President Obama (Reuters )
I was running ... OK jogging ... OK briskly walking ... through my neighborhood the other day and of course thinking about President Obama's upcoming speech at the Democratic National Convention when I saw an Obama '08 sign stuck on someone's door.
There were only two logical explanations for this 4-year-old sign. Either a) Team Obama hadn't campaigned through my clearly blue North Side 'hood; or b) This household wanted to see Obama circa 2008, the Obama of Hope, at this week's DNC.
I remember that Obama, the superhero Illinois senator who inspired me to make my life better. I had just graduated college with a journalism degree, which on the '08 market translated to either an unpaid internship or a part-time receptionist gig back home. I remember watching Obama's acceptance speech in my childhood bedroom and thinking if a man with the middle name Hussein can become president of the United States, I can move out of my parents' house.
Obama gave me the courage to pack up my 1998 RCN TV, a bag of clothes and my writing portfolio and move to Chicago in the middle of winter. For a while, I struggled. I temped. I made coffee. I answered phones.
It was the dark days before health-care reform, so I was living without insurance. One month, strep throat wiped out my meager savings. It was like living the Oregon Trail, with the threat of cholera or a tipped wagon about to send me back to my parents' home with every sneeze.
But I finally got a "real" job. I watched my fellow alumni find positions in finance, technology and other private sector areas along with 4.4 million other Americans who have found jobs in the past 29 consecutive months of job growth. I made enough money to upgrade from PBR to Half Acre.
My cousin's tour with the Marines ended, and so did the Iraq War. Osama bin Laden finally was killed. I smiled knowing fewer people would be worried about loved ones too far from home.
I budgeted and was happy to see the government do the same. Obama's smart spending policies are projected to make his deficit contribution one-fifth that of George W. Bush's war-happy policies. I invested money into the stock market and exhaled.
My life as a young adult in 2012 looks nothing like the bleak image Republicans painted at the RNC last week. I am not sitting in my parents' basement staring at fading Obama posters daydreaming about the glory days of 1956 ... excuse me ... 2004. I may not be living the dream, but I've got a pillow-top mattress and a $15 bottle of wine in the fridge that tells me life isn't so bad. Plus I've got Obama for four more years to help move America forward into an even better future.
It is a future where Republicans get their wistfully tiny yet hypocritically righteous government out of women's uteruses. Where we continue to better our education system by rewarding schools that innovate. Where we stop looking naively back for the answers and start creating solutions.
I realize that Obama's speech Thursday night may not be as thrilling as four years ago. I realize my neighbors don't have the option of voting for Obama 2008. Instead they get to vote for Obama 2012, a man who brought us two years of consecutive jobs growth, who expanded Pell Grants for university students, who defended women's access to birth control and who sings like a sexy angel.
Yeah, I'll vote for that guy. I just need to find an Obama 2012 sign.
Niki Fritz is a RedEye special contributor.
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