I recently rewatched President Barack Obama’s keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, a moment that would lift the then-State Senator from Illinois to a landslide victory to become a United State Senator and most notably, to President of the United States. The line that struck me the most was President Obama’s firm belief that, “…there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.” In the dark times we face today, where rhetoric of hate and division are heard across this country, President Obama’s resounding cry of unity somehow seems more relevant than ever before. For if Americans and, especially young Americans, choose not to help stem the tides or even worse, choose to take part in these negative displays, either as an aggressor or in response, we paint a picture of our country that is damning not just for us, but for our children and their children. We paint a picture of our country nothing like what our founders had hoped for nor what countless leaders across many generations have fought to secure. For while I may be a Democrat on paper, I respect the concerns of farmers in the Midwest, the gun owners in the South and the environmental activists in the West. Their concerns affect me and while we may not agree on everything, we all share the same sense of urgency to resolve issues. But above all else, we honor the same flag, we all call America home and we all, despite what we hear, aim to make our country a better place. From California to Delaware, Florida to Maine, I know there are people who still hear President Obama’s call to action and I know that fundamentally, when we come together as Americans, no problem is unsolvable, no task impossible and no conviction to ingrained.
After all, we must remember a great Republican, President Ronald Reagan, who once said, “The struggle now going on for the world will never be decided by bombs or rockets, by armies or military might. The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.” Yet President Reagan believed we would make it through during times that seemed more riddled with conflict than ever and I know he’d think the same today. We cannot succumb to the obstacles facing us, we must rise together as Americans as we’ve always done. It is this fundamental sense of American idealism, of American optimism and of shared American identity that is passed down from strength to strength and keeps me going today, during the best and worst of times.