When I was in middle school, during P.E. we had to jump hurdles as part of our physical tests. Because I was at least five inches shorter than the other boys, jumping those hurdles seemed impossible, and whenever I tried, as hard as I jumped, my feet would always knock against the tops of every hurdle. With every jump, I thought I was going to trip and fall headfirst into the ground. After the first three hurdles, overcome with fear and embarrassment, I would bow out and walk off the course, take an incomplete, never getting to the finish line.

I would practice at home trying to jump higher. I would set up chairs with pillows set to the proper height. But no matter how much I practiced, I could never do it.

Then one day I saw that the grounds crew messed up and set the hurdles lower than normal. When I tried running over them, it was still a challenge, but I was able to clear every hurdle, and had enough energy to sprint to the finish line. Mr. Balogh, my P.E. coach, logged my time during that run, with a smile on his face.

I know that my time wasn’t really official, because the hurdles weren’t at the proper height. I know that I’ll never compete in the Olympics. But just being able to reach the finish line, with an actual time to show that I did try, was enough for me. I didn’t feel like an outcast anymore.

This is one of the reasons why I voted for Barack Obama this second time around, even though I know that with a Republican president, our country might be stronger, with more income earners keeping their money instead of giving it to others.

I believe that our country needs to promote capitalist ideals, rewarding success and hard work. But I also believe that our country needs to be kind, recognizing that not everyone, no matter how hard they try, will be successful, and help those people as well.

Our country needs to promote excellence, train the best athletes, so that we’re able to win the most medals. But I also believe that every once in a while we have to lower the hurdles, just a little bit.