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The post-election syndrome

You did everything you could. You gave up your weekends. You walked a hole in your favorite pair of shoes and knocked on doors until you had raw knuckles.

Then the polls closed. You went to an Election Day party, but no one celebrated. Your candidate lost. Or did he?

Politicians promise to bring change to our lives. The signs clearly show all around us that they did exactly that during this election cycle. Hundreds of thousands of people registered to vote for this election. Dozens waited in lines for hours to mark their ballots early. And as Rev. Jessie Jackson said this week on 95.7 The Beat’s morning gospel show, young black men in America have gone from planning funerals to planning futures. His comments referred to celebrities such as hip-hop mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons encouraging voter participation.

Former President Bill Clinton said during a Wild 98.7 interview Tuesday morning that this country will live with the results of this year’s election for the next 20 years. But beyond the policies that our newly and re-elected officials will create, we are a nation that has been awakened.

The elections four years ago came at the eve of our politically conscious resurrection. The Sept. 11 attacks hadn’t happened yet. And most Americans couldn’t spell Condoleezza Rice, let alone even knew that she’s the U.S. national security advisor. Since Sept. 11, our nation has paid more attention to who runs our country. We know their names, and Tuesday we showed up at the polls in droves to give thumbs up or thumbs down to our elected officials.

Politics and religion remain two subjects you learn to avoid at any social gathering. You still may not sit at a bar and discuss the war in Iraq, but there’s a chance that while walking to class you had a conversation about the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. From the Mel Martinez and Betty Castor U.S. Senate campaign attack ads to celebrity endorsements, discussing politics has gained popularity.

Don’t let the disappointing outcome of a race in this year’s election cause you to turn your back on our democracy. Use the lessons you’ve learned and the contacts you’ve made to fuel your interest and participation year round. Don’t wait another four years for a major election to get involved. Stay involved.

This year’s election marked the beginning of a revolution in the United States. Keep in mind that the uprising should be a peaceful one. No doubt there will be days of contested results ahead of us in some races. The campaign sign stealing that has been a problem around Tampa Bay this year was like a side show to the main event. One would almost have expected to hear an announcer say at the close of the polls Tuesday, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” A radio personality on 970 WFLA joked that we’ll need some kind of spray to get rid of the attorney stench once this is over and every race has a clear winner.

To other countries, we may seem like a nation divided. I say we are a nation ignited.

We’ve survived pregnant and hanging chads and butterfly ballots. The person who is in office doesn’t change the fact that you still have a voice.

Thank you to all those who worked tirelessly this year to advocate for change. Thank you to all those who voted. And a special thank you to those who woke up this morning and pledged to finish the work they started by remaining politically aware and socially active.

Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief.