Eight years ago today I woke up feeling as though there was an electricity in the air.
I felt like the impossible had happened. I had never imagined that I would see a black President let alone a bi-racial one. I never thought it would be possible to see both my mother and father in the President of the United States. Not only was he like me in looks but he was a Harvard educated attorney who sounded like my parents.
He talked of the willingness to work hard and sacrifice, he spoke of accomplishing the American dream. And he spoke of an America where we would all have a seat at the table and we would all have a voice. He spoke of the America I dreamed could be. He spoke of hope, the hope my Nonno had when he came to this country. The hope my mother’s parents had when they traveled from the segregated racist south to California in search of a better life for their children.
Beside his side, stood a strong Harvard educated attorney. An African-American woman from the Southside of Chicago that spoke a similar story. A story of working hard, sacrificing and accomplishing the unthinkable. She spoke, as well, of what could be instead of what was. She was and is as magnificent as he.
I felt so empowered the day after he won. I felt as though I could accomplish anything.
The last eight years have been rocky ones. He has made mistakes and we have not agreed on everything. But he has done the best to strike a balance and to speak hard truths to all of us, all Americans. And he has never said that those born here are not American or that they do not have a right to sit at the table even if they do not agree with him. They have hurled insults at him, they have called him names but he still maintains his dignity at all times. He still reaches out to all of us. And he has taken a great many strides to ensure that we all have a seat at the table.
As a bi-racial woman of color, although half, the world often sees one half before the other, I recognize the difficulty of being the only one. I myself have felt the stares, the comments, the statements, the accusations but I know that each time I must keep my composure, I must educate them. In the midst of hatred and bigotry I must always be better. I do not have the luxury of a mistake or a cross word. The Obama’s strength in the midst of continuous hatred often motivated by their race has continued to be an example to me. It has set a standard I know I can accomplish. In light of this loss, I continue to look to them. I continue to tell myself if they can go high so can I.
Election night in Grant Park, we were peaceful, we were quiet, we were respectful. It felt like we were that way for him. To make him proud, to not let him down as he had already taken so much for all of us. So once again…for him, I will take the high road. I will be civil, I will be respectful, I will treat those I meet with a dignity that is often not afforded to me. However, I will not bend, I will not break. I will stand firm in the face of actions and words that I feel assail the very character and content of our great nation.
I will civilly and respectfully dissent at every opportunity. This dissent is not un-American but instead the essence of what it means to be an American. It is to ask again and again for this nation to recognize its greatness. It is to ask again and again for this nation to be better than it was yesterday.
We are weary. We are exhausted. We are shocked. We are horrified. But we must stand together as we always have. We must not give up and we must persevere. We will eventually see a day where dreams are realized, intolerance cast out and we all have a seat at the table.
Ella Guidugli, J.D.
University of Michigan, Alumna
DePaul University College of Law, Alumna