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Canvassing in Iowa

Sunshine on my navy colored Obama shirt creates just the right temperature.  November or not, forgotten gloves are no big deal.  My newspaper journalist buddy Chris and I set out with maps in hand, for a South End neighborhood of an Iowa city.

Our targets are walled to the east by a huge grain processing plant.  A tidy grade school rims our west and we’re further defined by railroad tracks.  I’m feeling lucky to be handing out invitations to Barack’s Town Meeting this week.

The first homeowner to open a door is a thirty-ish woman who squeals, “I love Obama!”  Maybe this assignment won’t be so hard.  Next, a well-seasoned grim woman holds open her door to hear my appeal.  Clad in a worn dress and favorite house slippers, she thanks me and politely informs me her voting decisions are private.

Big black dogs guarding chain linked yards seem to appreciate my passing sweet talk.  I advise them not to snap at Obama people – we’re the good guys (and the dogs agree).  When I ask one attention-seeking mutt if Republicans ever pat his head, I’m answered “I don’t know” in goofy tail wags.

I’m puzzled by old pick-up trucks laden to near collapse, holding freshly cut stumps in front of a few homes.  A chipping sound signals men in backyards, bent at the waist, hand splitting logs into kindling.  I expect to find wood-burning stoves in remote rural areas, but in a city of over 20,000?  I settle on being humbled by their literal hands-on way of controlling energy bills.  Emboldened, I talk with other men leaning over cars, using the buddy-system to get them running again.  I learn the 1/2 house numbers are backyard garages converted into rental property.

Just when my confidence peaks, I meet the woman I carry in my heart.  Tillie is maybe thirty-eight.  She sounds sixty.  As a nurse aide going to school to become a nurse, she works part-time nights in a nursing home.  Her double amputee spouse lies on the couch in the unlit room behind her.

Tillie supports our War on Terror.  Her son was a Marine in Iraq during the first four years of the war, but he’s home now.  She much prefers we fight the terrorists over there than here.  Convinced it’s a real mean world, she feels we need constant protection at all costs.  Her biggest resentment is our country’s tolerance for illegal immigrants’ free use of our medical system.

When Tillie’s husband became ill, he lost his job and both their healthcare benefits.  Then he lost his legs and their retirement vaporized.  The doctor prescribed $2000 a month in medicine.  She says at the point he goes to a nursing home, they’ll have to sell their house so Medicaid will cover his care.  Her friends advise her to divorce him in order to keep their home.  She says this isn’t the right way and vows never to leave him when he needs her the most.  I see on her face she’s had practice at “sucking it up” to keep a sense of control over their destiny.

I ask her if perhaps a lengthy war over there is draining our means of providing Universal Healthcare for citizens over here.  We rail over gazillionaire politicians’ push for Health Savings Accounts as the “economy boosting” means to fix our medical system.  I tell Tillie hers is the story that needs to be told again and again until our leaders finally get it.  She seems to soften at the idea of an invitation to come meet Barack, for the chance to tell her story and to receive his message of help for her blue-collar neighbors.  Then she remembers it’s also the day her husband goes back for another surgery.

When I ask if a voter has logged on to barackobama.com, I’m met with the same flat response:  “We don’t own a computer.”  The few self-proclaimed Hillary supporters I meet each paradoxically listen to this Illinoisan’s reasoning for not supporting her.  I leave them thinking that perhaps my personal demand for ethics in government has helped to buy back a bit of the media induced/image-making consulting they’ve been sold in the past.

Upon sinking into the donated couch at the Field Office, I fall into silent grief.  Mature volunteers man the phones around me, seeking commitment to attend Barack’s Town Meeting in just a few days.  Young and talented field staff quickly train other volunteers about to embark upon their assigned neighborhoods.  I feel but a pinch of the humongous need expressed to Barack daily.  I’m convinced spreading our hope-filled personal reasons for voting for Barack will ignite the victory we need.  All the Tillies drive me on to doing more.  Nothing changes until we coalesce ethics with action.  Can you help?


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Our little caravan to Peoria yesterday was an active search for hope in a divisive world.  Our driver John is newly retired.  I tried to imagine being his fellow soldier in the helicopter he piloted above Viet Nam.  His girlfriend, Bonnie, specializes in educating those incorrigibles demoted to alternative schooling.  I shared the back seat with Betty who celebrates her independence daily.  She survived a hip fracture with bone pinning last Christmas and manuevers public places by virtue of cane and determination.  I brought my own gray-haired American Healthcare background to listen in.

There’s no mistaking Michelle Obama for someone else.  When she enters a room, “statuesque” comes to mind.  I’m still unable to adequately describe her.  As I recall her powerful message taken home by a packed ballroom audience, I’m lifted by Michelle’s time-changing presence.  Each of us came away knowing we’re connected to the “real thing.”

One becomes immersed in cross-cultural unity at any Obama event.  Women for Obama coordinated a whirlwind schedule for Michelle.  Breakfast in Champaign, lunch in Peoria and dinner in Rockford allowed multi-tasking Michelle to be home in time for tucking Sasha and Malia in bed.

