On June 28, 2008, the Barack Obama campaign organized over 4000 nationwide events to gather grassroots volunteers in an initial push toward the November election. With the primary election settled and the first Obama – Clinton joint appearance in Unity, NH, complete, it’s time to get the grassroots campaign back in swing and get the volunteers reenergized for what promises to be a contentious and exhausting five months. As Obama said when he addressed his campaign staff after the primary election, now that he has won the nod, we have no choice but to win the White House.
I was fortunate to attend Maryland’s largest Unite for Change event at the World of Wings (WOW) restaurant in Waldorf, MD. A crowd of 76 volunteers gathered at 5 pm to watch videos, listen to will.i.am, and share their personal stories of why they support Obama’s candidacy. Hosted by Charles County Commissioner Reuben Collins, the event was attended by several local Democratic party officials, members of the Charles County Black Caucus, representatives from the Maryland Democratic party, and a representative from Sen. Ben Cardin’s office. Most exciting, however, were the volunteers, especially those who had never before volunteered on a political campaign.
After the dignitaries were introduced and the videos were watched, each person present was given the opportunity to say why they were there and why they support Obama’s candidacy. The reasons were as varied and as inclusive as the members present. Representing black, brown, white, teenage, and senior citizen, volunteers stood at the microphone and described being proud to support a leader who can put America back at the international table with dignity. They described the thrill of supporting a man who, while being America’s first African American candidate, transcends race. These volunteers got over their fear of speaking to strangers to describe the excitement of volunteering for a candidate who understands the needs of the middle class, will get us out of Iraq, and will serve as the people’s President. As one volunteer put it, working and voting for Barack Obama will be delivering the country to the American Dream instead of the American Nightmare.
Being with this group of volunteers was humbling. Many of those present put issues of race right on the table, clearly drawing out the symbolism of Obama’s candidacy and the need for healing that his election will hopefully facilitate. These are the conversations that we need to continue to have if we are to realize some of the dreams that Obama put forth in his challenging speech on race in March. My friend Zennie says that racism is a mental illness. Maybe Obama can be our collective psychiatrist.
I hope that the Unite for Change events all over the country were as productive and powerful as I felt ours was. I know that our volunteers left “Fired Up! Ready to Go!” If you attended one, I hope you did, too. If you’re late to this party and would like to find out more, please visit the official Barack Obama campaign site to find out how you can get involved. Whatever you do, vote. If you need to register, visit Rock the Vote to find out how.