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Young people tie Obama vote to faith


U.S. Sen. Barack Obama greets students following a 2007 presidential campaign
rally at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. A UMNS photo by
Evan Cantwell, George Mason University.

A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*

Jan. 14, 2009

Young people came out in record numbers and helped elect Barack Obama. Now they are waiting for him to give them a future “that is more like the kingdom of God.”

“This election has shown that America can change,” said Rebecca L. Farnum, an 18-year-old freshman at Michigan State University. This was the first time she was able to vote in a presidential election.

“Even those who did not support Obama's candidacy or do not support his policies can look at his election as president of the United States and see how much has changed in this country. It's a sign of hope for continued change as we strive to make America -- and the world -- more like the kingdom of God.”

Obama’s path to the White House drew record numbers of under-25 voters, due in part to choices he made during his campaign, such as skipping an AARP-sponsored forum in Iowa to attend a hip-hop event starring Usher.

 
Rebecca L. Farnum

“Many young people only remember two presidential names: Clinton and Bush,” Farnum said. “We were excited to have a young, vibrant candidate who seemed to be bringing true change to the White House.”

Pam Okusi, a Tongan from Hawaii, was thrilled to be able to cast her ballot “in person” for the first time with this presidential election.

“I would have to say that this election caught the attention of young people because it is our time to let our voices be heard. No matter how the vote went just by casting the vote is saying something. Especially to have Hillary Clinton, a woman, try to run for president and then having Obama, an African American, actually win the election was more of a reason to see that change is here and that we need to take a stand, for we are the future.”

Decisions being made now affect the younger generations, she added.

Obama knew how to speak to the 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Iraq war generation. He used their favorite tools: Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and text messages. He talked about change and told them their voices and votes mattered.

“We had the opportunity to be a part of one of the most historic elections in our country’s history. We couldn't sit on the sidelines of this one,” said Matt Lockett, a 21-year-old senior at Western Washington University, Bellingham, Wash.

“For once, young people are starting to realize that we can make a difference in this country by using the tools that are available to us,” Lockett said. “Voting is the most powerful way that the younger demographic can fight for how we want our country to change.”

Awakening for young adults

The Rev. Annie Arnoldy, 30-year-old pastor at First United Methodist Church, Grand Junction, Colo., said this presidential election was a “new awakening.”

 
The Rev. Annie Arnoldy

 

“We finally feel like we can make a real difference and like our voices matter. It’s an exciting time to be a young adult,” she said.

This election was different in many ways, said Sarah Smith, 25-year-old grants and scholarship administrator in Nashville, Tenn. “There was a lot more social/entertainment focus on these two candidates. Because of that, it, to say the very least, intrigued people to do a little more research on both the presidential and vice presidential candidates.”

“I think after all the different programs to entice the youth and young adults of our nations to vote, they finally took notice that yes we can make a difference in who runs our country,” said Bethany Amey, 25-year-old graduate of Eastern University, St. David, Pa., and a member of St. John’s United Methodist Church, Turnersville, N.J.

Young people were targeted by both political parties, said the Rev. Adam L. Gordon, 27, pastor at First United Methodist Church, Booneville, Miss.

“I believe that both mainline political parties are coming to see the inevitable change that is taking place in the world,” Gordon said. “The shift towards postmodernism is not only affecting the way in which ecclesial life is experienced, but it is also affecting the way in which the political spheres are being run.

“In fact, I would venture to say that the two worlds, ecclesial and political, are becoming more and more intertwined, as there seems to be an emergence of an emphasis on having a more practical, lived-out social holiness.”

Hope and faith

The young people described Obama’s election as historical, challenging and hopeful.

 
Matt Lockett

 

“I am hopeful that this election will show that anyone can do anything,” Gordon said. “This election has given me the hope that we might be able to begin seeing each other as God created us to be: loving children of God, created in God's image. It's been a groundbreaking opportunity of which I am thankful to be a part of.”

Lockett said history will judge what this election really means, but he too is hopeful. “What I hope it means is that we start to see priorities being set by the people rather than a small minority. I hope that citizens have a voice. I hope that those in power are willing to listen. I hope that we are united as a country rather than split by left and right and red and blue.”

Smith wants Obama to continue to fight for change. “I am confident that God will use whatever decisions are made throughout his term in office.”

This election gives new meaning to the American Dream, said Arnoldy. “I think we will become stronger as a nation because we will be addressing issues of race and diversity more closely in every arena of life.

“As a woman, having the Obamas in the White House means that family and community and vocation are all coming together because their family will be a model for all families. I do look up to them as I think about what I want my future to look like. They are successful, balanced, faithful people.”

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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