I never understood it.
I'm first generation American. I grew up with my grandmother talking about "those Americans" and trying to understand why my mother's ideas about manners and grammar were so different from those of my friend's parents. The only presidential elections I was old enough to participate in were both sore disappointments for me personally, but also difficult and frustrating experiences for the entire nation. I have traveled to other countries and started conversations with, "I didn't vote for him." I have groused about my irritation that my parents chose to move here before having me, robbing me of what I felt would have been a more interesting life in another country. I have complained about feeling that my government did not represent me, had nothing in common with me. I have often worried that my fellow Americans were apathetic and didn't know how to think globally.
And now I get it.
Sitting in my mom's living room and crying at the joy of listening to a leader who I am proud to hear speak, a leader who - like me - has a foreign born parent. A leader who is so quintessentially American in that he genuinely represents a huge cross section of our population and has a more wide and global "melting pot" perspective than I could have ever hoped for in a U.S. President.
Driving home and looking up at the stars in an unusually clear sky and feeling faith in the people I am surrounded by. That they care. That, no matter who they voted for, they VOTED. So many people were motivated to participate in this election. Instead of the immobile masses I had imagined, I felt hope that I live in a country where people may really care what happens - and can actually make a difference and enact change in their world by participating.
For the first time in my life I understand why people have a fervent passion for this country. I understood the ideas before. What being a United States Citizen was supposed to mean and what this country represents. But tonight I FELT it for the first time. Tonight, watching Barack Obama speak to the nation, I felt I was a part of it for the first time.
If my grandmother were still alive, I'd tell her that from now on, she would have to say "you Americans" instead of "those Americans," because I finally understand why my parents wanted to be here.
Tonight I am so glad that I am.
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