Gay marriage and pot, oh my.

Four more years.

For some that is a joyous announcement, and for others it is cause to drink away their sorrows. (Ok, perhaps not that bad, but you get the point.) Outside the States, people are having a jubilee. And I must say that Romney gave an honorable and polite concession speech. I congratulate him on that matter and congratulate Mr. President on a reelection. But whether you are for or against Obama is not my point today, because what is also making the news is that the United States continues to make history with every election and this one has been no exception.

In Maryland, voters approved the MD. Dream Act, which would give tuition breaks to students who were brought by their parents as illegal immigrants. According to The Baltimore Sun, supporters of the act argue that “the tuition breaks would help young people who were brought here by others to become contributing members of society.”

Maryland voters also voted to legalize same-sex marriage (this vote upheld the law that was already in place). Voters in Maine also approved same-sex marriage, “making the two states’ voters the first in the country to approve the measures by a popular vote” (The Washington Post).  Minnesota  and Washington are voting whether to approve laws that would allow same-sex marriage (The Huffington Post). And while we’re still waiting for results, at least it’s a close race.

In other historical news, Colorado and Washington have become the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. It will be interesting to see how this works out, because while the new laws will make it legal for anyone over 21 to possess up to an ounce (without a medical marijuana card, which has been the case so far in CO), and for businesses to sell it, the drug is still illegal according to federal regulations.

According to ABC News, “even though the issues have passed, they are likely to meet legal challenges very quickly. In 2005, the Supreme Court struck down a California law that legalized medical marijuana in the state. The Court said Congress had the power to criminalize marijuana under the Commerce Clause.”

Yes, times are changing, and in my opinion, they are only getting better. Life has been rough for many people recently and I can only hope that things continue to improve for everyone. And it’s times like these, when people come together for the greater good and recognize that we are not alone in our problems, when people are allowed to marry who they love and families can–legally–be together, when children who want to get an education are not punished for actions out of their control,  and when opposing sides can gracefully acknowledge the others’ strongpoints, that I become hopeful. And whether you are for or against legalizing marijuana, it is the idea that people are open to listening, open to change, that forces me to fully appreciate the beautiful diversity that builds our country.

And today as I sit in a classroom in Istanbul, Turkey, and watch events unfold back home, I celebrate how far we have come, but am aware of how far we still have to go. I hope our president will fulfill his duties and lead us to strength and recovery, with the world watching. And as cliche as it may sound, it is days like today that I am especially proud to be an American.

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