By Samantha Thompson
Co-Editor in Chief

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, I woke up early to go stand in line to vote for the very first time — and I wasn’t the only one. While I was waiting to cast my vote, a man standing in line behind me leaned forward and announced, “I’m 53 years old and today is going to be the first time that I vote in my life. I guess I figured there’s no better time than now to start.”

With this information, I was able to share a small bond with this man whom I had never met before and who was born a generation before me, over a clear realization that we had a responsibility to this country to make it what we wanted it to be rather than what someone else wants it to be.

For me, this was what set the tone for the entire day and showed me what this whole election was actually about — unity. It was about waking up a nation to realize its potential to affect change. It was the “Yes we can” mentality that made people care who didn’t used to. It made people feel like it was worth it to register, worth it to find the time to go the polls and worth it to stand in line for the chance to make their voices heard.

And after all was said and done, after all the spot-on SNL skits, the debates fit for drinking games, the smearing and the many petty punch lines, Tuesday brought everything back down to earth. Once the states on the map turned blue and the 270 electoral votes were reached, the impact of what we achieved as a nation finally hit, and hit hard.

When an African-American man stood in front of a crowd of 125,000 on Tuesday night and addressed the entire nation while the rest of the world looked on, we saw what we had been waiting for. It was a victory for an entire nation that struggled so long to create equality among all its citizens — a struggle that is still present today, as we see in the passing of Proposition 8. Dreams became reality on Nov. 4 as this nation took a step on a long road to progress, blurring some of its thickest dividing lines.

Conversations with people my age have brought out issues begging the question: what will be the thing that brings our generation together as one? It seemed for a while that the only things that we felt were worth gathering for were Halloween and 4/20. But I think we finally got our answer. And it couldn’t be seen any clearer than on Pacific Avenue after Barack Obama was named the president-elect of the United States of America.

People of all ages, from all over town, from all different backgrounds flooded the streets of downtown Santa Cruz after election results were in to celebrate what we’ve seen printed on T-shirts and heard in speeches, but didn’t feel until just then: hope.

It was a sight I’ve never seen before and will certainly never forget. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people gathered out of pure joy to celebrate this victory with chants of “Yes we can!” and “Yes we did!” while strangers hugged without hesitation, people danced in the streets to express their exultation and couples embraced, kissing like sailors on V.E. Day.

With this win, many boundaries were overcome. But just as President-Elect Obama stated in his acceptance speech, “The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America — I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you — we as a people will get there.”

The optimism that rang out in Obama’s speech is what we need to remember as we figure out how to help our hurting planet, put an end to two wars and fix a financial crisis. We cannot forget what we felt on election night and what we can achieve when we put our differences and individualist attitudes aside. We can come together and create a better life for an entire nation rooted in undying hope. Yes we can.