By Rory Sharrock
Throughout the past year, Americans have been engaged in a debate of dire consequences as citizens voice their opinions as to who'll be the best fit to sit in the Oval Office between U.S. Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to work as the next Commander-in-chief of the United States.
From the he said, she said arguments of U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Obama that dominated the first half of the year to the recent comedic parodies of Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin (Ak.), the race for the White House has been the hot-button issue and newsstory of the year.
After months of political rhetoric, campaign slogans, negative advertisements and wardrobe financing issues, the moment of truth is finally here as the nation celebrates another peaceful transition of power on Election Day.
While every citizen has a thought as to which person or party is the best, in the professional sports world, team executives, coaches and athletes are encouraged not to expressed their political comments for fear of alienating their fan base or turning away corporate sponsors from investing in their talents.
Although this is the current policy for the pros, here in the Southern Crescent, the local high school student-athletes, who are on the cusp of adulthood, are well aware of the current political climate and have strong opinions concerning the election, the war and the economy.
Some of these gifted adolescents will be voting for the first time today, while others will have to wait until next year for their first time filling out a ballot. However, the one constant theme expressed by all is that this is an important time in American history and they are enjoying every minute of this milestone event.
"I'm voting for Obama because he's different and he wants change," said first-time voter Hakeem Smith, 18, senior wide receiver for the Riverdale Raiders. "We need a Democrat in office. It feels good to vote for the first black president at the time I turn 18. It's wonderful."
Smith won't be the only first-time voter standing in line today to cast his voice for the next president of the United States.
Mt. Zion Lady Bulldogs senior point guard Alexis Griffin will be a part of history when she makes her voice felt at her poll in Clayton County. Griffin, who turned 18 this week, pre-registered months ago and is extremely enthusiastic about today's events.
"I'm very excited because I just turned 18 on Sunday. At first, I didn't think I was going to able to vote because it wasn't going to be enough time. But then I learned I could register ahead of time and I'd be OK," said Griffin. "I'm voting for Barack Obama because I like his ethics and they way he carries himself. I think he's going to help me in the future."
While Smith and Griffin are eligible to participate in today's elections, there are those who are too young to vote. However, that doesn't mean they don't have sharp views as to who will win the office of the presidency.
"It's definitely one for the record books. I'm a McCain supporter because of his experience. Obama seems like he flip flops a lot on his opinion depending on where he's at," said Eagle's Landing wrestling manager Katie Gourley, 17, who is a junior in the classroom.
Gourley's classmate, junior Kendra Adams, 17, who plays point guard for the Lady Golden Eagles, is in the same boat being an underage citizen, however, her political stance is the polar opposite as she supports Obama to clinch today's historic election.
"I wish I was 18 now because we talk a lot about this in history class. I'd vote for Barack Obama because I like the stuff he believes in and what he's saying, especially for the lower middle class," said Adams. "I feel like John McCain is another repeat of (George) Bush. We already had Bush for eight years, so why put another Bush-type person back in the office. I think America is really stepping it up. It shows how African-Americans have come a long way since slavery to now where we can have a black president in the White House."
Along with the presidential race, the vice presidential nominees have become a hot topic around town from the grocery store aisles to the church parking lot. Democrat candidate Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Gov. Palin share contrasting views and these ideas have left an impressionable mark on those in the Southern Crescent.
"I really like Sarah Palin. Granted, she doesn't have the same experience as (Joe) Biden, but she did make a big difference in Alaska with everything she did," said Gourley. "I don't want to say a good opportunity for women, but it's something we've seen before. I'm excited. She's a smart chose and she's definitely going to round up a lot of female voters who were for Hillary (Clinton). Either way, no matter who gets elected, it's going to be a first. It will be interesting how things work out at the polls and on Wednesday."
Yet while Gourley approves of McCain's choice as his running mate, Mt. Zion hoopster Griffin doesn't agree with either candidate and feels a vote for them would do more harm than good.
"To be honest, I don't think Sarah Palin is the smartest individual. The stuff she says and the way she carries herself makes me think I don't want her to be vice president at this time. I don't think she's right for us now," said Griffin.
Although there are tons of opinions surrounding the race for the presidency this Election Day, the one thing that appears to evident is that the course of human history will forever be changed from the final results in the polls.
Seasoned voters have put this in perspective and are proud of the fact that there will be another change in power without any bloodshed.
"Its definitely historical. I hope they don't make it hysterical. Whether you like Obama or McCain, I'm a history teacher and there's a beauty in this process," said Mundy's Mill boys basketball head coach Tu Willingham.
"We're one of the free nations in the world that has open and free elections. I think the people who are registered and coming out to vote is a good thing. I don't play partisan politics. You like who you like and that's fine. I just like that people are coming out to participate."