On this day four years ago, I let myself sleep in. The night before, I’d stood arms akimbo with an army of Obama volunteers in the ballroom of a downtown Colorado Springs hotel as the results of the 2008 election were called out. As the regional director for the campaign in El Paso County, I felt enormous pride for my role in building something — a volunteer apparatus that turned out more Democratic voters in this conservative bastion than any statewide campaign had in recent memory.
Just 18 months before, I’d left the protective courtyards of Mother Yale for what I’d thought would be the last time, and signed up for the fledgling Obama campaign running third in the Iowa caucus polls. Remember John Edwards? We were behind him.
My job search, as I recall, had been driven by a desire to not do what many of my friends were doing — pursuing lucrative careers paths that would begin on Wall Street. Instead, I wanted to escape my life’s bubble, learn about my country and with the election around the corner, be a part of something much bigger than myself.
What I learned while campaigning in five states presaged the tragedy of the Great Recession. I witnessed poverty and division, crumbling, outdated infrastructure and an economy being robbed of its fundamental fairness. But what I saw also foreshadowed collective resolve. The citizens I met and the volunteers who marched into the offices I ran were unnervingly defiant, bullish about their own futures and fired up about the election. Today, in the wake of Sandy, you don’t have to venture far down the Eastern Seaboard to encounter this same dichotomy.
Over the last four years, titanic firms have been downsized and bankrupted, bonuses slashed, and conversions for entire recruiting classes eliminated. Some of my closest and most talented friends that had taken coveted Big Apple financial jobs became victims of the worst financial crisis any of us will experience in our professional lives.
But demonstrating true Yalie resilience, my friends turned plight into opportunity and tried things they’d always wanted to do. One took his language and private equity skills to an emerging market in Vietnam. Another left a big bank to apply his knowledge of the energy sector to a startup that creates industry-specific news feeds.
My own road, which included stops in the Obama Administration’s Interior Department and at two of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies, has led me back to Yale, where I am a student at our School of Management. Despite the fact that television analysts were predicting a rally on Wall Street if Gov. Romney won, I am thrilled with the results.
The reason is that we have a president for the next four years that stands for equality. No, not socialism. Far from it. In time, President Obama’s first term will be seen as the Great Reset. Between 2008 and 2012, he restored our sanity in a dizzying number of ways that Colbert and Stewart could not.
In the president’s second term, I expect common-sense tax reform that asks everyone to pay their fair share and backs us off the fiscal cliff. I expect immigrants to be treated as equals, with respectful policies that reward hard work, while discouraging illegal activity. I expect clean energy to be given the same opportunities to power our nation as dirty energy providers have been handed. I expect entrepreneurs to be encouraged and monopolistic mergers to be mitigated. I expect a safer and more prosperous planet and a more relevant and responsible federal government that stays out of the bedroom while looking out for my lot in life. As crisis after crisis — both man-made and natural, from Lehman Brothers and BP to Hurricane Sandy — have shown, we need a public sector that keeps pace with innovation and complexity, anticipates disaster on the horizon, spares us devastation and is accountable as we recover.
Most of all, I expect that I’ll have to pick up a torch and carry on the work that I believe in. I expect you to pick up a torch as well. After all, this has never been about one man or woman; it’s always been about the collective us. So with the 2012 election now behind us, we can all sleep in this morning. But just a little. It’s time to look forward.
Nathaniel Hundt is a 2007 graduate of Davenport College and a student at the School of Management.
This piece is part of the News’ Election Results Forum. Click here to read more.