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Obama’s Speech: To Be or Not to Be [Hopeful]

Four years ago I got a phone call from the Obama Campaign in Cleveland, Ohio that
requested me to “join the campaign.” I was more than happy to oblige, as the
2008 race for president seemed as if it would revolutionize our world. The pure
hope felt in my 18-year-old mind at the inception of my ability to cast an
official vote is now understood with a more seasoned outlook on my life, the
world, oppression, and most of all American politics. As I watched Obama’s acceptance
speech last night I felt hopeful. Even from the other side of the world and in
a different hemisphere, as I listened to Obama’s democratic acceptance speech,
I felt as if this election (like all the others) would be one of the most
important decisions of our time. Only this time I knew not to have blind faith
or false hope based on any speech, regardless of who’s democratic or republican
convention it is, regardless of which election year we’re voting in, regardless
of how many rhetorical soliloquies tug at our emotions. This time I would
recognize that there would be no revolution (and no drastic systemic change),
at least not lead by any American politicians.

So what made me feel as if this election was more important than the last
election? What made me so set on thinking that this time will be different (?),
that this time lives will change (?), that this time poor people will no longer
have to suffer (?), that this time those who have been historically oppressed
will no longer have to struggle? It was the language used by those who I am
inspired by. Last night President Obama said

“when all is said and done — when you pick up that
ballot to vote — you will face the clearest choice of any time in a
generation.”

And Joe Biden said, “We now find ourselves at the hinge
of history. And the direction we turn is in your hands”

It is statements like this that make me feel as though we are at the precipice of a social
movement. And we are. It just will not be lead by politicians. It will be lead
by the people working on the ground everyday, to sweat and fight and struggle
for the humanity and basic human rights that are forgotten about somewhere
between the American dream and the American failure. It will be lead with the
expressions of equality. The smile of equal resources, the stern stare of
quality education, the gritting of teeth that have eaten off of second class
and third world plates.

So the question remains: Should I be, or should I not be…hopeful. My answer is yes, be
hopeful, not for the future of American politics, but hopeful in the radical, independent,
non-partisan conscious grassroots movements that are located in a realm where
movements across nations come together and fight for the rights of those who
have been silenced, forgotten, and pushed into the slime of margins that leave
scars.

However, in the middle of my cynical rant about politics in the United States, I do want to
be clear, we still need honest politicians to wake us up every now and then. We  need politicians that will support the “path
of America” that favors the disenfranchised. And I believe Obama to be that
person. He speaks about the fundamental difference in visions of this country.

“Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the
economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace — decisions
that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades
to come. On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two
candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for
America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the
future.” I believe we must take this a step further and talk about the fundamental
differences that exists between people who live in different parts of the world. Only then
will we get to the root of what needs to change in our society. Only then can we really
know what hopelessness and hopefulness actually is.

I appreciate Obama’s reasoning for hope. He says, “As I stand here tonight, I have never
been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers.
Not because I’m naïve about the magnitude of our challenges. I’m hopeful
because of you.” The articulation that drastic change will not come in his
own doing, but only by the hands of those communities that will decide to carry
on a movement, is why I continue to appreciate and deeply respect President
Obama. His recognition and understanding of hope, is the reason I can still
have any.

I am made hopeful by the child I met in rural Talijapur, who wakes up everyday & works
on his fathers farm to support his family. I am made hopeful for the activist
woman I encountered in Chembur that are organizing communities for housing
rights. I am made hopeful by the dangerous yet needed anger that fuels riots in
Khayelitsha and reminds the world that there will always be a tension between
the state and people who are oppressed. I am made hopeful by the students who
sing for movements at youth groups in Makhaza. I am made hopeful by the peoples
and places that my own history says I should have never encountered. People who
will never be known and places that will never make headlines in newspapers.
Hope remains to be challenging and we will see if it leads us “forward.”