I just got off the phone from a conference call with Senator Obama, who I fully believe not just can but will be our next President. I am the Chair of the Grassroots group, Utah for Obama. This weekend, there is a nationwide event called Walk for Change, and I am organizing the one in Salt Lake City. Because of that, I was invited, along with several other members of Utah for Obama, and leaders of groups from other States, to participate in a conference call with the Senator. It was a very uplifting experience, and I'm glad I was able to be a part of it.
Follow me in for the summary.
* Misty Fowler's diary :: ::
Walk for Change is a canvass of a local neighborhood, where we will distribute materials to people and let them know about our local grassroots group.
At the beginning of the call, campaign staff let us know that this weekend's Walk for Change is being held in all 50 states. There are over 150 canvasses taking place, and over 10,000 people have signed up to walk.
Barack came on the line and spoke about how this is the largest event of it's kind this early in a campaign in history.
Utah for Obama got an honorable mention from Barack. He was speaking of how many people were signed up, and he said that even in unexpected areas like Salt Lake City, we have over 50 people signed up, and then said he wanted to give a shout out to Salt Lake. (Yeah, that made me a little happy!)
Below are the notes I took from the rest of what he said. This isn't a transcript, it's just the best notes I could take while listening.
We're seeing hunger for something different, new. People are tired of a Washington that keeps score of who's up and who's down, and that's more important than constituents. Politics has become more of a business than mission. But, there's another kind of politics that says we've got a stake in each other, and a responsibility to each other. This weekend's Walk is powerful testimony to the change the people are hungering for. Change always comes from bottom up, not the top down, and it starts with people like you, you are the foot soldiers for America.
I am constantly inspired by the cat that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
We are going to turn the page on health care (elaborated on problems).
We are going to turn the page on education (elaborated on problems).
We are going to turn the page on an energy policy that sends millions of dollars to worst regimes in world while that energy melts the polar ice caps.
Before these things happen, we have to make sure the movement is out there.
The most powerful motivator for many of us is ending this disastrous war in Iraq. I'm proud to be able to say that I opposed from the start.
I want to remind everyone that part of what we are doing is promoting my candidacy, but part is sending a broader message.
Remember, we are only 16 votes away in the Senate. The only way we bring this war to a close before I am President is by having a veto-proof majority. When you're out there this weekend, tell people to contact their senators and congressmen and urge them to end the war.
While you're out this weekend, you may encounter some bad weather, some rain. Some may be in areas where there is not much knowledge about myself or my candidacy. Folks may not believe in the Democratic Party. They may be cynical and discouraged. But, when good people with strong convictions stand up for their beliefs, few obstacles can stand in way. So, I'm reminded of the famous words to "Kick off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes".
Then Senator Obama took questions from a few people. Here is that summary:
Ken from Phoenix. Barack asked how hot it was going to be this weekend, Ken replied that it would be over 100. Ken mentioned that there would 300 in Phoenix, a couple dozen in Tuscon, some even in Bush Country, Prescott, participating in the Walk. The Walk is powerful idea, and speaks to civic action. "Please tell us the most important lesson you learned as a Community Organizer."
Barack's reply: The most important lesson: Listen, don't just talk. Hear their stories. If someone says they're not voting for Obama, ask why. If someone says Democrats won't change anything, ask them why. The biggest mistake we can make is lecturing, telling people what they should do instead of asking what's on their mind. As what is motivating them, what concerns them. The greatest pleasure is to really be curious. And the more you learn from them, the more it will inform your world view, and make us more in tune with what people are talking about. You could even get stories that I may end up talking about from the stage.
LouAnna from Atlanta, GA. "Why do you believe that the Democratic Party doesn't believe the red states can be won?"
Barack's reply: We're gonna change that in this election. There was a time when south was solidly Democratic, and there is nothing inherent with what is going on in the South that can't be changed, if we're showing up, reaching out. It is important not to concede any place, whether it is a rural community, or the red states. Again talk, listen be respectful. You have to understand democracy works because ordinary people want to do the right thing. My intention is to make sure we can compete in south not just in the Primary Election, but also in the General Election. Part of what you are doing now is building support for the General Election, so that when it rolls around, we have a presence there. We want to show our interest and respect, and compete in every state.
Mr. Diaz from Naperville, IL. "To what do you attribute the tremendous grassroots effort for your campaign?"
Barack's reply: As I said before, people want to see something new. Partly because of the way I arrived on the national scene and because the language we use unifies and not divides. That makes a big difference. Part is also that we actively encourage people to get involved, especially young people who have enormous pent up energy. They volunteer other things, but rarely get involved with politics. But they've never been invited to politics. We want to make sure we are welcoming their ideas and input. The internet is powerful way to do large scale national events, like the Walk. But this is based on small get-togethers, people organizing through web. I think technology been able to advance organizing.
Carlos, From New York. The US is losing influence in Latin America, and people are turning to anti-American leaders. What will you do to reverse this trend?
Barack's reply: This will be a critical issue after the election. How do we restore our reputation in world? (mentioned JFK, communism, Alliance for Progress) We have to prove that the US cares about Latin America. If we are seen as bullies who impose our will regardless of what people want, there will be push back. If we ignore legitimate aspirations of people, there's going to be resentment against the US. We have not had an active Latin American policy for 6 years. We have not spent time listening to what's going on in Brazil. We're ignoring the poverty, inequality, and the enormous potential for growth in market in Latin America. Our biggest economic competitor, China m, has been in the news, making an enormous difference, and the same true in Africa. Some is matter of paying attention, listening, show up, and finding mutual interest. We must not obsess with Hugo Chavez, and have wars of words. We must show other counties we have something to offer, that we are interested in economic ties with them, and we want to promote vibrant societies.
Barack closed with this statement:
I want to remind you all - don't get discouraged. The key issue is listening and being persistent. I don't think we're going to automatically set the world on fire in every neighborhood. All we are doing this Saturday is starting to lay the groundwork. I am proud of you all, and grateful for the work you are doing.
If any of you are interested in participating in your local Walk for Change, it's not too late! You can go to Barack's web site and find one to participate in locally.