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The text message spread like a virus first thing in the morning. Cometo the Green, it said, if Obama wins. And shortly after 11 p.m., afterthe political reporters had announced Obama as the forty-fourthPresident of the United States, the students streamed out of theirdorms. Hundreds gathered under the bare elms, dancing, banging ondrums, and filling the night air with cheers. 

elms.election2.jpg
Min Wu '09/Brown Daily Herald
And then a strange thing happened—strange, that is, if youbelieve the conventional wisdom that college campuses in general, andBrown's in particular, have become hotbeds of left-leaning,blame-America-first cynics. On election night singing could be heard onthe College Green, not the chanting of the latest popular hit, or evenof the "Alma Mater," but the words and music of "The Star SpangledBanner."

The students thensang "God Bless America," and even Lee Greenwood's "God Bless theU.S.A." Some waved U.S. flags as they sang; others wrapped themselvesin the Stars and Stripes.

"It was the first time in our lives we felt proud to be American,"Sarah Schoenbrun '09 later recalled. Deanna Saunders '11 noted, "Myfriend said she'd never sung 'The Star Spangled Banner' before. Butthat night she sang it like she really meant it."

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Frank Mullin
"It was the first time in our lives we felt proud to be American," Sara Schoenbrun '09 says. 
Given the excitement so many young voters felt for Barack Obama,will his election mark a return of patriotism to campus? Elated by theelection of the nation's first black President—someone who, asSchoenbrun puts it, "represents our generation and shares ourvalues"—students feel proud to be Americans and want the world to knowit. Elliott Gorn, a professor of American history, says his studentshave become "hopeful, committed, engaged, less lethargic. Certainlythey seem less negative about America."

One day a few weeks after the election, Kaitlyn Scott '10 sat in theBlue Room eating her lunch. She was wearing a T-shirt with an Americanflag emblazoned on the front. "I haven't taken this out of the drawerin years," she said, "and finally I feel like I can wear it again."

The only presidents today's Brown students have known are Bill Clintonand George W. Bush. Politics in their lifetime has gone from affairswith White House interns and shady Arkansas land deals to war andterrorism, both of which felt beyond their control. Deborah Saint-Vil'10 says that many students, faced with this grim reality, becameapathetic. Others, she says, grew disgusted.

"I kind of felt the country was in a declining state," says AlexandraChemla '09. "Everything we used to value was being taken over. This hasreinstated my faith in the country."

"Obama's election has reawakened people," Saint-Vil says. "We'refeeling more enthusiastic about the country. We're willing to trust ourfellow citizens more."

Some students also believe that Obama has reclaimed a broader definition of patriotism. Last April a CBS/New York Timespoll found that only 29 percent of registered voters described Obama as"very patriotic." Among young voters, he fared slightly better—39percent said Obama was very patriotic while 57 percent described JohnMcCain that way. Two months later Obama delivered what's become knownas his Patriotism Speech, in which he said, "For me, as for mostAmericans, patriotism starts as a gut instinct, a loyalty and love forcountry rooted in my earliest memories‚¶ It is also loyalty toAmerica's ideals —ideals for which anyone can sacrifice, or defend, orgive their last full measure of devotion."

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Frank Mullin
"I have hope that now [America] can live up to its promise," Robert Smith '09 says. 

According to Luis Cisneros '10, Obama's speech reminded people thatpatriotism is not just about bearing arms to defend the nation. "This isn't going to translate into increased military recruitment," he says."For Obama, patriotism means public service."

How long will this patriotic revival last? Many students have notforgotten the darker sides of U.S. history. Robert Smith '09, who isgay and African-American, says he is under no illusion that Obama canerase the sins of America's past. "We have a 240-year history," hesays. "He's only one man."

But Smith says he's definitely more optimistic about the country'sfuture than he's been in a long time. "America is a great idea," hesays. "But the way it's been executed, it's largely done more damagethan good. I have hope that now it can live up to its promise."

 





Comments (7)
02/19/09
 
This is just pathetic. Suddenly discovering that you love your country because of which candidate won the presidency is like deciding you now love one of your kids because he made good grades. There is something truly odd, embarrassing even, about people with such lamentable attitudes. 
 
America was a nation worthy of our praise and our passion long before the most recent election. Obama's success didn't make America great, but rather is a reflection of our nation's inherent greatness.
 
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02/19/09
 
I guess if/when Obama loses in 2012, all these "future leaders" will pack up their shirts, along with their patriotism, and start spitting on the flag again. 
 
As the saying goes...I weep for the future.
 
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02/19/09
 
If there's such a return of patriotism to Brown and other Ivy League campuses, I can't wait for the return of the military and ROTC programs to campus. Oh wait, such pride only goes so far. And for the student who hopes that only now America can live up to its promise- has he missed the nation's history? We were the first representative government in modern history. We were the first to abolish slavery. Many of the inventions that people use were developed here. I'd say that America has more than fulfilled her promise. If the Ivies represent the "best and brightest", then we have a bleak future indeed. These kids are embarrassing.
 
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02/19/09
 
Patriotism based on the perceived political ideal in power.  
 
 
Great... 
 
 
Since there is no way to wake you from your reverie...please...stay in school. Academia is the place you belong. Outside the gates you will have found a place that has not changed a single bit. It is not going to change because a democrat, republican, socialist or an anarchist is our so-called leader. 
 
Weep for the future? I am full on crying.
 
Cartman
02/19/09
 
"America is a great idea. But the way it's been executed, it's largely done more damage than good. I have hope that now it can live up to its promise."  
 
Just ponder those words for a moment and marvel at their sheer stupidity. Here we have largely wealthy kids attending what some still regard as one of the great universities on the planet. They enjoy more freedom, more wealth, more comforts, and have greater opportunities than any generation of humans who ever lived. And their response is to claim that the country which provided and sustained all of this, the country that has freed more people from tyranny than any other nation in history, the nation that has fed, clothed and cared for more people than any other ever thought of doing, that this wonderful nation has "done more damage than good" and still needs to "live up to its promise." 
 
Words simply fail. 
 
Yet this kind of drivel is exactly why, when my kids were old enough to attend college, I steered them away from the overpriced, anti-American hellholes my alma mater and other "elite" schools have become. The fact that Brown fills these kids' heads with such utter gibberish and calls it "education" is beyond despicable. Brown will never see a dime from me, I can assure you.
 
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02/20/09
 
So this is what the Ivies have become?  
 
Let us all give thanks to whatever being of higher power and white light to which they pray that Obama was elected. Ms Scott and her ilk now understand the pride and pleasure the rest of us feel when we wear an American flag on our chest or lapel. Perhaps...no, its too much to hope...perhaps she and they will stand when the flag is carried past in a parade. Dare we imagine a hand placed over the heart? A desire to place country before self? Its possible...at least for the next 4 years.
 
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02/20/09
 
"The only presidents today's Brown students have known are Bill Clinton and George W. Bush." 
This is the excuse for such embarassingly pathetic thinking? Has American history been dropped from the curriculum? I wouldn't be surprised.
 
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