Proud to Be a Californian

By Mili Patel (UCLA Undergraduate, from San Diego)

Nearly a century of optimism, of lifting each other up, leading the way, looking at things differently, refusing the state quo, never minding the naysayers, the cynics, the impossible odds. The engine that fuels our progress runs on probability and doubt. And when the future needs a giant leap, when it’s going to take a miracle, when the world says no, we say no problem. We rise above the consensus, reverse gravity, learn to fly, go beyond, and then keep going. Every challenge, every absolutely not turned into absolutely. This is our opportunity to push forward and change the game. UCLA, fight, fight, fight.”

This is UCLA. Those exact words radiate from the speakers at every sporting game, every presentation, every event. This is where 43,301 young adults are able to finally experience a connection to an entity greater than themselves. It is a place that has allowed for us, has allowed for me, to be optimistic about our vast, changing world.

But today, today I saw this optimism instantly fade away into despair and helplessness. I went from seeing hundreds of students eager to vote for the first time, to seeing hundreds of students sobbing in an auditorium as they realized who was projected to win the presidency. I saw hundreds of hearts ache; I felt my heart ache.

I saw hundreds of students hail to the hills of Westwood and unify as one. I saw hundreds of students plow through streets to let their voices be heard, to let the voices of the millennial generation be heard, to let the voices that have been overshadowed and condemned by older generations to be clearly heard.

Yes, I am beyond upset with this election. Yes, I have cried, I have sobbed. This is NOT the America that I, a first-generation American woman of color, have grown to know and trust. This is not the America I see when I recite “with liberty and justice for all.” I am disappointed, ashamed, frustrated, appalled, overwhelmed, and mostly confused. This is not my President.

But, if there is one thing that I learned these past few hours, it is that I am fortunate to be able to attend UCLA. I am fortunate to be a member of a larger intellectual community geared towards making a genuine impact on the world. We are here to initiate progress and create light in overbearing darkness. And in any case that the rights of our peers are to be endangered, when equality is challenged, we will fight back. It is at UCLA that I feel a sense of community and security. I am thankful that I am to spend the next four years of my life here, surrounded by young adults fueled by optimism in what perhaps may be the darkest times of modern political history.

And even more so, this election made me realize just how much more progressive we as Californians are when compared to a large section of the country. While they voted for someone who openly denounces climate change, we voted for a ban on plastic bags across the state with the long term goal of carbon neutrality in the UC system by 2025. While they voted for someone more concerned about eliminating gun free zones near schools, we voted for required background checks when buying ammunition and the prohibition of the possession of large capacity magazines. While they voted for someone who wants to eliminate the newly developed common core education system, we voted for a bond that would be used towards modernizing charter, vocational schools, and community colleges. While they voted for someone who hasn’t released his tax returns and has no records of having paid federal income tax, we voted to extend income tax on those making over $250,000 in order to fund healthcare and schools. While they voted for someone who wants to repeal Obamacare, we voted to extend hospital fees in order to fund coverage for MediCal, uninsured patients, and children’s health. While they voted for someone who marginalizes minority groups, we elected the second African American woman to the Senate, Kamala Harris, who also happens to be the first female, first African-American, first Indian-American and first Asian-American attorney general of California. While many parts of the country celebrated the outcome of this election, our whole UC system of 9 universities took to the streets to protest, two of them being UCLA and UC Berkeley, the two most powerful public universities in the world.

Thank you, UCLA, for choosing me and for being my safe haven. Thank you, California, for being the driving force that you are, for being perhaps the final line of defense for progressive politics in our nation. It is difficult for me to say that I am proud to be an American in the turmoil of events that are ravishing throughout our country. What I can say, however, is that I am proud to be a UCLA student, and more importantly, a Californian.