What Happened and Moving On from the 2016 U.S. Election

You may have noticed that I’ve written quite a few blog posts about the 2016 U.S. Election and the presidency of Donald Trump. I even wrote about the fact that I write about Trump so much, after a friend commented on the fact that all of my posts seemed to be centering around American politics. In that post, I concluded that I would keep writing about Trump because his actions, words and policies have serious impact on the world. I’ve continued doing this; but it’s not just the current political climate that I find myself writing about. I keep coming back to the election.

The 2016 Presidential election was the first time when I truly felt engaged in politics. Some of the campaigning period overlapped with that of the Canadian election, so the combination of both really sparked my interest. Although I wasn’t old enough to vote at the time, I began to consider which candidate I agreed with most and which policy issues I felt most strongly about.

After a few years of continually asking my dad to explain the Electoral College to me, I finally understood it enough to be the one to answer my friends’ questions. I devoured articles about the primaries and brought up politics every chance I could. I was fascinated, and so excited to finally feel like I had a good grasp on what was happening in the political sphere around me.

I think though, more than this, I felt a connection with Hillary Clinton. I don’t ever remember a specific moment where I realized I identified with her, other than watching her speeches and realizing how intelligent and qualified she was. I admired her for being a strong woman in an area dominated by men; in some leadership positions I’d held in high school, I was among the few females represented. Mind you, I didn’t experience what Clinton did—rampant sexism and blatant misogyny—but regardless, I developed an appreciation for her leadership.

The day after Trump won, I wrote about the bewildering, blistering reality of watching Clinton’s concession speech. It was sometime in those days afterwards, when the smoke was clearing but the headlines were still confounding and conflicting, that I turned on Twitter notifications so that I got updates every time Clinton tweeted. I still have them turned on; it’s not often that a tweet pops up, but when it does, I smile because I remember her campaign and what she fought for.

You can probably assume, based on all of this, that I was thrilled when Clinton announced she’d be releasing a book. I had already read Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, which contextualized many of the articles I’d read about Clinton’s loss and helped better shape my understanding of the election. Now, as I type this, What Happened, Clinton’s account of the 2016 election, sits on my bedside table. I’m not very far into it (and you can surely expect a post about my thoughts when I’m done), but so far I’m really enjoying it. I’ve written and read a lot about the election, as I’ve established; but I still jump at opportunities to learn more and think more about it.

It seems that I’m not alone in this curiousity. Quoting a tweet that says that Clinton’s book has sold the most copies of any nonfiction release in the past five years, Nate Silver wrote, “The notion that ‘nobody wants to re-litigate 2016’ is sort of a myth…”. I’m sure that not everyone who purchased or read What Happened supported Clinton; many probably read it out of hatred or so that they could argue about or dispute its contents. But still, a lot of people remain stuck on the campaign trail. This could be because the results of the election came as such a shock to many people that there were some psychological reasons for their inability to move on.

I have to wonder as well if it is partly because of the new inhabitant of the Oval Office that many people still think so much about the election cycle. After all, Trump is still holding campaign rallies (yes, even though he already campaigned and won). In many ways, he is still talking and acting like he’s on the campaign trail, leading some to believe he is already campaigning for the 2020 election.

The 2016 U.S. election was historic. We saw the first female leader of a major party and we saw a stunning defeat that many of us didn’t predict. There has been no shortage of things to reflect on in the wake of Nov. 8. What role did voter suppression play? What role did the media play? What role did Russian interference play? Should the Electoral College be abolished? Politicians, journalists, researchers and citizens are still searching for the answers to these, and many other, questions.

Reflection is good; action, I think, is better. I am excited to continue reading What Happened, not only to gain a better understanding of what really did happen but, more importantly, to learn how Clinton is moving forward and how she suggests the rest of us move forward, too.

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Beginning Again

I often write on this blog about the value of leaving your comfort zone and learning to embrace change. In the past when I’ve written those posts, I’ve drawn on my experiences attending a new high school and overcoming my nerves to become involved in my school community. Recently, I experienced the biggest change in my life: I moved away from home to attend university.

Before I moved, I mentally equated it to the time when I left the high school I had attended to go to a brand new one. I would be starting at a new school where I didn’t know many people. There was a huge difference between these two experiences, though, and it was one that didn’t cross my mind until my move-in day. At my new school, I don’t have my family with me. This has been the hardest part about starting university. The moment my family waved goodbye, I broke down in tears. My life was changing, and I didn’t feel like I could handle it.

It wasn’t only my family who I was saying goodbye to. It was my friends, who were all off on their own post-secondary adventures; and it was my high school, and all of the memories I made there. Throughout the three years I spent at that school, I grew into a person I was, and still am incredibly proud of. I became more confident, a better leader, more passionate about my education, and, most importantly, I was really happy. Moving to a new city made me feel like I was moving away from the person I was in high school: but slowly, as this week has gone on, I’ve felt more and more like the version of myself that I love.

