Tuesday night was met with tension and elation. There was silence on the College of William and Mary campus, light from hundreds of TVs flickering through window blinds — the only indication that anyone was paying attention to the election. Then, out of the silence at around 11 p.m., in response to the announcements of Fox News, CNN, NBC and Jon Stewart ’84, thousands of students released a cry of triumph.
The energy was electric. People ran through the streets, screaming and cheering, not out of boastful pride but out of pure joy. For a moment, the Republicans, who had suffered a high-tension defeat, could not help but feel the excitement emanating from all the College students running down Ukrop Way. This election inspired the highest turnout of voters ages 18 to 29 since the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1972 — the College was part of that.
The Student Assembly’s efforts to get out the vote and offer rides to students couldn’t have been more appropriate on what turned out to be a dreary, wet election day. Power Vote encouraged students both to vote and to consider energy alternatives in their decisions. The organized Democrats and Republicans on campus increased awareness of their respective candidates, and Americans for Informed Democracy provided table tents with information about each candidate. Our College’s student organizations did more than any adult, administrator or politician has done to keep students informed and active in government.
Not only College students, but also the commonwealth of Virginia turned out in vast numbers to participate in the election. According to a report by the State Board of Elections, Williamsburg had the largest percentage of newly registered voters in Virginia. This is no coincidence. A bunch of old folks and high school seniors didn’t make up that percentage — it was College students.
At this point, College students make up 25 percent of registered voters in Williamsburg, according to SA officials. That is a huge ratio of people who can dramatically shift the outcome of any election, which is why our votes in Virginia on Tuesday were so important. The popular vote between Sen. John McCain and Barack Obama was very close, with Obama winning 52 percent to McCain’s 47 percent.
As the excitement of having a young, black president settles over the College, the next four years are not without uncertainties. Obama has promised change, but we do not know what implications such change will have for us.
Will he work to make education more affordable for college students? Will he reform the Medicare and social security programs that are inefficient now and will explode in cost as the baby boomers retire?
These are issues that will affect us directly. Because students at the College are a fraction of the college students who helped Obama become president, we should pay close attention to what Obama’s plans are for us in the future.
Brittany Hamilton is a junior at the College.