During the 1932 presidential election, in the midst of the Great Depression, the American people overwhelmingly turned to the Democratic candidate who embodied change and demonstrated leadership. Franklin Delano Roosevelt capitalized on the failed policies of the incumbent president, Herbert Hoover, and pledged ‘a new deal for the American people.”

Seventy-six years later, America is faced with some of the very same challenges. The current economic crisis is certainly not the Great Depression, but it is the closest our generation has ever seen. In addition to the financial meltdown, America faces incredible challenges at home and abroad: the environment is deteriorating by the day, millions of Americans have neither jobs nor health insurance and we are currently engaged in two wars. When times are toughest, it is imperative to turn to a leader whom we can believe in a leader who tells us, ‘Yes we can.”

A lot of emphasis has been put on the importance of electing an African-American president but, to me, one key aspect is being overlooked. Obama was not elected because of the color of his skin, but rather in spite of it. I am in no way taking anything away from the historic impact of the election; however, I like many others did not vote for Obama because he is black or white, blue or red; I voted for Obama because he was the better candidate.

Barack Obama was elected because he has the power to inspire. He has the power to unite. In these tough times, that is what we need. The recovery ahead of us will not be easy, and we must have a president who can pull all of us through it. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said it best: ‘We need a president who can speak English and deconstruct and navigate complex issues so Americans can make informed choices. We have paid an enormous price for having a president who could not explain and reassure us during this financial meltdown.”

During the past eight years, the country has been divided into red and blue. Democrats never fully embraced George W. Bush as their president and America has felt a resulting impact. When FDR came to office in 1933, his message of change inspired the entire country, not just half of it, and, together, America was able to pull itself out of the Great Depression. I believe that Barack Obama has the power to do the same. He has the power to demand sacrifice and collaboration. As he told the Democratic National Convention in Denver, ‘That’s the promise of America, the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation, the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.”

Whether you voted for Obama or not, he is our next president. In order for his presidency to succeed, he will need the support of the whole county, a privilege Bush was never given. Pardon the clich, but President Lincoln’s words ring so true: ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The strength of our political party system is the parties’ abilities to work with one another.

An overall lack of faith from the Democratic Party possibly stemming from the contested election results in 2000 demonized Bush for his entire presidency. It gave our political parties an excuse to not work together. Under a new president, I believe this will not continue. ‘Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long,” Obama declared, moments after winning the presidency.

Senator John McCain may be one of America’s finest and most loyal citizens, but he, like Bush, simply lacks the intangible characteristics like humility, optimism and eloquence that make Obama so inspirational.

Instead of celebrating his triumph, Obama’s victory speech was a promise and a commitment. ‘To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help and I will be your president, too.”

I voted for Barack Obama because of his message of hope and change and because he inspired me, like so many other college students, to believe in the greatness of America again. The key to success for Barack Obama will be to deliver on that promise. ‘This victory alone is not the change we seek,” he told the crowd at Grant Park in Chicago. ‘It is only the chance for us to make that change.”

Starr is a member of the class of 2009.

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