Michelle adeptly wove the story of her South-side Chicago life then to now in describing how two extraordinary people (IMO) met on the job and meshed to produce what we know today.  Michelle has clearly earned her own right to share a table with any elite Politico.  While possessing remarkable poise and beauty, attaching the title of Princess to this learned woman would be an undeserved smack down.  Like many Americans, I came to the event unaccustomed to seeing high-level female leadership (of any heritage) in action.

It would be another disservice to mangle Michelle’s inspiring message here.  I chose to be an event host, encouraging others to contribute to the Obama for America campaign.  My reward was to witness the most powerful woman speaker I’ve ever seen – in my life – ever.

When Michelle described her own father, I thought of Martin Luther King, Jr., a great father belonging to The Ages.  He and I would’ve shared wows of joy.  Michelle talked of the criticisms attempting to be stuck to Barack.  As to the “Is he READY?” and the “Is this country READY…?” Michelle replied, “The best question to ask of them is ARE YOU ready?”

I am – are you?

In case you’re saying to yourself, “I can’t really afford to…” let me tell you, I can’t either.  Here’s how I’ve been doing it:  I almost spent money on clothing for a perceived fancy meal.  I donated that money to their campaign.  I would’ve used a half tank of gas to drive there.  I coordinated a car pool for the day.  Rather than just me having this experience, four of us can now recount it to friends.  After all, it’s our job to help people get ready to change.

As we exited, Betty was beaming as she said, “I can’t wait to tell the girls at Bridge Club about THIS!”  Those “girls” are her elderly Republican neighbors.

“We’re tired of fear, we’re tired of division.  We want something new.  We want to turn the page.  The world as it is is not the world as it has to be .” 

~ Barack Obama

Hope-Action-Change is the Obama family story.  Michelle and Barack are not asking us to do anything they’re not already doing themselves.  I believe their combined messages are our “feet on the ground” keys to success.  Don’t be missing history, hoping to watch it on TV – make a way to be there!

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My either/or mind exerts a preference for contrast while it’s in decision-making mode.  I’m frustrated with not being able to find much ethics information at the White House website.  Let’s review a refreshing memo from Day #1 of the current Administration.


Seems like YESTERDAY – (more…)

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Hey, this is Erin, guest blogging from the New Organizing Institute Boot Camp in DC. We have 60 young progressive organizers from across the country and an amazing view of the Washington Monument from our classroom at GWU. Since Sunday evening, we’ve put in over 30 hours for trainings, activities, and simulations. The level of expertise and enthusiasm in this room is incredible – trainers and trainees alike have been campaign managers, tech gurus, email mavens, field experts, bloggers, candidates and active at any other level of campaigns. Everything has been great, but best thing so far is the campaign simulation group activity. Groups are running campaigns for characters from the Simpsons and competing to see who can build the biggest list of email supporters. The project will culminate at the MoveOn viewing party for the Live Earth concert this Saturday. Show your love for my team (and get stay tuned for a ticket to the MoveOn party) by joining Lisa for President!

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Cross-posted at Future Majority.

Yes, Barack Obama went through his own troubling youth identity-crisis. He has openly admitted he inhaled; he’s been wasted and hung-over more than once in his youth; and he often found himself feeling lost and uncertain about his identity and his ultimate place within the world. But that’s not the youth identity-crisis we’re talking about here. (For the engaging story about this first one, check out Obama’s autobiography Dreams from My Father.)

Barack Obama has another youth identity-crisis taking place today: within his unprecedented youthroots movement. The Obama youth movement is by far largest and most energetic of all the 2000 presidential campaigns. Currently the national student network Students for Barack Obama (SFBO) is the official student wing of the Obama campaign, but as Barack Obama continues to rally young Americans from all sectors of the broad youth demographic with his fresh spirit and generational call-to-action, the question is arising as to how best to integrate this rapidly growing movement into the most effective and efficient structure that can accommodate the broadest number of young Americans—students and non-students, youth activists and young professionals, and the countless other youth and young adults who are ready to change our nation and transform the world.


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“Obama launches campaign initiative aimed at women”

With fierce competition for the women’s vote with ‘strong woman’ Hillary Clinton as an opponent, Obama recently unveiled a new campaign initiative intended to garner more support from female voters.  Women for Obama recently held an event in Chicago to raise money for the campaign.  Obama catered to women in his speech during the event, most notably with his statement that change will come from “a wisdom that is not unique to women but – in my life – I have found oftentimes it is stronger in women.”

Will this new initiative allow Obama to make significant inroads into the female vote, which is presently correlated with the Clinton campaign?

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I think his comments on a Hilary-Obama ticket are worth discussing:

“You don’t run for second. I don’t believe in that,” the Illinois senator said on the talk show “Late Night with David Letterman.” … “That would be a powerful ticket,” Letterman prodded. … Asked by Letterman whether there were private discussions of the situation going the other way, with Clinton in the No. 2 spot, Obama said the contenders were all in the race to win the party nomination but were on the same team. “Really, what we’re doing is we’re trying out for quarterback,” Obama said.

With two strong contenders, would it be possible for them to run together?  And should they?  From an appearance standpoint a woman and minority running together would capture a substantial population.  But realistically, I think their style, politics, and appeal are too different to run together, and I believe Obama would be a better American President.

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