Voice of Eighteens: Yes, We Can

Dec 312008

By Arundhati Mukherjee

It was ten 'o' clock in the morning. We left Richmond for Harrisonberg along with the dispatch team of the 'Richmond Times,' one of the largest dailies in Virginia, to cover Barack Obama's campaign. Obama was scheduled to address a gathering in the large indoor stadium at the James Madison University there. Richmond Times' photographer Clement Brit accompanied us. We traveled nearly 150 kilometers to reach James Madison University. The indoor stadium was full, chock-a-block. There were hardly any elderly people in the crowd who came to listen to Obama. Most of them were eighteen or so. There were a few people in the age group of 22 plus. They were mostly students. Some of them were sporting 'Obama-Biden' T-shirts. The majority wore 'We need Change' T-shirts. In fact, a single word written on the blue banner at the entrance of the stadium truly reflected the sentiments of this year's U.S. election, and that word was 'Change.'

Who says that consumerism has overwhelmed the young American generation! At least today, their love for Obama has overtaken their attraction for consumer goods. For today they have ignored shopping malls and their obsession with Arkut. The first-time voters – whether he/she is a white or black – favor Obama. That is what we saw today at the stadium. The dividing line between the white and the black is nowhere to be seen or felt. They seem to have realized the importance of politics. Obama was scheduled to come at 5 in the evening but the people gathered there by 2 p.m. Music – either rock-n-roll or pop- could be heard playing to cheer up the young supporters. Some of those songs have political undertone. They played their national anthem, and also songs in support of farmers' cause.

Obama entered the stadium amid thundering sounds of hand-clapping. The stadium was flooded with blue confetti with 'We Need Change' written on it and people clamoring to collect it! Then the crowd started clapping their hands every time Obama uttered a word. He could barely complete one sentence to go to another. His voice was sunk in the resonating sound of applause. It grew louder when he spoke about education. He started again saying ' Tuesday is coming. Please cast your vote in favor of the Democrats. America is not doing well. Come and join us to change the course of our nation. Will you rock? Will you be smart?' The atmosphere was charged with thousands of voices chanting 'We can.' He went on," Next week we will have to choose a leader for the White House who can select the right people to perform their assigned duties properly. We need a better government – not small or big. We can give new hopes and weave new dreams in the coming four years. Won't we be able to do this much?' Only one word – "yes, we can" – swept the entire stadium. We see the so called "consumerist" and "luxury-loving" young American men and women repeatedly saying 'we can' as if they are taking a vow. There is a myth that says that the common American people are not interested in politics. I don't know whom do we identify as "common Americans?" What I saw today was their keen interest in politics. They want to create a history by electing a 'Black President,' and reiterated the word 'we can' to put a stamp on it.