By Christopher Kriva and Matthew Yalowitz
In spring 2004, Dan Strumpf wrote in The Daily, “It’s long been a campuswide truism that Northwestern students just don’t care about politics. But one candidate vying to be the Democrats’ U.S. Senate nominee in Illinois has attracted a band of followers at Northwestern working to prove that stereotype wrong.” Nearly three years later and with much more name recognition, Barack Obama is still capturing the imagination of NU students. We now urge you to join us in supporting him for President of the United States.
When Obama ran for Senate in 2004, the campaign theme of “a chance to believe again” resonated with voters across Illinois. For our generation, an Obama presidential candidacy reflects a first “chance to believe” in the political system.
While all of us remember our increased awareness of international politics after Sept. 11, and many of us still wrestle in our homes and local communities with the debate over the propriety of the Iraq war, we realize that our generation’s true potential for positive political change remains largely untapped.
Partisanship in Congress and open hostility between Democrats and Republicans have forced us into a reactionary political perspective. We support or oppose the USA PATRIOT Act, or believe or disbelieve the necessity of a “surge” in the U.S. presence within Iraq.
For Democrats, we have come of political age in an environment of seemingly perpetual opposition.
An Obama presidential candidacy stands for something different.
It is a long leap from state senator to presidential candidate. But in the Senate, Obama has proven himself as a bipartisan leader on serious issues, such as arms control and Darfur, and has operated as a reasoned voice for Illinois.
Students specifically should be excited about an Obama candidacy.
Obama’s first bill as a U.S. senator was aimed at making college more affordable through increasing the size of federal Pell Grants – need-based grants for low-income college students. Over the past two years, he has continued his work to make college more affordable and to address equity in education issues at all levels.
More than anything else in this upcoming election, Americans are looking to a new generation of politicians capable of restoring faith in the American dream. Obama excels at this. When he first spoke on campus in the winter of 2004, Obama captured students’ attention with his charisma, passion and knowledge of the issues. His ability to connect with students is reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s captivation of an earlier generation.
As Obama himself wrote in The Washington Post this January, “It’s not enough to just change the players. We have to change the game.” Obama is a student of this upright style of politics and he knows how to connect with young people in a way that makes them passionate about the political process. And, even more important, he gives us hope that the American political tradition can live up to its full potential.
There is no doubt Obama faces formidable Democratic presidential challengers. When we began with Obama’s Senate primary bid in fall 2003, he faced long odds behind multi-millionaire Blair Hull and state officeholder Dan Hynes, son of a longtime Democratic Party powerbroker.
He overcame the challenge on a solid political platform and the strength of a simple message: hope.
If Obama runs, which he will announce Feb. 10, there is a hard fight ahead and every ounce of energy dedicated to this cause will matter.
We urge you to start planning the political movement today.
Weinberg senior Matthew Yalowitz can be reached at [email protected] Christopher Kriva, Medill ’06, can be reached at [email protected] They were Northwestern campus co-chairmen of Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign.