Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1 day before the election
Population (Estimated): 1,500,000
2004 Election: Kerry 80%, Bush 19%, Other 1%
2008 Election: Obama 83%, McCain 16%, Other 1%
(map)

Tomorrow we as a nation will embark on the wonderful privilege of peaceful transition of power.

Fittingly, our last two stops were in a planned community that is not more than 40 years old: Reston, Virginia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the oldest places in the nation. Two very different places with two very different populations that will help select the next President of these United States.

If this trip has taught me anything, it is that we as Americans treasure our democracy and our ability to choose our leaders. There is a sense across the nation that we are about to enter one of the most challenging eras in our brief history and a near consensus that who we choose to guide us through the tumult is a decision of utmost importance.

This is perhaps the legacy of the 2000 election. My own thoughts entering that election was that the system was rigged, that the choice was negligible and that my vote in particular did not matter. We watched as the courts instead of the voters decided the election and were left with a deep dissatisfaction on both sides, not necessarily in who became president, but in how he was chosen.

During, the last eight years there has been an effort to harden our stances and consolidate our associations. Parody maps divided into “The United States of Canada” and “Jesusland”, websites devoted to mocking opposition candidates, and discussion of secession and which region represents the “real America.” I hope that the legacy of this election is that the country unites in a healthy debate on how to carry forward together rather than deepening the divisions and disengagement from the political process.

No matter whom we select we’ve come a long way from 2000, both in the quality of our options and in the investment in the process. After speaking with hundreds of Americans of every political persuasion in nearly every region of the country, it is clear that we have narrowed the choice to two exceedingly qualified and inspirational men. I have heard cogent arguments for electing either one. While the campaign has brought out the worst in both, either one has earned the opportunity to handle the burdens of the office.

John McCain has impeccable foreign policy bonafides, the respect of his colleagues in the Senate, and a well-earned reputation as someone who stands on his principles. Barack Obama has rocketed on to the national scene, building a grassroots campaign based on his experiences as a community organizer that empowers those involved. The biographies of both men are remarkable American stories. It’s a wonderful choice to have, eons better than the two spoonfed career party men we had to choose from in 2004.

Only history will tell us if this is a historic election (not another e-mail asking for another $5 campaign donation). But the one great guarantee is that this imperfect experiment will result in a change of leadership in the most powerful nation in the world without a drop of blood.

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