Standing Out in a Crowd

January 20, 2009 12:00 am0 comments
Carolyn Witte

If Barack Obama were rushing a sorority, he would be the number one recruit. First impressions are his specialty, flirting with girls is in his blood and keeping a smile plastered on his face in the most awkward of situations is a talent he possesses. While changing into four-inch heels in negative eight degree weather and sprinting up Libe Slope may not be his cup of tea, I am confident that Obama’s daily morning workouts would prepare him to be first in line for each and every house.
The full-fledged rush pandemonium that I and 700 other Cornell girls participated in this past week seemed to be the ultimate crossroad into our new (and improved?) Cornell lives. I realized that in the microcosm of the Cornell campus, Sunday night was our inauguration day. Though the Greek system may be trivial in the broadest scheme of things, many of the fraternities and sororities on campus are over a century old and possess history and traditions that transcend each and every pledge class.
This blend of the new with the old made me think even more about Obama’s inauguration. Because Obama has presented innovative ideas, created activists out of first time voters and ran a hugely successful campaign, he brings a breath of fresh air to the established order. In this way, Obama’s incumbent presidency embodies the same ideals that the Greek system aims to demonstrate.
Coming to Cornell I never saw myself as a sorority girl. This past week though, I was pleasantly surprised to find the diverse mix of women in each house. And in these houses, I felt a genuine sense of community. It is this very idea of maintaining individuality while still participating in something greater than oneself that exemplifies our country and our political system.
Obama preaches a message of change and hope for a new America. However, in doing so, he also seeks to restore our country and revive the very principles and traditions that America was founded upon — namely, the participation of many unique individuals for the greater common good.
Over the past eight years, individual ambitions overpowered the common good and threw off the delicate balance. Insatiable greed on Wall Street resulted in economic destruction that stretched across the country and the globe. Hard lined unilateralism replaced debate and opposition, stretched our troops between two wars and polarized our political parties to the point of stagnation. The once intertwined relationship between the nation and the individual transformed into a neck-and-neck battle for survival of the fittest. When forced to choose between oneself and the greater America, the individual prevailed. In his famous speech at the Democratic Convention this past August, Obama yearned to reach equilibrium between self and nation once again as he said, “What has been lost is our sense of common purpose — our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.”
After rushing this past week, I saw this type of equilibrium reached on a small scale. But why stop here? As we are confronted with unparalleled challenges and crises here and abroad, success and change are only possible with the help and support of a unified nation. Here on campus, those in the Greek system, alongside students in other organizations, must empower one another to take action and become apart of something bigger than the individual — and further, bigger than our sororities, our clubs and our campus community.