegel Center, in Downtown Richmond, gained momentum on Saturday, awaiting the arrival of Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, over six thousand Democrats waved their signs, banged their drums, and cheered in a way more reminiscent of a football game than a political event. The streets were lined with Obama fans; large silver letters spelling out 'Obama' were spaced out down Broad Street. Cars honked, marching bands played, people cheered, and among the crowds came the first sign of an anti-Hillary sentiment. Hillary signs were on a promenade, ripped in half and replaced with the face of Barack.

The crowds became even more alive as Senate-hopeful Mark Warner made his rounds on the sidewalk, followed by Governor Kaine, Bobby Scott, and Mayor Wilder. The most compelling part of this crowd, however, was not only its stamina and its energy, but also the diversity. It was Blacks and Whites, it was young and old, it was those dressed as if attending a gala and those dressed as if attending a sporting event. There were dreadlocks and buzz cuts, high-heels and combat boots, gold and hemp…and it was absolutely fantastic.

The crowds were cheering as Senator Clinton made her way on stage - there were Hillary fans there, without a doubt – but as the evening progressed and the excitement died down to a mere susurration of enthusiasm, with candidates gone and guests slowly filtering out, what remained behind, trampled, bent, and forgotten, was a plethora of Hillary signs, in garbage cans and on the floor. What didn't remain behind, however, was a single sign that so perfectly states, 'Stand for Change,' not a single one. As Kaine, Warner, Wilder, and Bobby Scott got on stage, one sentiment remained clear: this was the biggest turnout for the Democratic Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in the history of the event.

Over 5000 tickets were sold, and unlike last year, not only were there a significant amount of suits, ties, and gowns, this year there was a whole new element, a new energy, something known more prominently as the youth. 'Yes we can! Yes we can!' was echoing through the auditorium. Cheers, and, at one point, the wave was rippling along the rafters as people from every walk of life joined together to bestow lavish praise on this candidate who is so mesmerizing, so fascinating, and who was so clearly positioned to win the state of Virginia. There was no doubt on Saturday who the candidate was; it was an Obama event that Clinton happened to appear at.

L. Douglas Wilder, as he positioned himself on stage once again, claimed that as a 'Son of Virginia,' he has heard many people say that the Democratic Party had seen the last of itself in Virginia, but the night was proof of that absurdity. He began the evening by ending his speech with the sentiment echoed by most everyone around, that while he welcomes all Democratic candidates, he would not be honest if he did not say that he wants 'Barack Obama as the next President of the United States!' His choice goes without saying – as the first elected African American Governor, this man knows the meaning of transcendence, and he knows the meaning of hope.

Hope was the message that night, as is so frequently echoed through Obama's ideologies, and for a good reason. 'I have to talk about hope,' he stated, 'I am a pretty unlikely person to be here!' However, the 'hope' Obama speaks of is not a superfluous message of flowery, empty, promises. His hope involves the recognition of all that is ahead, of the mess left behind from this current administration, and the foreign and economic ails this country has succumb to. For many of his supporters, it is a hope that, for once, there is a candidate that is not bought and sold by lobbyists; there is a candidate who chooses diplomacy over confrontation, who doesn't shun those he disagrees with and instead opens the door to communication; there is a candidate who can bring the voice of all voters, black and white, and young and old, out of the darkness and into the voting booths; there is a candidate that will help ensure that every citizen that works will be able to afford to live in this country we call home; there is a candidate who will insure all those who have been uninsurable, providing medical care to those who so desperately need it, and make it affordable for those who already have it; there is a candidate who makes politics fun again, who makes a 6-year-old child excited to shake the hands of a candidate, who brings the youth out of their world of apathy and puts a chant in their head and a voting card in their hands.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Obama is the fact that regardless of whether you agree or disagree, he has all kinds of people recognizing their own ideologies. What is so fantastic about what he has brought to the table, is not so much his views, but that he draws out more of a crowd that we have seen in a very, very long time. His "movement," if you will, is challenging voters of all sizes to take notice and formulate opinion. To see a political even that has so often been draped in the diamond coat of the upper class suddenly become overcome with diversity is so energizing. We have taken notice of previous youth apathy and the youngest generation of voter's disinterest in our political system, and it brings a sense of extreme satisfaction, if not pride, to hear the voices of those previously left behind in our political games; we almost sense a debt of gratitude towards him.

We should, however, be wary of any political candidate; caution is suggested when following your heart into the deep recesses of politics, and following those who desire to succeed there. We are citizens; we do not know what goes on behind the red curtain of our system. No matter how much education we received, how much information we think we have retained from our various media sources, there is an exorbitant amount left that we will never know, and therefore cannot judge or make an educated decision about. It is erroneous to assume that any leader will have the orgasmic, life-changing effect that so many claim to offer, and there are reasons to remain cynical, for being cautious, and for not being caught up in the hope-storm brewing on the horizon. However, it is easy to be swept up in Obama's mesmerizing messages of hope and transcendence, for it is a message that this country has been sorely in need of since the days of Bobby Kennedy.

He may not be our savior, but perhaps he has ignited a spark that will be hard to suppress, and may not be extinguished for a long, long time. In the case of Obama, it is logical to be “cautiously hopeful.”
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Sarah Swatosh is a student of Political Science and Journalism
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