Petty differences must be put aside as the campaign ends

It’s finally over.

The countless hours of sign-waving, phone banking, and canvassing no longer matter.  The bitterness and rage expressed by so many will no longer be further fueled by attack ads. The votes have been counted and, like it or not, Sen. Barack Obama will soon become President Obama.

Get used to it.

He will not be the president of the Americans who voted for him. He will be the president of all Americans.

He will be the president of the Americans who shouted “terrorist” and “kill him” at Sen. John McCain’s rallies.  He will be the president of soccer moms, Ku Klux Klan members, nuns, convicted murderers, grandmothers and, yes, even Joe the Plumber.  The nation must recognize this.

“American.” The word implies a communality and a sense of civic responsibility. Looking past trivial differences reveals that there is much more that unites us than divides us. Doing what is best for the country is doing what is best for yourself and other citizens. It isn’t the geographical boundaries or the colors we wear that makes us Americans. It is the passion for liberty, the thirst for freedom and the pursuit of justice. This will not be nationalism, but rather a simple matter of reciprocity between citizen and state.

The idea of promoting a greater good may seem utopian, but only because we’ve let ourselves become accustomed to a lower standard of living. The standard to which I’m referring is not based on the typical attributes of luxury and wealth. It is the way we treat each other — our propensity for kindness, empathy and compassion. It can be as simple as how we look at each other when we pass on the street, or as involved as the level of respect we give when debating policy.

It is a rare, nigh impossible, occurrence that any two people will agree on everything. And what a great virtue this is! Dissent is the driving force of progress and prohibits absolute adherence to the status quo. Life would be nauseatingly boring without debate. It is imperative, though, that such debate is conducted in a respectful manner — if not for kindness, at least for clarity.

It is unclear what the word “change” means, or how the Obama administration and Congress will handle looming challenges. Directly selecting the highest executive of the federal government is out of the hands of the voters for another four years. It should be recognized, however, that this does not mean Americans must sit helplessly by at the mercy of the government. We can set our own definition for “change.” A revolution of values must occur if any progress is to be made. The improvement of our lives can only come through a change in philosophy and a call for unity.

Obama frequently invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the campaign trail.  The “fierce urgency of now” he referred to is an insistence to challenge and evaluate everything through the lens of justice and ethics.

“Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity,” King eloquently said. Procrastination of progress is no longer an option. Change must be treated as a bare necessity, as division and apathy will only create a weak nation of dejected citizens.

Daniel Dunn is a junior majoring in philosophy.