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Joseph Bassell:
2009 Winner
Long Island City High School

Joseph Bassell

Winning Essay

Hope and Change have indeed come to America. The formal and final goodbyes of a failed administration have come and gone, and we now must face the problems ahead. A new age has dawned for the American people. January 20, 2009 marks a historic day for the country. Barack H. Obama became the nation’s first African American President. His truly remarkable story is the American dream. Born to a father who was an immigrant from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, Mr. Obama has triumphed over the many challenges that he has faced. The same confidence he exhibited during his early years is the same unwavering confidence with which he will lead this nation back to greatness.

There are several important reasons why our nation was energized and excited over this election. The country has been crying out for help and for change as the economy has been falling apart over the last few years. As well, the war in Iraq has become a quagmire, and the long promised “quick victory” has long vanished. Unfortunately, the previous administration did little to support the people who needed the help the most, and our economy worsened and worsened. As well, the Bush administration led the country into a war which has no immediate exit strategy and has resulted in thousands of deaths and billions of lost dollars. Thus, the climate was set for the nation to be excited over change.

Barack Obama is a man with a viable plan. During a time of economic uncertainty and lack of public trust in the government, Obama presented a plan that would help struggling families get back on their feet and also be on tough on the Wall Street executives. Many people are energized over this, because recently it seemed that there was no plan at all to help the working people. For eight years, the government chose to deregulate the economy further and further which allowed economic greed that caused the mess we’re now in. Mr. Obama, as a Democrat, sticks up for the middle class and people have seen that he is on their side and will do everything he can to support them through tough times. Already, only one month into office, President Obama has signed an economic stimulus bill. His actions will provide funds which will support various failing industries including the banks. As well, there will be funds for education, major capital projects to create jobs, and there will be restrictions on the way in which corporations can use the “bail out” money, including limits on executive compensation.

The election has also energized and excited many people because it is a historic one. Barack Obama is our first African-American president. With our country’s past history in mind, many people did not think it would be possible for an African-American to be elected President just now. Yet, they were wrong. Almost 150 years ago, President Lincoln (an inspirational figure for Mr. Obama) signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and only 45 years ago, the Civil Rights act of 1964 was passed granting citizens of color full and equal rights as American and legally ending segregation. These boundaries that the country has overcome and the milestones passed show the gradual social progress of the nation, and President Obama is the reflection of that progress. Millions of people are excited and energized by this, and have rallied behind our President.

Another aspect of the election which has energized people was the great dissatisfaction with President Bush. By the end of his term, he had one of the lowest approval ratings ever. During the campaign, people had an “anybody but Bush” attitude because they thought he was so bad. Courting Republicans and conservative Democrats, the Obama strategists were able to pin McCain to Bush, causing people to not believe in McCain’s policies. This was important because those voters tended to vote Republican, even if they were unhappy with the incumbent. Usually, being endorsed by an incumbent helps a campaign but because of Bush’s unpopularity, his endorsement for McCain was toxic. Mr. Obama was able to convince people, including many people who traditionally voted Republican, that McCain’s polices on the economy and the war in Iraq would not help solve the problems that plague the country. As a result, because Obama was able to set forth clear plans, people believed that he would be a better choice than McCain.

Still another reason for the excitement caused by this election is the campaign’s use of modern technology and media and Mr. Obama’s magnetic personality which inspires confidence and trust. People believe that he will be able to save the country and to put us on a strong economic footing. And, he was able to bring the large bloc of younger, more activist voters to his side. The media reports that many of the president’s supporters are between the ages of 18-35. However, there is one word in that sentence that makes or breaks a politician. If you guessed “media,” then you are right. Mr. Obama has made great use of the media to communicate with the grassroots supporters who made his election possible. By using social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, his supporters were able to carry out his message and made it more available to the world. The 18-35 year old age group of this generation is very tech savvy; hence, the grassroots movement was worked so well for Mr. Obama. But, our new President is a powerful speaker. He is articulate, intelligent, and personable. His style inspires trust and confidence. He goes directly to the people (every day he seems to be visiting ordinary citizens in a different part of the USA), and presents himself and his family as “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” which is exactly what the Declaration of Independence states that government should be.

