It was the day I’d been thinking about. Lights and color spinning around me and the loud noise of a pounding speaker surrounding me as I sat on the edge of my seat. I waved a little flag I was given when I came in, and in anticipation and brewing excitement, I waited with my close friend by my side and mom behind me.
It was 2016, and I was watching the live results of the presidential election unfold before my eyes. With the huge crowd and millions of decorations, you would’ve never guessed that I was at Wellesley College. Everyone around me was hyped, and ready to see Hilary Clinton defeat Donald Trump and break barriers by becoming the first female president ever. Throughout my life, my mom has always been my female inspiration. She shows me the power that women have, making me feel capable of doing anything. And now, with my mom’s strength by my side, I was ready to see Clinton inspire girls like me all around the world.
But as hours passed, the crowd began to grow quiet. The bubbling energy I’d felt earlier that day was gone. The numbers going up on the ginormous screen didn’t make much sense to me, but it didn’t seem like it was showing anything good. My friend and I continued to play mini-hand games to try and pass the time, but deep down I was feeling uneasy.
We left before it was over.
On the car ride home, I sat slumped over. It was very late but I wasn’t tired. The energy inside me was gone: replaced with emptiness. My mom’s hands were clenched tightly over the wheel as we drove home. Meanwhile, my hands still grasped the little flag I was given. It said “history in the making.”
The fact that Trump was elected changed the way I looked at the world. Previously living in a world led by President Obama, I never had to feel truly worried about politics. As an Asian American girl, I felt both disgusted and terrified over the fact that a man like Trump was now my president. I’d seen him be directly sexist towards women and racist towards people of color.
Growing up, my entire life I’ve lived in an extremely liberal family — my mom taught me about the importance of standing up for myself. I was sent to a small school where everyone supported one another. Along with my mom, my teachers taught us about the social injustice in our society and together they helped us discover our beliefs and fight for change.
But on the day that Trump was elected president, my ideas about the society around me transformed. The little bubble of welcoming and happiness I had in school popped, and I began to see the world the way it really was. The hate, racism, marginalization of others, all of it gathered before me. How could the country I live in vote for someone like Trump? Because of him, I had friends who were scared they’d get deported, and hesitant to come out as gay, feeling targeted by their own president. But I also came to a major realization: I had the power to do something about it. Everyone does.
I understood that one thing Trump couldn’t take away from us was our voice, and I couldn’t help realizing how important voting was. Although it often doesn’t seem like much, it is a way that every citizen in the U.S. can have power. Donald Trump didn’t even get the majority vote, so every single person’s individual vote is so important — because if all the people that chose not to vote had voted, there could’ve been a huge difference in the 2016 election. There are also certain people who don’t have the privileges of voting. Many non-citizens and incarcerated or undocumented people live in the U.S. and are affected by the rules of society, but aren’t allowed to vote. This misrepresentation of certain groups of people gives them fewer rights and shouldn’t be acceptable. So if you have the right to vote, you should feel lucky that you do, and eager to use your vote that many other people don’t have. In the next election, which is coming up later this year, make sure you go out and vote if you can.
I will never forget the anger, fear, confusion, and disbelief I felt from that night in 2016, but I’ll also never forget the lessons I learned and the ways that I changed. Although I still always wish things could’ve gone differently, it also reminded me of the voice I have and made me determined to vote as soon as I’m able to. I also realized that there will always be hope. And on that car ride home, I realized that just because Hilary Clinton lost the election, there were still women all around the world inspiring others. My mom is my female inspiration: she reminds me everyday of how strong I am, and every day I remember how strong she is.
I clutched the little flag in my hand, reading the words “history in the making” until we got home. I remember thinking that this quote was over—but now as I look back on this day, I can understand that this tiny statement is still true. We are making history every day with the Black Lives Matter protests, spreading awareness of injustice on social media, electing many congresswomen of color to Congress, and more.
So, no matter how many problems are in our country right now, there is always hope and the opportunity to fight for change. You can do this by speaking out in your community or even just ensuring that you vote in November. Because the most valuable thing I learned from that day in 2016 is that every small action matters.