The thing is, though, I’m not in high school anymore—so I’ll never be the exact same person I was there. I saw a quote yesterday that read, “Every next level of your life will demand a different you.” I think those words perfectly sum up my transition to university. Moving to university is the next level in my life, and in order to succeed and be happy I need to learn new things and grow as a person while maintaining my core values.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, when I began attending my new high school I became involved in clubs, councils, and other co-curricular activities. Although I want to focus on my school work in university, I also want to get involved on campus; be it by writing for a student newspaper, or by joining a club or council. Today I attended an involvement fair, and, as I walked around, gathered pamphlets, and talked to upper year students, I felt a wave of familiarity wash over me. This, I thought, is what I love: getting involved, finding out how to make a difference, and how to be a leader.

Aside from the occasional mention in past posts, I don’t think I’ve really talked on this blog about what I’m actually studying in university. I’m in a journalism program, and I’m taking electives in international relations, human rights, politics, and crime. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love writing. I’m really excited to be studying journalism. This week, as I’ve met other students in my program and heard from professors, my passion for journalism has been reinvigorated. It’s a changing industry, and I’m in a difficult program, but I know I’m ready for it.

In so many ways, university is a new beginning for me. I’m learning to live on my own, I’m living in a new city, and I’m beginning a new area of study. Despite all of these “new” things, there’s something about being here that feels very natural to me. It is, as I’ve alluded to, all of the things I’ve been passionate about in the past, lighting up my eyes all over again. I don’t feel like I’m taking on an entirely new beginning: I feel like I’m beginning again.

In her song “Begin Again”, Taylor Swift sings, “On a Wednesday, in a café, I watched it begin again.” For me, that lyric would go like this: on a Thursday, in my university dorm room, I watched it begin again. And I can’t wait to see what happens next.


International Youth Day

What does it mean to be young in 2016?

I’ve been wondering about this for a while now, not just because it is a question which pertains to me, a teenager, but because it’s been written on my whiteboard all year. Long story short: in January I was planning to write for an online publication with that question as the focus of my article, so I brainstormed ideas on my whiteboard. The article didn’t end up panning out as I quickly became swamped with exams and applying to university. Nonetheless, the question remained on my whiteboard.

Seven months later, every time I look at it I am reminded that it needs to be cleaned. I rarely procrastinate but with this, I have. Today, though, I’m glad I haven’t erased my whiteboard of thoughts on what it means to be young in this day and age: because today is International Youth Day. I thought I would spend a bit of time reflecting on, well, being young!

I’d be willing to bet that when most people think about today’s teens, their minds quickly turn to technology and social media. The rise of the hashtag. The selfie craze. The fact that “tweet” is no longer the sound birds make at 6 in the morning when we’re trying to sleep, but a 140 character message sent out for the world to read. These things, in part, have defined today’s youth. There’s another important aspect of technology, though: communication. Not only are we able to communicate with people around the world, but we can instantly read and see news about what is happening all over the world.

With the changing face of communication comes an increased awareness; an awareness both of the good and grisly things in the world. We can livestream the Olympics in Rio from a screen in our palm, and watch cute puppies chase their tails—but we are also inundated with stories of murders, of poverty, of wars. The benefit to seeing these things, becoming aware of them, is that we can work to change them. I know I don’t only speak for myself when I say that I use the Internet to stay on top of issues I’m passionate about.

Today’s teens aren’t the only ones to have strong social justice roots. The 1960s Counterculture, for example, fought for women’s rights, peaceful resolution to conflict, and freedom. We are, however, one of the first generations to have constant exposure to what is happening around us, thanks to technology. Perhaps this, paired with the strong convictions already existing within teenagers, will lead to lifelong quests for justice and equality.

Jumping off of the brainstorming bubble on my whiteboard are the words “safe from war”. An arrow jars off that point, though, with the words “terrorism” attached. Today’s youth are growing up in a post 9/11 world: a world that tries to be hopeful, one that hides quivering fear behind a face of resilience. I am writing from my perspective as a Canadian teenager; the reality is, I am very lucky. While terrorism is a threat in developed countries, as it is in all countries, war is not. I grew up listening to O’Canada in the mornings at school feeling thankful to live in the true North, which is not only strong and free, but is also, for the most part, safe.

This is not a statement that all of the world’s youth can affirm, sadly. According to the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth’s website, 14 million youth were displaced as a result of international conflict in 2011—the number is likely even higher today. Not only this, but over 200 million youth are living in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than one dollar per day), reports Advocates for Youth’s website.

So today, on International Youth Day, it is important not only to reflect on what defines the lives of today’s youth, but to hope for a better future for all youth. It is also important to celebrate the leadership of youth who are working to create this better future. Young people all over the world: keep being passionate about issues that matter to you, keep being leaders, and keep trying to change the world. One day, you will.