By NICQUITA REED
The results of the historic 2008 presidential election warmed the hearts of many Americans and have also given many students and faculty members at Hampton University a reason to be proud of one another.
Months ago, during the presidential campaigns, students and faculty members put in huge efforts to get the word out to HU students to vote on Nov. 4. There were students working to register other students and student organizations advocating the importance of everyone’s vote.
Azania Jenkins, 21, of Baltimore was a student-worker in the writing lab in the English Department and assisted with getting students registered to vote. In the writing lab,
student-workers were required to ask all students if they were registered voters as they entered the lab and offered them a registration form if they weren’t.
“The fact that we were getting people registered made people understand the sense of urgency,” said Jenkins. “People understood that it was a big deal [to vote].”
Adam Johnson, a professor from the Psychology department, did his part in getting his students involved as well. He frequently reminded students to be active in the election and convinced them to help volunteer at the Barack Obama’s campaign office in the Harbors with him.
As a demonstration of his extreme advocacy for the new president-elect, Johnson said that this was the first time he worked for and donated money to a national presidential campaign. “This was definitely a presidential candidate that I really felt strongly about,” he said.
This was the first time that Johnson voted in-person since the year 2000 because he usually cast absentee ballots for his home state of Indiana – as he did for the primary. Obama won Virginia and Indiana, two of the important battleground states, which made Johnson a contributor of Obama’s win for both states.
Dinai Cooksey, 20, expressed her eagerness during the election. Cooksey, a 5-year MBA major from Chicago, experienced her first time voting Nov. 4 at the Hampton Public Library, as it was the first time she was eligible for a presidential election. “I chose to change my registration to Virginia because it was more important for him [Obama] to win Virginia since it was clear that he would more than likely win Illinois,” she said. She encouraged other students to come together and realize the importance of voting in Virginia.
Then there were faculty members who provided absentee and Virginia residential ballots for students. In the English department, Margaret Lee supplied stamps and envelopes for students who came to her for voter registration forms.
With these enthusiastic Hamptonians, in addition to the involvement of the Obama campaign in the Hampton Harbors, Hampton University had a great turnout and represented Virginia well.
Is this the reason Obama won Virginia? If not, the fact that this election allowed students to be part of a historical moment is exceptional, participants say.
Johnson believed the students at HU made a difference in a literal sense because there were a lot of first-time voters; however he said that they made such a difference because they saw the issues which would be affecting them within a decade such as the economy, jobs, health care and education. “I think that we have a new generation of people who are looking at these issues and contributed in the sense of seeing what they’re inheriting for the next decade.”
Long lines, rain, and cold did not hinder many HU students from performing their civic duties to vote. This was surprising to older generations. Reported previously by Jane Reed, a volunteer with the Obama campaign,” I am so thrilled that these kids came out to vote … even in the rain,” she said. Reed expressed her enthusiasm in such a way because one of her friend’s didn’t think “those young folks” would go out and vote, said the volunteer.
Although many HU students voted during this election, what about those who did not? Though Saysha Parker from Jersey City, N.J. wanted Obama to win the election, she did not vote on Nov. 4 because she believed he would either win or lose regardless if she voted or not.
According to Parker, she initially wanted to, but “The main reason I didn’t vote was because I didn’t want to change my residency to Virginia and I didn’t want to drive all the way to Jersey just to vote,” she said.
When asked if she would have done an absentee ballot, Parker said no.
After the results were in, the students at Hampton University flooded the campus in celebration of President-Elect Barack Obama. There were tears, screams, and a faces full of disbelief that America would have its first African-American president.
Cooksey celebrated at the rallies that took place in front of the student center and Ogden after the results were in. “And I took pictures to commemorate the day I helped make history,” she said.
Lee became emotional after reading the stories in the Hampton Script that told how the students celebrated on campus the night of the election. “It almost brought tears to my eyes,” said Lee, “It took me back to the night of the election and all the emotions that I had.”
Many of these students were first-time voters or voters who switched their registration to Virginia and felt like their vote made a big difference. Being that Obama was named presumed winner of Virginia by only a few percentage points, each student voter was able to feel proud about his/her vote and be a part of the history-making moment on the night of Nov. 4.
Hampton University worked hard to get their students to vote and make a difference, and now has the opportunity to celebrate when the band marches in the inaugural parade on Jan.20.
According to the HU Web site, the band got an offer from the inaugural committee and they will perform four songs; one being Obama’s campaign song, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” by Stevie Wonder.
Sequoyah Sherrill, a dance captain for the cheerleading team, will be one of the 16 cheerleaders chosen to march with the band in the parade.
“We are all ecstatic to go,” said Sherrill, “As soon as our coach announced it to us we started jumping up and down and screaming in excitement.”
The writer is a junior at Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.