Students provide an assist on road to the presidencyBy Julia Morse
When Indiana turned blue, Matthew Kennedy knew.
“Change really is possible,” said the College fourth-year and Student Body President.
Just hours after spending Election Day knocking on the door of every Democrat who had yet to vote in Lafayette, Ind., Kennedy and his friends stood among the crowd of thousands in Grant Park watching Barack Obama’s electoral vote total go up and up and up.
And then, the news Kennedy and his fellow College Democrats had worked day and night for was delivered: Obama would be the 44th President of the United States.
“There was this moment where we all suddenly realized that we had been a part of this, that we had made an impact,” Kennedy said. “Last night there was jubilation, joy, but there was also shock. We worked so hard, and it really paid off.”
It was a long journey for Kennedy, whose support for Obama began four years ago when he volunteered for his 2004 Senate race. It continued through the Democratic National Convention, where Kennedy worked as an intern. But the past several days campaigning in Indiana stood out most in Kennedy’s mind.
“Volunteering in Indiana was truly one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had—or ever will have—in my entire life,” he said. “We went everywhere, from the most rural of areas to mobile home subdivisions, knocked on every door, talked to anyone and everyone we could.”
During those days and often-sleepless nights in Indiana, Kennedy and his fellow College students were embraced and welcomed by the community, he said.
“People took us into their homes, gave us a place to sleep, made us bacon and eggs in the morning,” Kennedy said. “I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
As soon as the polls closed Tuesday in Indiana, Kennedy and his pals drove back to Hyde Park. They dropped off their belongings and headed to Grant Park, where they hoped to hear from their new President-elect.
“When it was announced that Obama was going to win, I was overwhelmed,” Kennedy said. “We were jumping, screaming, cheering, crying, hugging perfect strangers—one of the most wonderful moments of our lives.”
After watching Obama’s remarks, the group of College students returned to Hyde Park, walking from the Green Line stop through Washington Park together in the wee hours of the morning, giving passersby high-fives and hugs, waving to honking cars and buses packed with cheering students.
“I just kept thinking back to all of us University of Chicago students scattered around Indiana as part of this campaign—this movement—to help elect a man from our own community, a man who made history,” Kennedy said.