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Obama Then and Now

CREDIT: Kate Barnekow

I was 14 when I first saw Barack Obama speak. It was a gray, dreary day in Austin, Texas when my mom picked me up early from my 8th grade U.S. history class and drove me to one of Obama’s first rallies. We stood in the mud and listened to this highly intelligent, charismatic and inspiring man, and we wondered what he could accomplish if this country gave him a chance. Today, we know.

Fast forward five years to a bright, sunny day in Orlando. I, as president of Rollins College Democrats and a new volunteer with Orlando’s Organizing For America project, was invited to attend Obama’s Jan. 19 speech at Walt Disney World. President Obama, fittingly standing in front of the Cinderella Castle, announced new strategies that would significantly boost travel and tourism to the United States – a large sector of the U.S. economy. I was honored to be one of the 18 guests who were cleared to meet the president after he gave his remarks. And let me tell you: that man is tall. He towered over me even as I stood in heels of— let’s be honest— incredibly unreasonable height.

After I was introduced to President Obama, he and I exchanged a few words about Rollins College and our chapter of College Democrats. As we spoke, I thought back to that day I stood in the mud with my family back in Texas. The man I saw that day had, through sheer hard work, honesty and integrity, earned the support of middle-class Americans, minorities and young voters, and had now reached the highest elected position in this great country.

In the three years he has held this office, President Obama has led our country through an incredible amount of progress. Since

CREDIT: Kate Barnekow

January 2009, the president and his administration have created more than 3.7 million jobs, increased the benefits available to veterans and their families, shrunk the federal budget deficit, repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, instituted the Affordable Care Act, reached across the aisle countless times, received the Nobel Peace Prize, oversaw the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, ended the war in Iraq, brought our troops home, and so much more.

Seeing President Obama speak was an inspiring experience, both in 2007 and in 2012. The man is nothing if not a brilliant speaker, but his policies, enthusiasm, patriotism and innovation are what sets him apart. He once said, “We have been warned against offering this nation false hope, but in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.” We got what we hoped for in 2008: progress. Now, in 2012, we need four more years of it.


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