Back in March 2003, I was very angry about the direction of where my country was going. I didn’t like the way President Bush was leading the country, and I decided to attend the California Democratic Convention in Sacramento to see what kind of candidates were running against him. As a media professional, I obtained my press credentials, and brought a camcorder to document the big speeches.
On March 15, 2003, my life was changed when I witnessed a very powerful speech by Governor Howard Dean. He spoke clearly about issues I cared about, and it moved me like no politician I’d ever seen. Within weeks, my video footage of him was seen around the country, thanks to the new Meetup networking tools, and I entering a universe I’d never been before. I shot a lot of footage of Howard Dean, co-founded the DeanMediaTeam, and established a wide variety of methods for folks to view stump speeches by the man I believed would make a superior president. After Dean’s defeat in the primary election, I used my services to support the John Kerry candidacy. After this effort was also squashed, I retreated back to my life before grassroots politics. I had my bills to pay, and other projects to tend to.
Four years and two days after Howard Dean’s big Sacramento speech, I attended my very first Barack Obama rally. I was very impressed with his speech at the Democratic Convention of 2004, and I continued to be impressed by the way he handled himself in the time between. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get back into the groove of grassroots politics. It sucked a lot of time out of my life, and left me very frustrated. Did I really want to repeat this experience?
A few months ago, after reading an impassioned essay on why Obama should run for president, I was inspired to buy the Barack-Obama-Now.com domain, and a handful of other related domains. With the new blog software, and the ease of setting up Google ads to pay for this sort of thing, I figured this sort of thing would be a snap to maintain.
So here I am, back on the ground, doing more grass roots activism for something I believe in.
Barack Obama had a very impressive turn-out in Oakland on Saturday. 10,000 is an amazing number for ANY candidate, and this was very impressive. The crowd was bigger than the anti-war protest the next day in San Francisco. People want change, and Barack Obama may be the man to deliver the antidote despearately needed by the American people.
As this was also St. Patrick’s Day, I bought one of the very cool green “O’Bama” t-shirts.
I did shoot some video of Obama’s speech, but I’m not sure how much I’ll share, as it’s very shaky. As it turns out, there was a sea of camcorders at this event. Every other person seemed to be pointing a camcorder, a digi-cam or cell phone at Obama, trying to capture the moment for posterity. I have no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot of video of this event in the near future.
The California Progress Report had a nice overview of the event, including some transcriptions of Obama’s speech. Here’s some choice nuggets from the man himself:
But we are here because the country calls us. We are here today because history beckons us. We’re here today because we face a series of challenges as significant, as daunting, as challenging as any that any generation has faced. And we understand that because this nation is at a crossroads both internationally and domestically, that if we don’t stand up to meet those challenges right here and right now, that we may end up with an America that is a little poorer and a little meaner than the one we inherited from our parents.We know what those challenges are. That we have a health care system that is broken, that is bankrupting families, but also is bankrupting the nation. We know that we’ve got an education system that is teaching the few but failing too many. That we are not preparing our young people to compete with this new global economy.
Ww understand in the bargain, we are melting the polar icecaps and warming the planet and that if we continue on the path that we are on right now that we are going to have a planet that is unrecognizable, one that impacts not just our generation but generations to come.
We understand that we have an economy that has never been more productive, that has never generated more wealth, and yet we understand that only some are benefiting. That the burdens and benefits of this economy are not equally spread across the country. That while you have some people who have never had it so good, making hundreds of millions of dollars, that the average person is seeing their wages stagnant, they’re seeing their salaries not move, even as the cost of health care, education, and retirement, the cost of gasoline, the cost of everything is going up while their wages are going down. Families are anxious and we understand we have to meet that challenge.
And most of all, we understand that we are in the midst of a war that should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged and that after spending half a trillion dollars and seeing almost 3,200 precious lives lost and thousands more … and maimed, their lives never the same again–that we are actually less safe, that America’s standing in the world is diminished, that we are less able to affect what happens around the globe.
After speaking poignantly of a returning veteran who had been in a coma, and the severe problems, he and his family was left with, he continued..
I was reminded why of we are here today, and I was reminded of why I was running for President. Because what it told me and what all of you understand is that politics is not a game. The decisions that are made in Washington are not sport. And the reason we have not been able to meet the challenges that we face, whether it is a war that should not have been waged, or whether it is a healthcare system that is broken or an education system that is inadequate, it is because at some level we have been so consumed by cynicism and pettiness and negativity in Washington, that we no longer recognize what’s at stake. We no longer understand what’s going on in the life of that veteran. We no longer understand what’s going on in the lives of the union worker that’s seeing their jobs go overseas. We don’t understand what’s happening to students who are trying to make their ways through college. We don’t understand what’s going on with the lives of ordinary people. And we are here today because we said we’ve had enough. And we want change.
