In Feb. 14 IssueRussell County News
By Debbie Bell, Columnist
Not since that ill-fated summer of 1968 when I was 13 years old, growing up in the mountains of Appalachia, Ky. have I felt such hope (yes, cliché I know) as I do with our new president, Barack Obama.
I was raised in Letcher County, a poor, rural coal mining community by parents who taught me to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal.
Worldly politicians never frequented our area-why would they, we had nothing to offer.
We were the forgotten people. Then, one summer day in early 1968, Bobby Kennedy visited our Jr. High School.
Young and not yet politically motivated, I was just glad to be out of class. While listening to his vision of hope and change something started to stir inside of me.
I watched and listened, captivated as his message spread like wildfire across the nation, capturing the hearts and minds of our youth. Then in a blink of an eye that fire was vanquished and it seemed like all hope was lost.
Throughout the years, I have liked many politicians, shared their views and policies but I have never had those same stirrings I felt since I was 13 years old, that is, until now.
Out of nowhere it seemed this little-known, supposedly “inexperienced” politician from Illinois started to sweep the nation with his positive, unifying, uplifting message of hope and change.
Would the youth of today respond the way the youth of 1968 had? I had my doubts. For years, decades even, our youth, as a voting block, have seemed apathetic, politically disinclined, generally speaking, and maybe rightfully so. No wonder our youth didn’t vote in large numbers. They only had to look to Washington D.C. With our 100 year old, lifetime membership, elected officials, lobbyists, non-bipartisan, “pork” served up to the American people everyday. But, something about Obama resonated with not just the youth of our country, but to the rest of the world. America for so many years had seemed to alienate the rest of the world with the “It is our way or no way” mentality.
Obama spoke of reaching out to the world of Diplomacy and reasoning. He wasn’t afraid to admit it when he made a mistake.
What politician does that? He maintained his positive message even while others tried to tear him down with negative ads and outright lies. He tore down racial barriers that I never thought would happen. The pundits said he was leading in the polls and that the youth movement would turn out at the polls for Obama but I still didn’t believe it. Not in my lifetime.
Not until late election night did I start to believe again and hope. America has turned a corner and never have I been so proud of our country and especially our youth voters who pushed Obama over the top.
I can look at any child now and honestly say, “Be you rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, male, female, there is nothing you can’t do or accomplish with hard work, determination, and, yes, hope.”
I understand that hope won’t fix the economy, won’t put food on the table, won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it is a start.
Our new president has a hard, uphill battle to fight considering our financial and economic woes.
And he may fail and go the way of the typical politician but we must hope that he succeeds. Most dreams and great ideas are started with just a grain of “Hope.”