Breaking barriers in a new era

The most highly anticipated and emotionally charged election in recent history came to an end this week, leaving a mixture of opinions about what the immediate future of our nation holds.

More than 40 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the United States broke the ultimate racial barrier and will soon welcome the first African-American into the White House.

On the campus of Sam Houston State, many viewpoints were represented concerning the impact of the election as professors and students expressed their opinions about the history-making results.

“I like Obama,” Junior Mark Horn said. “I voted for him because I think he’ll be good for our country.”

For many students, this election also marked a personal milestone as they traveled to the polls to cast their ballots for the first time.

“I was so happy last night,” Junior Adam Doxey said. “It was my first time to vote. I voted for Obama more to keep Sarah Palin out of office, but I got what I wanted.”

According to Dr. Bernadette Pruitt, professor of African American and Civil Rights history, Obama’s election serves as not only a change along racial lines but it also brings a true representative of the diverse makeup of the American population into the Oval Office.

“I think what’s interesting is that it is symbolic for a number of reasons,” Pruitt said. “I believe it is reflective of our transformative nation. He does, without question, represent the entire nation; that is what is crucial to understand. That is more pressing than the whole issue of this being the historic first for African-American to enter the White House.”

Speaking along similar lines, Dr. Brian Domitrovic, professor of intellectual and economic history, said he believes the issue of race is not particularly important compared to the potential changes in policy Obama brings. He said he expects Obama’s presidency to closely resemble that of John F. Kennedy, who was elected under similar economic circumstances that Americans face today.

“JFK came into office in 1961; he ran in 1960 when there was a series of recessions and he really wanted to get out of it,” Domitrovic said. “So he brought onto his team all of the wise men of the Ivy league and MIT and they told him what to do and it was bad advice. He took it for a year and a half and then decided to make a break from them, calling for big tax breaks.”

Based on his knowledge of what historically works and what doesn’t in global economics, Domitrovic said he believes the best thing Obama can do in the future to help America’s financial woes will be to cut taxes.

“[Under Obama] there will be a lot more pork, a lot more government spending which could slow the economy down as long as it is in place,” Domitrovic said. “What Obama will need to do to help out this economy is to cut taxes, which I think he will come to realize.”

Not only were racial and economic issues prevalent, but the large increase in youth voters on Nov. 4 had people talking about the power of students and the ability of Obama to mobilize what has become one of the toughest demographics to reach.

According to the Associated Press, nearly 1 in 2 young adults voted for Obama, which places a large bulk of the responsibility upon the youth population for voting the 44th president into office.

“In many ways, your generation put him in the White House,” Pruit said. ” Here is a campaign that is so momentous and so exciting, that it is really transforming not just people of color but the youth of America. We’re basically talking about the future.”

While the youth culture has traditionally failed to deliver on Election Day, students have always been a vocal force in politics and this year was a climactic example of the power to be had for a candidate who wins the support of young Americans.

“I think that it’s an awesome time to be an American right now,” Donielle Miller said. “This election proves that America is a place where anything can happen. I think Obama is a transformational figure; it’s exciting to see a person unite so many different people, regardless of race, gender and economic status.”

Yet amidst the Obama-mania, a nearly equal amount of students said they don’t think Obama or his policies are right for the country.

“He’s not who I voted for,” Junior Whitney Hunts said. “But a lot of foreign countries are happy about the election, so I’m really hopeful that foreign policies and foreign relations will be smoother.”

In an election that exposed deep party divisions within the country, the wide variety of Bearkat opinions and views served as a representation of the country as a whole..

“I think Obama is a good guy and has the right intentions, but I don’t think he is right for our country,” Junior Sam Dolan said. “But he is the president, and I will support him even though I do not agree with his policies.”

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