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I was an unabashed America-lover throughout most of elementary school. I remember going to China in the summer of 97 (I was eight) for a three month visit and refusing to speak for two entire weeks because I was so homesick for the states. I wanted mickey mouse, backyard pools and pizza that tasted like pizza (this was before the widespread proliferation of fancy and bewilderingly overpriced pizza hut joints in major chinese cities).

On July 4th, mere days before a giant outpouring of Chinese national pride stemming from the Hong Kong reunification, I demanded that my grandparents allow me to celebrate independence day by buying a birthday cake for America. A four bakery-tour later, we finally found one willing to decorate a large cake with the American flag and “mei guo sheng ri kuai le”! written in gaudy pink frosting.

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that summer, celebrating my birthday--not america's birthday, but you get the idea. 🙂

As I grew older, rebellious, and more aware of the news and world events, I became increasingly cynical about US politics and America’s international role. The handling of the 2000 election made me so dejected that I completely lost faith in the morals upon which this country was supposedly founded. I felt bad that my parents had worked so hard and given up a perfectly lovely life in China just to bring our family to what had become a country in decline.

I know I’m not original in saying that yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I felt a spark of that pride I used to have in believing that I am part of a society that is truly extraordinary in history–one that is compassionate yet judicious, with leaders trying to the best of their ability to do right by their people and a sentiment that rewards merit with opportunity.

And it’s not because of what I think Obama will do. It’s because of what he has already done. I am not naive enough to believe that Obama is that one politician who will live up to all his promises, and swoop in as a panacea to all of our many problems. But (and sorry if this reiterates a fairly overstated campaign message) I am awed that a story like his is even possible in a world like ours. And as much as liberals whine about how America is not progressive enough, I can’t think of any other country that would have allowed for his election except for this one. For me, Obama is less about change, and more about returning to an old sense of optimism and confidence in our world that I didn’t even know was lost until it was found.

So I guess in the end, it is all about hope. No matter what kind of leader you will prove to be, President Obama, thank you for showing me that America still does offer opportunities –crazy, unbelievable, beyond-your-wildest dreams types of opportunities– to those who believe in them and are worthy of them. That the process, while not perfect, works. That older doesn’t have to equal more disillusioned, that you can be successful, married with two kids, and happy, and that above all, we DO live in a society that is inherently good and still capable of moving me to tears.