Two days have passed since Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States. Eight years have passed since a young soldier named Matt Lynch was killed by a roadside bomb in Ramadi, Iraq. And over these past 48 hours, I’ve been attempting to reconcile the two. What do the past two days tell me about the past eight years?
A few days before the election, I wrote in the News-Letter’s political magazine about why I worked for President Obama and why I voted for him. I wrote about a man named Matt Lynch who came from my hometown, who led my swim team and joined the Marine Corps. I wrote about how his death instilled in me the idea that politics matters and that the decisions our leaders make affect us all.
But there was a subtext to that story that I myself hadn’t fully realized until the early hours of Wednesday morning, when President Obama took the stage at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago to deliver his victory speech.
In that stirring peroration, President Obama called on all of us to stand together and work for a brighter future. He called on us to hope again, to hold fast to our dreams and to pursue them as one nation. He urged a country on its knees to stand up again.
President Obama reminded me that the story I told of Matt wasn’t only about loss and sacrifice. I wrote in that story how the pain felt by a family after receiving the dreaded knock at the door by the men in uniform is a pain felt by the entire community. When a town loses its hero, it mourns together.
The story I told of Matt, I’ve come to realize, was really a story about us – about our country and what it means to be an American. It was a story about hope and optimism, a firm reassurance at a time when the future seems so bleak and so uncertain. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. When one of us mourns, we all join hands and mourn together. Even though Matt and thousands like him will never come back – even though it may seem at times like the path we’re headed down is fraught with darkness and despair – we are going to be alright.
President Obama’s victory reminded me that we’re all in this together. There will be bumps ahead and roadblocks to the future we all envision, but we’ll be taking the same trip together. All of us, as Americans.
Matt’s gone. A fiscal cliff lies ahead. Economic recession looms in Europe. But we’re all still here together and we can find some solace in the fact that the pain we feel, the doubts we hold and the fears we have are not ours alone – just as Matt’s loss was not his family’s alone.
We’ll have disagreements, sure. We’ll quibble about tax hikes and Medicare cuts, we’ll debate the merits of stimulus and austerity, but at the end of the day we’re all Americans and our petty differences are never strong enough to truly divide us. Republican or Democrat, Matt’s loss hurts us all equally. Liberal or conservative, the future is scary to us all. But we will all move forward together. When we work side by side – black and white, Hispanic and Asian, rich and poor – there’s nothing we can’t do. When we work together, we can all move forward on that path to the future we envision because we’re certain that the person behind us has our back. We can stubbornly pursue our dreams because so many others are dreaming with us.
That’s what the past two days have taught me about the past eight years. The future might be dark – our vision obscured – but we’ll always have our unity, our uniquely American bond, to light our way forward. Thank you, Mr. President, and good luck.
Nikko Price is a sophomore Political Science major from New York, N.Y. He is the Opinions editor for The News-Letter.