The last of my brother’s blogs.
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I was on the floor the other day and came across a man of about forty who wore on his left breast what looked like a military medal. A small ribbon pinned to his chest with a medallion hanging from it. It was the credential that his grandfather wore at the 1960 Democratic Convention. Whatever this movement may come to be called, Camelot is in the air. At the stand in the Convention Hall, there were four flavors of Obama buttons. Obama alone, Obama-Biden, Obama and Dr. King, Obama and JFK.
Such have been the expectations for this evening. Rhetoric has been much praised and much maligned this election season, but I believe rhetoric can be powerful and important. Its capacity to link emotion and change can be a force for good or ill. And in either direction, the tone set by President of the United States speaks volumes all by itself across this country and across the world. As someone who appreciates good rhetoric, I would say going into this evening that of the best dozen speeches I’ve ever heard, at leave several have been given by Barack Obama in 2008 alone.
Which brings us to Invesco Field. The lines to get in started early and snaked across the landscape for often over a mile. It reminded me of the images of people lined up at Altamont to see the Rolling Stones. And inside… diversity, passion, history. Within a few seats of me in all directions was a picture of American diversity that would have made Norman Rockwell proud. Amongst the most poignant… a woman of about thirty, two seats away her husband, and between them in a cradle their months old baby.
When was the last time we had a political leader capable of drawing the passions of over 80,000 citizens? I would argue that it was forty years ago, and both of them died that year. Obama’s speech was, I felt, perfect. As always, his rhetoric is a joy to listen to, but the content was critically important as well and therein was the perfection. When Obama delivered his historic speech on race back in the winter, Jon Stewart, struck by depth and reason of his argument, commented that Obama was “treating us like adults.” That same sense struck me last night. It was sweeping in scope, impressive in logic and deeply substantive. And structurally, he did what he needed to do. Obama told his story, spelled out the case against McCain, and offered the type of detail for his own program that indeed is the basis for mandate should we be victorious.
But the essence of the night was the history in the air. There was a gravitas to the moment that was impossible not to feel, a power magnified by the collective, passionate cry for change inherent in the unified voice of all that were there. It was a deeply moving experience. It was an extraordinary honor to be there. It ranks among the great experiences of my life.
I’ve been reminded several times this week of an interview I heard a few months back. It was with a man whose mother had been on the frontlines of the women’s rights movement back in the 60s. He, his siblings, their kids kept asking his mother who she was going to vote for in the primaries, and uncharacteristically she wouldn’t answer. So on election night he asked her who she had voted for. All her life, she said, she’d been wanting to vote for a woman for president. It was, to her, the ultimate expression of her life’s work. But as she saw how excited her children and her grandchildren were about Barack Obama, “Well,” she said, “I decided I had to vote for their future and not for my past.”
That story particularly came back when my friend Jo reported that her 94 year old mother has decided that she’s only lived this long so she can vote for Barack Obama. After that, it’s all up for grabs.
On a different note, my friend Cindy reports that her “almost five” year old wanted to know whether Obama has a hard time breathing while he is “running” for president.
Other tidbits… the Alabama delegation has t-shirts… Obama Y’all. Love that! And spell check on my Blackberry keeps wanting to change Obama to oboe. Change we don’t believe in!
It’s been my honor this week to a part of history, a special moment in history, and it’s been a privilege to share this with you. It’s been my hope to enliven and enrich for you the experience of this one large step in this enormously important election. I believe what is literally at stake is the restoration of our nation’s most basic values.
John Lewis is part of the Georgia delegation and spoke movingly this morning over breakfast. Today is the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. There were ten speakers that day. John Lewis was sixth, Dr. King tenth. Congressman Lewis is the last of these men standing. “What we saw last night,” said Lewis, “was the down payment on the fulfillment of the dream. Now we must march again. We must march in every village, town and hamlet. We must march again on the ballot box. We must march to save this piece of real estate we call America.”
So where do we go from here? There are 18 targeted states in this election. In Georgia, the Obama campaign has 56 offices and 175 organizers. If you want to help, call the Georgia Democratic Party in Atlanta and ask about getting connected to this effort. If you’re in a different state, call your state party or call the party in a swing state not your own and see what you can do to help.
There are sixty eight days left until this election, and we’re not going to win unless we get enough people registered, to the polls and voting for Barack Obama. Former Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus joined us for breakfast this morning, and as he eloquently put it, “Sixty eight days is not very long to work for our children, for a brighter future and for a better America.”