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Nov. 8, 2016

The America I Know

With one candidate challenging longheld American values, this election is uniquely crucial.

It is finally upon us: Election Day in America, when we’ll reckon with the preceding 20 months of the most erratic, unnerving, and—above all else—dispiriting presidential campaign cycle in recent American history. 

Apart from making any last minute pitches and pleas to voters and anxiously biting our nails, there’s not much left to do between now and the moment that Wolf Blitzer announces he has an important CNN projection for viewers.

When we wake up tomorrow morning, however, I hope with every fiber of my being that we will wake up to an inclusive America that looks devotedly into its future and embraces its diversity as its greatest asset. I pray that we’ll live in an America that has turned out in droves to decisively reject the hateful bigotry and ugly bombast that are antithetical to our values and character as a nation. We ought to wake up to a country that embraces bold ideas and forward progress, not shallow slogans or vicious chants. One that relies on the genius and ingenuity of its people to solve its most pressing challenges, rewarding those who work hard and honorably along the way.

Sipping our morning coffee in this America, we will have elected a supremely qualified and capable candidate—a woman whose life’s work has the mantra “do the most good for the most people” at its core. At long last, we will have joined the ranks of more than 70 nations that have already had a female head of state or government. Our president-elect will have a long history of improving the lives of millions of people in America and across the globe through an unrelenting effort to make progress wherever possible.

The America we deserve to wake up to tomorrow morning is a place that elects role models over self-serving provocateurs with vices that would disqualify anyone from being a decent member of society. We’ll have repudiated—as best we can—the indefensible notion that bragging about sexual assault is mere locker room talk, that immigrants and Muslims wish to do us harm, and that you can bully your way out of conflict. And rather than boil down the issues facing an entire community to troubles of the impoverished “inner city,” a majority of us will have sided with a camp that talks about implicit bias and the responsibilities we must all shoulder as a result of America’s reprehensible history with race. 

All this isn’t to say, however, that the road ahead will be smooth in the America I hope to wake up in tomorrow morning. It won’t be, and we could never have expected it to be. We will still confront the same anger and depravity we’ve witnessed in recent months. Our country will still have to govern with a dysfunctional Congress and a disillusioned electorate. Perhaps our nation will even have to find a way to navigate the ugly waters that result from a presidential nominee convincing a plurality of his supporters that the election—administered independently on the county level in 50 states and the District of Columbia—was rigged.

Even with all this to grapple with, tomorrow morning we will have had the singular opportunity to accomplish two absolutely critical things. We will have been able to conclusively—once and for all— prevent the most dangerous and abhorrent recent nominee of a major political party from sitting in the Oval Office. Of equal import, we will have had the chance to elect an indefatigable, progressive public servant as our nation’s first woman president.

I have faith in both of these things happening. And I am confident this vision of America will prevail, because it’s the one I have grown up in—and it’s the one that has given me all the opportunities that have so far culminated in my being here in Hyde Park.

If there’s one thing I have learned from my 18 years as a citizen of this country, it is that in spite of all possible indications to the contrary, at the end of the day America keeps pushing forward. Its triumphs are ever greater, and slowly but surely more and more people are given a bona fide shot at success. This doesn’t happen without difficulty, regression, or gridlock, but it happens. Progress, after all, comes with a “two steps forward, one step back” cadence.

Of course, this election has tested a lot of assumptions. In 2016, nothing is ever truly off the table. We could very well wake up tomorrow morning with an imposter as president-elect. But this outcome seems only possible in an America that is entirely foreign to me. 

So here’s hoping we still have our brains and that in the coming weeks and months we’ll join together in appreciation of all that we do have right. It’s a lot to hope for. But what are we—and what is this country—without hope?

Dylan Stafford is a first-year in the College.

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