By Nicolas Kemper

WASHINGTON, 12:35 a.m. — I feel like I’m on a pilgrimage.

The notion started when Adam (another YDNer) and I were heading down Saturday morning on the train. As Adam shared with me what he would tell the new President, given five seconds, we passed Obama’s whistle-stop train. Everyone rushed to one side (not ours, sadly) of our train to see Obama going through Wilmington. Our target was clear, and enthusiasm rose high.

From that point on we were joined in our pilgrimage by crowds of people standing on the side of the railroad tracks. The biggest collected at the train stations and towns, but also families and single people just standing out in the middle of the woods or cornfields, parking lots and highschools. They waited expectantly, American flags in hand, for what would only be a glance of a man whom we all know.Since arriving here in Washington, I have seen and stood in crowds larger than any I have known, learned a little about living in a police state and re-affirmed my own America credentials by making the rounds at the memorials and museums that tie this great city to our great nation.

Never, however, have I felt far from the presence of our president-elect. His face decorates millions and millions of cheap t-shirts and buttons pushed on street corners. His name is shouted in chants and newscasts. And his personage — even his motorcade — is sought by the other million college political geeks congregated here.

I had never seen a spontaneous celebration at Yale before election night, and had only imagined the kind of enthusiasm I now hold witness to when hearing stories about such legendary members of the American pantheon as Roosevelt and Lincoln and Washington. Some call this a personality cult. That’s definitely a danger. I would argue, however, that this celebration supersedes the man who stars in it.

Americans know and have always known that America is worth celebrating. After almost a decade of hanging our heads, we’re ready and eager to hold them high once more and take pride in the nation we proudly hail as home. We admire Obama because he allows us to admire ourselves.

Adam was quick to the point with his advice: Don’t blow it.