After 40 wakeful hours with only two and a half hours of sleep from a night
watching the elections at the US Embassy celebration at the Hard Rock Cafe in
Bucuresti, I feel both physically and mentally exhausted. From 9:00pm Tuesday night to 8:00am the next morning, we celebrated democracy in
true American style with a program of opening remarks by U.S.
Ambassador Hans Klemm, live performances by the United States Air Force band
and talented Romanian performers, transmissions with professors, a diverting
mock election, a presidential trivial quiz, and a lot of fun all around.
Throughout the night, we followed and colored in the results of
each state as they came in. Along with this was a constant game of prediction
and analysis with each incoming result. If Trump takes “X,” Hillary will
need “Y” and “Z,” and vice versa. Between our updates, live
performances took the stage, local Romanian media covered updates
of the results, and we explained the voting process and incoming results to
curious and confounded Romanians. This confusion only grew as many in the room expected Hillary to win. Confusion gave way to disenchantment, with most of the party leaving the election party early.
By 6:30 am, there were about six of us left watching from the bar, staring
blankly in stupefied, nearly delusional and delirious wonder at the screens as
the results still trickled in. This was certainly not the denoument the night
had in mind. No cheers were made, no final remark or announcement was given by
the Deputy Chief of Mission as planned: all that was left among the laboring
restaurant crew that was cleaning up the mess left behind were four people who
stayed to see the election results to the near end. The ballon drop of red,
white and blue never came. The ballons were unceremoniusly ripped down by some
of the remaining spectators, and stomped upon for entertaining shock value,
much like our ideals in this past campaign season. At 8:30am, we left the Hard Rock Cafe. As soon as we stood up from the bar, the television channels changed from the live CNN coverage that we had been following to the Romanian morning news.
Afterward, I went across the street to the production studio of
Romania TV, which had also been covering the presidential election throughout
the night. Newscasters and analysts had been covering the election from 1:00am to 10:30am, extrapolating the implications of a Trump presidency for Romania, from its security as a NATO ally, bilateral relations, and its own elections coming up in just one month on December 11th. There, I also got to inform the newscasters and analysts on our election process and explain the results during the commercial breaks.
To say that I am mentally and physically exhausted would be an
understatement, but one thing is certain: I will never tire of supporting the
values that makes America the great nation that it is. Our nation was founded
on the basic principles of equality, tolerance, and the inalienable right of
each person to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Our
identity is not tied to people, let alone one person, but rather to the ideals and values that we
profess and live out. Yes, we certainly owe the new president-elect our open minds and a fair chance to lead. This does not mean we must succumb to the inflammatory, discriminatory, and deeply divisive rhetoric that has proliferated throughout his campaign. The American public must stand for its integrity and its ideals on its own.
I’ve sent countless messages to friends from around the world who have asked my
thoughts on the elections from here. America, you can be sure that the world
watches us. Despite the ugliness of this divisive campaign season, I still believe in us. Now is not the time to cower in silence and dismay, nor is it the time to act disgracefully or burn the American flag. Now more than
ever, we need to uphold lithe values that we believe through our own individual actions. May this experience motivate us toward long term civic action beyond the protests of this week. We need to affirm the dignity of human life, to work together with our fellow citizens on common ground, and to remind ourselves that above all else – beyond political parties, religion, gender, race, orientation, or ideology – we are all American. We must aspire and strive to become the leaders we want and that the world so greatly needs. There are pressing domestic and international issues that need to be addressed and approached with grace. So let us work to overcome our challenges together, cultivate kindness, espouse compassion, to embrace our fellow Americans, love others, so that we may affirm the value of every human life and live out our lives with integrity and an unshakable hope in our future.
To all those who yearn for a
brighter future: better days are yet to come if we let light and
love guide us. Keep pressing on.