One year ago, Mills College was in the midst of Obama-mania. Many students actively campaigned, protested, canvassed, phone banked and generally did what they could to make sure the election went exactly how they wanted it to.
However, after Barack Obama was elected president of the United States (and Prop 8 was unfortunately passed) those same students largely seemed to have returned to their daily lives of term papers, midterms and too many wasted nights, either literally or otherwise. Watching video footage from last year’s election night has us wondering where the political energy went.
From hundreds of thousands of people in Chicago’s Bryant Park to hundreds on the streets of Oakland, people openly and publicly celebrated like a European country whose soccer team just won the World Cup. Average citizens became involved, from the men selling homemade Obama pins and shirts outside the Oakland Coliseum to the Mills students standing on the corner of MacArthur Blvd. and High St. waving their “No on 8” signs. Several student groups and organizations had a very strong presence on campus during the time but are now virtually invisible.
This year’s election, thought it lacked such high-profile statewide decisions for California, had some similar issues brought to the political forefront: namely the anti-gay-marriage bill which passed in Maine, and the “everything but marriage” bill passed in Washington state, which granted all the rights of a marriage to same-sex couples without the title. Why were students not campaigning to help these decisions?
Perhaps so many students have become apathetic because they feel now that Obama is president, they don’t need to be active since the ultimate goal was achieved. Yet Obama himself continues to say his election was only the beginning, and he is right. A president does not have ultimate power, and without action at the grassroots level, his capacity to enact change is even further diminished. Nor is the executive branch of our government where all decisions are made.
We need to re-activave the political energy on campus, to remember that as as young people we are still just as influential as ever. Resting on past victories will not help us move forward, nor aid us in recognizing all the work that still needs to be done.
The political environment is never stagnant, and neither should we be. There are many small actions that can add up to a larger impact, from calling one’s congressperson to organizing events on campus.
The bottom line is that if we want to continue to affect the “change” that most of us voted for last November, we need to remain active, informed and involved.