Personally, I was very interested in this election. Every election is a time of change and the new leader sets the tone and direction in which the country will move. Through my leadership class and my involvement in student government, I supported an effort in my school to encourage voter registration to get 18 year olds to participate in the democratic process. As well, I continued my internship with City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr., assisting with political efforts and initiatives in our Astoria/Long Island City community. I find it fascinating to watch the democratic process at work. Starting from the primaries and all the way to the general election, I watched candidates win contests, drop a spot in the polls, and even drop out of the election. At the beginning of June, I saw the emergence of the victor of the competitive primary season, Barack Obama. I enjoyed talking about this whole process with my parents, my friends, my schoolmates, and the staff at the Councilman’s office (including Mr. Vallone himself). On some days, I had so much to say that I figured I should be on CNN participating in one of their shows as a political commentator. But, since the chances of that happening right away were slim to none and slim had left town, as they said, I started instead a political debate website called, Lets Talk Politics. On my site, I blog about current issues and I debate with other people about political and social issues. Right before the election, this was especially exciting because of the various views of my fellow bloggers and me. I am passionately interested in politics, so to this day, I still manage that website and it continues to grow.

Every president has been unique in his own way. No president can or ever will be the same as a previous one. They might adapt a policy created by a past administration, but the personal traits are solely their own. However, there are similarities among presidents. Like many of the famous leaders such as FDR, Washington, Lincoln, and Clinton, President Obama has the charisma and determination to lead the country with strength and vigor. He can communicate with the public and get his message heard. Mr. Obama has a clearly defined vision for the nation in a time of crisis, and that is what makes people believe in his work and have faith in their leader. The economic crisis and the war in Iraq are tearing the country apart, and Obama, like FDR before him, has hit the ground running, with both plans and the ability to inspire confidence.

I think that President Obama will be successful as he faces the problems of the 21st Century. As we become a more global society, challenges the president will have to face will get tougher. How well President Obama deals with them will depend on how good his staff is to advise him. Being president doesn’t mean you know everything. He is only human. As he said in a press conference, there will be mistakes and false starts. But, I think that in the end he will be successful. He is committed to building a bipartisan coalition of supporters. He has already created plans for the rescue of banks and large corporations (along with fiscal control), for the improvement of education, and for the creation of more jobs through construction projects. He has also authorized the extension of unemployment insurance benefits to insure that they last longer for those who have been laid off. And, he has just announced the need to restructure and reorganize the health care industry as the millions of workers who have lost jobs also lose their health care. As well, he is working to create a viable exit strategy from Iraq. At the same time, he has been establishing his credibility with other nations by visiting Canada and by sending Mrs. Clinton to several Asian countries including China. While President Obama certainly has his work cut out for him, he is off to a good start. I wish him a lot of luck because he is going to need all the help he can get and, in these dire times, it is up to all of us to rally behind our leader to help him get the job done.

Biography

I am a senior at Long Island City High School with a wide variety of talents and interests. Ranging from politics, to computer science, to music, I have explored and delved deeper into these areas and made each one of those relevant to the other in my life. Ever since the 2000 presidential elections, I have taken great interest in the political process and the functions of our government. I enjoy debating many issues with anyone. Combining my experience with computers and internet applications, I have created a political debate website called “Lets Talk Politics.” It is growing and gaining some momentum.

Music is another major aspect of my very active lifestyle. I have been playing the violin for about 10 years and the piano for about 5 years. Although I enjoy playing music by famous composers like Beethoven, Dvörak, and Bach, I also like to write my own music. In college, I would like to learn how to orchestrate my music for a full orchestra so that my vision for my compositions can be fully realized.

On another note, I like to travel and meet new people of different cultures and backgrounds. I have been to Canada, France, Italy, and China over the past couple of years. I am really outgoing and easy to talk to about anything. I value my friends and family over anything else and am always there when someone is in need. My career plans for the future are to be a successful lawyer and possibly hold an elected office later on. I was also touched by the events on 9/11 when several classmates lost parents in the attacks. I am greatly honored to be a recipient of this scholarship.

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