Vol. CLIII, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Election results rally generation

The election of Barack Obama on Tuesday night was historic.   So was what we witnessed on this campus.   It was a celebration of the kind of passion I’ve always romantically associated with my parents’ generation. The students of the 1960s marched against the war in Vietnam and burnt their bras for women’s liberation, sang songs and hosted be-ins and got high to Joan Baez, under a banner of an idealism we look back on today as well-intentioned but a little naïve, more the mass recycling of Beatles lyrics (all you need is love when you give peace a chance) than the actual youth movement that it was.

Many of us, the students of 2008, have grown up with the notion that the modern world is a complex and dangerous place embedded in our collective psyches.   Our generation is not defined by its opposition to one war, but rather by its abstract disapproval of many.   We’ll be 1,000,000 Strong against violence, global poverty, and biting the fork when you eat, but we won’t do anything real to enact change.   In directing all of our focus toward midterms and history papers, we miss out on history in the making.

The outpouring of emotion evidenced by throngs of students who marched into downtown Walla Walla and back again on Tuesday night challenged that image of ourselves.   That coming together of individuals for a common purpose, and the electricity and disarming sense of community that arose from it, shattered, if only for one night, the thick layer of complacency and political correctness that muffles self-expression on this campus.   In the most elevated sense, the rally symbolized a revitalization of the student voice not only at Whitman, but nationwide, as youth voters turned out in unprecedented numbers to vote overwhelmingly, 2:1 for the now president elect.   We as college students chose to believe in Obama’s message of change at a time when it is desperately needed, and he won with our votes.

My dilemma, then, as a participant, as a Democratic voter, which now extends to the writing of this piece, was how to reconcile both my inherent bias and my two competing impulses “on the ground.”   I first wanted to document what was going on around me, to interview and record and contact Campus Conservatives for a counterview, in some ways to isolate myself from my peers and that shared sense of euphoria for the noble cause of journalism.   Yet as the crowd swelled and the buoyant, almost dreamlike quality of our nighttime celebration continued, I experienced an overwhelming desire to let myself be swept up the spirit of what felt –– absurdly, I admit –– like my own miniature March on Washington.   Did I want to look back on Nov. 4, 2008, and imagine my arms upraised, or extended sideways with a tape recorder in hand?   I chose the former, and so am writing this, my first ever Pioneer editorial, not as a report by an aspiring journalist, but as a personal reflection by a participant in what felt to me like a transformative Whitman experience.

I’m aware, of course, that one impromptu display of political enthusiasm doesn’t constitute some fundamental, overnight shift toward more activism on campus.   It doesn’t erase party lines or help us better understand the economic crisis, nor does it feed the hungry or suggest a solution to global climate change.   Even the term rally must be loosely defined here in order to properly apply to a gathering like Tuesday’s, which raised no real community awareness, circulated no petitions, made no demands, and had no stated purpose except to simply come together in celebration of what’s possible.   There I go being biased again.

What the rally did do, aside from generating shouts and cheers that could be heard across campus, was break down barriers.   Cliques dissolved and revelers embraced, linked arms, and called after each other; and despite the size of the crowd you could always spot that same friend a few rows behind or ahead of you.   The positive energy felt was so powerful that, as one McCain voter in the crowd testified to me, it didn’t even matter if you voted for Obama or not.   What mattered was that this was our moment, and not just any other night of the week; history had been decided, and we were doing everything we could to celebrate our future.   As the crowd marched from the Memorial Building, converged onto Main Street, and later crammed into the foyer at Penrose Library, we were all driven by the sheer, singular exhilaration at being part of something as elementally ours as this presidential election.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • B

    Barbara BowerNov 7, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Dear Pioneer staff and editors,
    I receive your newspaper weekly and was inspired to write after reading, “Election results rally generation,” by Gillian Frew. I was inspired, excited; indeed I felt young again! As one of those “children of the 60’s,” I remember feeling that I could truly effect change in our country. The degree to which our protests and our “flower power” messages actually made a difference in our country’s policies is debatable. However, what remains true is the fact that one individual’s beliefs and passsion can truly impact another. What happened at Whitman, with the “outpouring of emotion” will not be forgotten by participants and observers. I hope and trust that the incredible show of solidarity, strength and enthusiasm exhibited by the Whitman students will be a tie that binds. Good luck and congratulations on your commitment and promise.