In her freshman year of high school, Northwestern senior Jessica Klein started following Barack Obama's career. Nearly five years later, she joined his campaign for president. Last Tuesday night in Grant Park, Klein finally watched her hard work pay off.
"It was emotional," she said. "I'm kind of humbled by the entire process. It was this guy that I was really dedicated to, and the whole country picked up on it."
Klein worked 40 hours per week during the Fall quarter at the national campaign headquarters in downtown Chicago in addition to taking four classes at NU and holding a Dance Marathon executive position. She helped organize the VIP tent at Grant Park, and spent half of Tuesday night with the campaign staff and the other half with friends in the ticketed section.
"There was something about being with the general population," she said. "That was what the Obama campaign was all about."
Weinberg senior Andrew Celis, who interned in Obama's Chicago office over the summer and made calls for the campaign during the fall, did not watch the election results from the staff section or even the ticketed section of the crowd. But being on the wait list did not stop him from going downtown to experience the atmosphere, he said.
As he stood watching the results come in on the CNN Jumbotron, chatting with a union worker to one side and white-collar businessman to the other, Celis said he got a sense of the unity of the campaign.
"The feel of the crowd was pure jubilation," he said. "It was hugging people you would have never hugged before, having conversations with people you wouldn't have talked to otherwise."
Hearing Obama's name announced as the next president made Celis think about his first experience canvassing in Wisconsin and the reason he joined the campaign: to make his voice and the voices of others heard, he said.
"When you knock on the door and talk to an 85-year-old woman about how she can't make her health care payments, it makes it real," he said. "Grassroots change can happen. College students can make a difference."
For Adam Seidel, who worked for the John McCain presidential campaign in Minnesota over the summer and made calls for the campaign during the fall, watching the election results on TV was disappointing, but not too shocking. It is time to move on, the Music and Weinberg junior said.
"At the end of the day, you have to go and support the president as an American," he said. "Despite the fact that I worked very hard so Obama would not be in the White House, he is the president of the United States."
Seidel said he felt "burned out" and tired of politics after the hype of the 2004 presidential election and 2006 midterm election, but not this time. Losing the election gives him the energy to work toward coming back for a Republican win in four years, he said.
"You just keep going, you just keep slugging away," he said. "I'm definitely still ready to be involved next time."
The campaign may have ended, but for some, the experience is far from over. Klein, who is from a suburb of Washington D.C., said she plans on volunteering over Thanksgiving break to help with Obama's transition and also plans on going to the inauguration in January. Now is the time to take Obama's issues and make them a reality, she said.
"The Obama 'yes we can' wasn't just about the campaign," she said. "It was about 'yes we can' change this country."