Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Joy mixed with the bittersweet

By Edward Copeland

Today is a joyous day on so many levels, a day I didn't think I'd see. Even though it was obvious early on in last year's endless primary process that Barack Obama would be the Democratic nominee and the general election's outcome seemed preordained fairly early in the fall, there always was that slight, nagging doubt that my country could really do the right thing and elect a young man with limited government experience, a Kenyan father, a white Kansas mother and the middle name of Hussein to the highest office in the land. Forget about the murkiness of 2000, Americans gave the worst president of all time a second term in 2004, could the electorate become that much smarter in four years?

Since May, this has been a rough year for me healthwise as I've watched the election and history unfold from beds, first in hospitals, now at home. I imagine that tears of happiness will flow as I watch Obama take the oath of office and the long national nightmare of the past eight years comes to an official end. However, another type of tears may appear today, those for a friend who isn't here to witness this momentous occasion.

In many ways, Jennifer made me a Democrat. I always was moderate, but I grew more liberal as I aged and as a kid, even considered myself Republican a lot of the time. Back in those days, no one threw around terms such as conservative or liberal when you were that young, either as description or pejorative. Jennifer though was unabashedly liberal when I met her in high school. She also was younger than I was.

We both had, in our separate junior years, an American history teacher who remains one of the best teachers I've ever had. She was very conservative, but you learned the facts. She also happened to be a notary and could register you to vote. So, when I turned 18, I went back to her classroom to register. Jennifer didn't believe me when I said I was going to register as a Democrat, so she followed me and I registered as a Democrat, which I would have done anyway, but which seemed like a dare.

Jennifer died unexpectedly in April 2006 at 35. Today, I'll be thinking about her a lot. We had talked about Obama after his amazing keynote speech in 2004. We even discussed the possibility that he could be the first African-American president, but we didn't imagine it would be four years later. Hell, at the time, we didn't see how Kerry could lose to that moron in the White House, so he'd be running for re-election in 2008 anyway.

January 20, 2009 always will be remembered as one of the greatest days in the history of the United States, no matter how well the Obama presidency turns out. I just wish my friend were here to see it.

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