It's been a long six weeks since Clinton and Obama set their sights on Pennsylvania and finally, today is the day we can put all the speculation to rest and cast our votes. My husband and I, along with our two young children, Yannick and Olivia, arrived at the polls at 8:00 am this morning. I'm happy to report that prior to our arrival, 65 others had already voted. That's amazing considering that the polls had been open for only an hour.
I live in Delaware County, a Republican stronghold in southeastern Pennsylvania, but in the days leading up to today's vote, I've been pleasantly surprised by my neighbors' willingness to openly discuss their preference regarding Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Folks here seem genuinely ready for a change, there's even a sense of urgency and yes, some have even admitted to feeling 'bitter'. We express bitterness about a range of issues, but most specifically, the escalating gas prices, the ongoing war in Iraq, and the decline of our public school system.
I've been an Obama supporter long before Pennsylvania became a crucial battleground in the race for the Democratic nomination, but not until Pennsylvania took center stage have I been able to gauge support for either Obama or Clinton in my community. I even felt compelled to publicly display my support with an Obama sign posted on our front lawn (We were one of the first families in our neighborhood to do this).
I'll admit it took me more than a minute to set aside my cynicism about the viability of Obama's campaign. I bought into the belief that Americans aren't ready for a black president, but as my husband and I took note of the passion and enthusiasm of the young people supporting Barack, we felt compelled to let go of this dated perspective and embrace the idea that things can be different, better, more inclusive. It's also important for our two young children to see us actively participate in this process, right down to the trip to the voting booth with us.
Last Friday, we participated in Obama's rally at Philadelphia's Independence Mall. We were 35,000 strong, the largest Obama rally to date. The vibe was warm and festive and it was both overwhelming and affirming to see so many folks step forward and declare their support. I saw many people I knew, but most were complete strangers to me, yet we're like-minded enough to recognize this country's long overdue for a monumental shift in how we address domestic issues like the economy, healthcare, education, poverty and the environment, as well as how the country's represented internationally.
I take this all very personally, probably too personally, because when looking at Barack, Michelle and their two girls, I see a reflection of my family and myself. His success in so many ways validates who I am, where I come from, and the aspirations I have for the future of not only my children, but for all children.
I've also had to check myself throughout this primary season as I've carried biases of what I think an Obama supporter looks like or who's a typical Clinton supporter, and again, those assumptions don't seem to hold water in this race. My good friend, Mayor Michael Nutter, has tirelessly supported Senator Clinton, despite his platform for change and inclusiveness in his own mayoral victory. I respect Michael's loyalty and his tenacity in stumping for Clinton, but if you'd asked me six months ago, I'd wager that he would have been a supporter of Barack. Coming to terms with his position has also forced me to practice one of the platitudes I often offer to my children—let's agree to disagree and in spite of these disagreements, I still support and respect you.
Both Clinton and Obama are to be commended for inspiring millions of Americans to become engaged and in many instances, re-engaged in the political process and ultimately, once this primary process is over, it's imperative for us to set aside our differences and focus our energies in defeating the Republicans and John McCain in the general election.
Lisa Nelson-Haynes is the Associate Director of the Painted Bride Art Center.