When I was a child and I first considered the that problems people faced, I concluded as if it were obvious, “Why can’t we just help each other out?” My life since has been spent trying to reconcile my youthful idealism with the shortcomings of our world.
2004 arrived after a long four years of our current administration and my will to help solve problems was frustrated. I was eager to find someone on the national stage who I could put my trust in–someone who the political system had not compromised–someone who could relieve my cynicism and revive my faith in the good tomorrow might bring.
John Kerry wasn’t that person. But a young keynote speaker at Kerry’s nominating convention showed promise. My mother got me his book: “Dreams From My Father” by Barack Obama. I read it cover to cover. This was the guy.
I took that book with me after high school to Louisiana where I served in AmeriCorps. It was two years after Katrina had devastated the area and things were still bad. I spent a lot of time in the lower ninth ward, which, prior to the storm hosted one of the highest rates of black home-ownership in the country. When the levees broke, people were washed out of their houses. Most never came back. Now it’s practically a ghost town.
Two years later I realized that whatever I thought I understood from the news at the time of the storm did the reality of the situation no justice. I stood in what was left of a neighborhood on the front line of the levee breach. This was not the best America could offer. This was a hard blow to take.
Even so, there were a lot of reasons to be hopeful. I was part of a movement where people helped one another. I worked with people to build the house that would soon be their home. I saw people stand up and stay standing. Things were getting better.
And even if some of its leaders couldn’t get their act together, Americans seemed to turn a new leaf after that storm. More and more people noticed the failures of the Bush Administration. And as I worked in New Orleans, I noticed my man Barack Obama starting to gain momentum as Presidential Election season approached. I knew who I was for.