Today is a day that many people all around the world, not just Americans, have been waiting for with bated breath. Whether out of fear or hope, there is an undeniable energy in the atmosphere. Even here in France, the teachers at my school chatter about the Inauguration in the staff room and at the cafeteria. Students from two separate classes asked me how I was feeling. To anyone who joked about leaving the United States after the election, I’m telling you that you can’t avoid the aftermath of 2016 even if you tried.
On November 9th, I was scared to be an American. I wasn’t even physically in America at the time, but nonetheless, I felt tremendous fear. It felt like so much of the progress that the Obama administration had made was going to be wiped clean. In a presidential election, stakes are always high, but this year was unusually contentious.
In the months since the election, I’ve tried to understand the Trump supporters. I’ve tried to listen their worries, their fears, and their reasoning. I’ve started following media that I wouldn’t normally think to follow. This was and still is my continued effort to try and understand where our country’s biggest divisions lie.
I wish I could say that through this search I somehow made peace, that I was able to reassure myself my worst fears would not come true, that I found things to look forward to, that I found common ground. I wish I could say that more than ever.
But the reality is, I’ve seen a lot of anger and fear on many sides–because there are always more than just two sides–and it is challenging to process all the noise. Since November, I’ve taken time, I’ve cried, I’ve been frustrated, but mostly I’ve decided that all that there is left to do is to not to give in to those fears. I will continue to work and fight for what I believe in because at the end of the day, my convictions are still my convictions no matter who the President is.
Although for many it doesn’t seem like it at this moment, I know that there is still hope for the future. To me, it is the hope Obama talked about in 2008 and the hope he talked about yesterday in his final thank you to the White House. I know it is out there. I see it everyday when I look towards my friends who have stepped up in all areas. From those who work in education, to service, to research, to health care, to technology, to the arts, you guys are the ones who inspire me to keep pushing forward one day at a time.
My America is a place where minorities feel safe and welcome. It is a place where everyone has the opportunity to get a quality education. It is a place where everyone has the opportunity to access healthcare. It is a place where taking care of the environment matters. It is a place where people are not frightened by change.
Currently, this is not the America I see.
So yes, I press on today, tomorrow, and always because I know it is the only way–to borrow the words of the Donald–that we can truly make America great again.