I turned 18 just months before the 2008 presidential election, making me eligible to participate in one of the most historic races our country has ever seen. Casting my ballot for Barack Obama was anti-climatic—I was away at college, so I filled out an absentee ballot. The act of voting didn’t feel all that monumental. But election night did.
As soon as the major networks had determined that Obama would be the next president of the United States, I ran outside with the rest of my freshman dorm and celebrated on the quad. It was like a scene from a cheesy movie: hundreds of students congregated in the center of campus, cheering and commemorating the moment we had all been hoping for. It’s an image I often conjure up when older generations call us apathetic.
I voted for Obama in 2008 because I was enchanted by his rhetoric. I wanted a president who believed in the same issues that I did, who thought LGBT rights and racial equality weren’t just important but essential. I was tired of old white men making decisions for millions of people who didn’t have their same privileges. I wanted a president who was the polar opposite of George W. Bush, someone who would get us out of imperialist conflicts in the Middle East masquerading as war.
I wanted Barack Obama to be my president. I knocked on doors with a friend on Super Tuesday, and handed out pamphlets about the former senator from Illinois in a predominantly conservative neighborhood. I read his memoir on my spring break in high school. I devoured all his speeches on television and YouTube. Then, I voted accordingly. Obama’s campaign didn’t just inspire me to want change: he made me want to be a part of that change.
A recent survey from Harvard’s Institute of Politics finds that 54 percent of millennials now disapprove of Obama’s job performance. (Compare that to a 2009 poll that showed a 58 percent approval rating among young people.) America’s youth has changed its tune, and for good reason.