True Influence

March 1, 2010
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“He’s a socialist –



Egotistical maniac,”

“He’s going to ruin our country –




“He’ll brainwash our children –


Respectable figures,

Other countries,”

They imposed these words on me only days before the address to the student body from President Barack Obama. It began to grow on me that this was not going to be something I would end up respecting, or enjoying, and as much as I hate to admit it, all of these beliefs and opinions were influencing me in a way that was anything but supportive of this so-called leader of my country. I was indifferent to whatever it was that he had to say, and I melted into the crowd and flourished into the student with a mentality of pure ignorance. I could go through the day with that moronic grin on my face and before long, my opinion had become just what everyone else’s was: my parents, teachers, friends, and even the simple people online. That was until I found out that our school was required to have a permission slip signed to see this speech. For once in my short life of sixteen years, I began to bloom, and my own principles were being formed from an emotion that had never stirred inside of me; I was appalled. It was then that all of the comments that my parents and friends had made never mattered to me, because I knew what disrespect was when I heard it, and I didn’t need to adopt someone else’s view to place that.

From that point, debates were sprung, and I was tossed into the world of politics. It was a new and strange world, and it left me lost and confused very often. I was proud, though, that I had my own words to say. I didn’t have to borrow them from the media, or an adult figure, but could produce them myself, and only found them in one place: my heart. My response to this “permission slip” was not one of approval. Soon, my voice was one of the millions, but my opinion was of my very own, and no-one could take it from me.

It was one day amidst one of my heated debates that I had a very close friend approach our table and make a comment: “I, quite frankly, don’t care about politics. It’s boring and it doesn’t really have anything to do with me.” At first, I didn’t feel that it was a very impacting input, and so I pushed it aside until I had a chance to run the words over in my mind. I found her the next day and thanked her for speaking her mind about it. “I didn’t care about it either, and I think that’s why I’ve become so involved with this. Up until now, I’ve never been included in government. This speech will be the open door for those who have had no place in the political side of life. Here’s your chance,” I told her, and before I knew it, I had someone else at my debate table. There were still many people who opposed me and everything that I had to say, but I could respect that, and argue my point valiantly at the same time. I had all kinds of intelligence fighting for whatever side they sought fit, but I didn’t judge them for it if they had valid reasons. It was the people who wouldn’t even bother to look at the other side of the table that rubbed me wrong. I had my own motto for a week or so there: “Let’s have an open mind!” It was simplistic, but powerful. It would seem that, to me, people are very caught up in their beliefs, morals, and their left-wing/right-wing politics these days, and I can respect that, but, these are the things that he believes in! Don't you think that if we can honor the common people's ideas, and values, that we could do the same to our President? We should have enough respect for the man who runs our country to take a few moments out of our school days to sit and listen to how we might be able to help one of the biggest influences on our country.

That wasn’t where the story began, though. Despite all of the arguing and debate; the harsh words and glares from other students who really had no say in the matter, the weekend passed, and most of it had blown over until second period on Tuesday. We sat in class waiting for the teachers to solve the technical issues, and I wasn’t interested in talking with my classmates and so I kept to myself, listening in around me. The conversations were exactly what I had expected. Words of indifference, uncaring, disrespect, and altogether disinterest filled the air around me. Our TV was turned on and we connected to the sound, and the lights fell down. The strangest thing happened, though, when President Obama took the stand. All around me, when moments ago the room was filled with chatter and crude words, the eyes were set, and every head was turned. Not a student spoke; it was silent, and attentive… it was the impact.

Obama spoke of failure and success, and how the two managed to intertwine; how one could not become without the other. He told of his childhood problems, and he told us that most of us would deal with problems of our own, but most importantly, he told us that we could never fail. We could not become susceptible to the harsh reality that was failure, and that, with perseverance, hard work, and the will to move on even after it seemed that life had become too hard, we could be anything that we wanted. Through every word, my classmates held their opinions to themselves, and not a single head was tilted away from the figure on our screen, even if he was only that: a figure on a television screen. When it ended, there was a muted fellowship among my friends, and those who weren’t. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it myself, and with only a few moments until the bell rang for our next period, I was already starting to forget the aspects that he had brought to us; this was true until my friend, stated above, approached me and sat down in the seat across from my desk, sighing thoughtfully. I was bemused, but said nothing; I’m something of a quiet person after having heard something that influenced me greatly. “Thanks,” she finally whispered. It was so quiet that I almost missed the word. “For what,” I asked her gruffly.

“Thanks for getting me involved. I never would have listened if I didn’t think it was going to be important.” I smiled, and nodded my head, and as the bell rang, we shuffled out of the class and into the hallways. Things moved on from there, and while we didn’t speak of it again, I knew that although my student body did not agree with Obama’s policies, beliefs, words, or actions, that moment of silence that filled the entire school was one of true influence.

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