On Jan. 20, 2009, President Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States after the American people, inspired by hope and ready for change, elected him by an overwhelming majority. However, in a year where polarizing debates over health care and the economy flooded the American political discourse, public support decreased and the momentum seen on Election Day now seems unfamiliar.
Pollster, a organization that finds trend estimates from many of the major polling companies in the country, lists Obama’s job approval rating at 48.8 percent, with 46.7 percent in disapproval.
Nevertheless, for the Drake students who played a pivotal role in both the caucus and general elections by interning or volunteering, the hope still remains after the first year of Obama’s presidency.
Julia Conte, who graduated in last May and now is a graduate student at the University of Chicago, had a field internship during the Iowa caucuses. She said that by studying in the university that Obama once taught at and working in the neighborhood he had worked in as a community organizer, she has gained a tremendous respect for what he has done professionally.
“I think he’s made a positive push toward social policy in terms of education and heath care to a place where there’s more equal access,” she said. “I’m still a fan, obviously.”
Among some of the issues President Obama spoke of in the State of the Union address last night, health care stood out. Junior English major Josie Berg-Hammond, who interned as a volunteer coordinator and precinct captain for the Obama campaign, looks to 2010 as the year a health care bill might finally be signed into law.
“I do hope that we keep moving on health care,” she said. “I think it’s scary watching all the debates on health care and watching everybody flip back and forth. I look forward to some sort of settling coming. I hope that people on both sides of the issue can be helped in some way, but I don’t think it’s a completely one-sided thing. I just hope that whatever we finally figure out is something that isn’t going to divide us more.”
Steven Bieret, a junior secondary education major, assisted a field worker with voter registration drives during the general election campaign. He said that change has already come in some respects.
“I still have faith in President Obama,” he said. “It’s gone so fast and not a lot has happened, but if you do pay attention there are some things that have changed.”
Some, including Vice President Joe Biden during the primaries, have called Obama’s call for hope and change empty rhetoric. Bieret said that the message of hope was exactly what the world needed.
“If you look around the world, what President Obama has meant to not only us, but everywhere,” he said. “The clean slate—looking at America a different way than through eight years of people disliking us—I think the world looks at us differently.”
Political pressure still remains as issues like “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the war in Afghanistan and the floundering job market fill the president’s plate. Berg-Hammond said that people shouldn’t expect Obama to accomplish all that he set out to do, but to be patient.
“I think he’s up against a lot because people expected him to be so perfect because they had so much hope for him, but when anything that isn’t perfect happens, they freak out,” she said. “It’s impossible to get everything right all the time.”
For these students, the campaign was an amazing experience that they will cherish forever. Berg-Hammond said that she will continue to retain the hope from the campaign as Obama continues his tenure of the presidency.
“I’m so happy I was in college when it happened and that I was able to put that much time in it and be young and stay up until 4 a.m. stapling packets together and walk around Des Moines talking to people about the campaign,” she said. “It’s awesome to say that I was a part of that.”
DRAKE’S ROLE IN OBAMA’S VICTORYSept. 5, 2008- Former Democratic Chairman Howard Dean visits campus.Sept. 18, 2008- Iowa Gov. Chet Culver campaigns for Obama in Aliber Hall.Sept. 26, 2008- “Superman Returns” actor Brandon Routh visits Drake.Oct. 15, 2008- Early Voting held in the OlmstedCenter.