There is an awakening taking place all across America. As people realize we can no longer afford such cynicism. That it’s time for us to step up and meet these challenges and create the kind of politics that’s not based on division, that’s not based on hatred, that’s not based on fear, but is based on hope. And that is the kind of politics that we expect to create in this election. A politics that’s based on all of us coming together instead of being driven apart. If we change our politics, then we will change the nation.
You know, after I made the announcement, some people said, you know Obama, he’s got some talent, he could go places, but–he doesn’t have enough experience. And I have to point out that, listen, I’ve got some experiences that I think are very relevant to helping to shape our future.
I know that my experience as a community organizer taught me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they are given the opportunity. My experience as a civil rights attorney tells me that fairness and justice have to be fought for each and every day that they don’t come on their own. I explained that my experience as a state legislator, helped me to make sure that we got videotaping and interrogations in detention so that you don’t have innocent people on death row or creating health care for children who don’t have any, instituting the first racial profiling legislation, or instituting ethics reforms in the face of resistance from Democrats and Republicans.
That has taught me that if you focus on the public’s ends instead of your narrow political interests, if you are willing to listen, and you understand that politics involves compromise as long as you are not compromising your principles, and your not worried that you can actually get something done in government, that government can be a noble calling.
And I told them I’ve got a lot of experience as a US Senator working with people like Dick Lugar on ending the proliferation of weapons that are responsible for deaths all around the world and making sure that we’ve got the toughest ethics reform legislation in Washington, since Watergate. So–I’ve got some experience in but–what I understand, I guess what you’re saying is, that I don’t enough Washington experience. And what I tell people when they tell me that is, it’s true I haven’t been to Washington that long. But I’ve been in Washington long enough to know that Washington needs to change. And that’s the reason I’m running for President.
And if we change our politics, then we can change the problems that people say are insoluble. Don’t believe that we can’t do something about the challenges that we face. We know what to do with health care. …We can apply all these savings and make sure that every American has basic health care. In fact, I want to be held accountable for that. We can have universal health care by the time by the end of the next President’s first term. We can have universal health care by the end of my first term in office. We can do that. Don’t let them tell us we can’t do that. We know what to do. We know how to fix our education system. That if we put money into early childhood education, that every child will actually be prepared. Instead of passing a bill called “No Child Left Behind” that left the money behind. …
We know what to do about energy. That if we set up a system like California has boldly decided it’s going to set up, so that we are capping the emission of greenhouse gases–it can actually generate jobs and industry–there’s no reason we can’t create entirely new sectors of the economy.
But here’s the thing. Even though we know what to do, it is my assertion that it is going to be very difficult to do any of these things until we finally bring an end to this war in Iraq. We can’t spend a hundred billion dollars overseas every year and expect to solve the problems here at home. I am proud of the fact that I opposed this war from the start. That I stood up in 2002 and said this is a bad idea. That this will cost us billions of dollars, and thousands of lives, and we don’t have a strategy for getting out. And I am proud of that. But I’m also proud of the fact that I now have a bill in right now that already has 50 sponsors in the house including Republicans that says we have to begin withdrawing our troops on May 1 of this year and have a plan to have our troops out by March 31 of next year. We can do that. We can do it in a responsible way. I’m somebody that believes that we’ve got to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.
He then passionately spoke about veterans coming home from the war and not getting the treatment they needed. His voice rising, he said:
Don’t stand next to our flag and say you believe in supporting the troops when you forget them when they come home. We can do better than that.
We can do all of these things. But let me tell you this. I can’t do it on my own. I am confident in my capacity to lead this country.
In the history of this nation, change has never come from the top down. It’s always come from the bottom up.
I was in Selma Alabama to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of that famous march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I was accompanied by Barbara and my colleague John Lewis and it was a magnificent day. Everybody was solemn for the occasion. We joined with the former President Clinton, and Senator Clinton, and dignitaries from all around the world to march. And what I was reminded of was the enormous power of ordinary people when they made up their minds that they are tired with what’s been and they’re looking at what might be. When they make the determination that this country can live up to its ideals.
Some folks thought that that celebration was a black thing. I said, you don’t understand that this is an American thing. Because what happened at the Edmund Pettus Bridge was emblematic of what has always happened when we met challenges. And that is that people have had the audacity, the boldness, to believe that something better is right around the bend, that something better is out on the horizon. That is how this country was built.
At each and every stage we have made a determination that we don’t listen to the folks that say “We can’t do.” We don’t believe in the can’t do, won’t do, won’t even try style of government. We don’t believe in that. But we have done it from the bottom up. And so let me just say this today over in California. I can’t do this on my own. This campaign is a vehicle for you. It is a vehicle for your hopes. It is a vehicle for your dreams. When a million voices join together, they cannot be stopped. …
If we work together, I promise you that we will not only have a better America, but I may be the next President of the United States.”
Here’s some other articles on this event:
Rolling Stone article
SF Chronicle article
LA Times article