I decided to follow my heart and do what I could to learn about what an Obama presidency would mean for this country and started posting on SEATTLEFORBARACKOBAMA.COM in February 2007. HOWIEINSEATTLE.COM will continue to follow progressive Democratic politics in the spirit of Howard Dean's effort to "Take Our Country Back."--"In the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it."--Barack Obama
Thursday, June 14, 2007
"Walk for Change Recap: What a Movement Looks Like" (with videos)
We announced that on June 9, there would be a nationwide Walk for Change, where thousands of grassroots supporters from across the country would pound the pavement in their neighborhoods and share Barack’s hope for a new kind of politics. In the history of political campaigns, nothing like this with people in all fifty states participating this early on in a campaign—- had ever been done before. But we believed that by combining unmatched grassroots energy for a candidate with unprecedented integration of online tools, you guys could pull it off.
Below is the story, with video and photos, of Walk for Change. It's the story an unprecedented grassroots mobilization that brought more than 10,000 people out to the streets. It's the story of ordinary people working together to share their hopes and dreams; ultimately, it's the story of an effort to reclaim our democracy.
When we announced Walk for Change in may, hundreds of you began planning events in your communities, using online tools on my.BarackObama.com. The range of people who planned events was incredibly broad—- people of different cultural and religious backgrounds, political persuasions, and ages, signed up.
People like Lily of West Des Moines, Iowa, a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore, who said that she and other high school students "can make a tremendous impact" on the campaign.
"I may not be able to vote myself, but I can go out and tell my family members who generally won' caucus. My 19-year-old brother doesn't really know what the caucus is," Lily (second from the right) said. "If I can get five people to caucus for Obama in '08, it makes a bigger difference than my one vote."
The new media team worked with the field department to ensure that you all had the resources you needed to be as effective as possible in your canvassing efforts. Those of you who had at least five online RSVPs received a box of literature, stickers, and other materials. Over a thousand of these boxes went out to all fifty states, not to mention Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
One of the people who received a box was Charmaine, a woman from Montgomery, Alabama. "I turned 60 years old in April, and in my entire life," Charmaine told me after receiving her box, "I have never been involved in a campaign before, never been excited about a candidate."
Charmaine grew up in the segregated South and attended an all-white high school, and became actively involved in the Civil Rights movement in college. She attended the marches in Selma, Alabama, and months ago, watched Barack commemorate those marches in Selma.
She told me that the work she's doing on this campaign was bringing her back full circle to her earlier grassroots activism. "I was very much an activist in the 60's," she says, "and at age 60, I'm getting that feeling back. I have that same energy and enthusiasm for change."
Everyone who I spoke with had a story-- a personal calling and motivation for getting involved and participating in something bigger than themselves. For nearly everyone involved, the Walk for Change was deeply personal.
On June 9th, thousands of people like Lily and Charmaine—people who were activated for the first time in their lives, and people who were activated for the first time in decades—hit the streets.
In the early states, the grassroots turnout was particularly strong. In Charleston, South Carolina, nearly a hundred people showed up in ninety-degree heat and extreme humidity to Walk for Change. Charleston field director Kevin pumped up the crowd:
One of the most passionate and tireless canvassers was Reverend Scipio, a lifelong resident of North Charleston.
When people didn' respond, he made sure to leave literature. When people told him they didn't want to talk, undeterred yet respectfully, he'd say "Well, ok, that's fine, I understand. Would you mind taking this literature to learn a little bit more about the Senator?"
Nearly everyone who was home, though, showed genuine interest in hearing about Barack. Several pledged to support him and many said they were leaning towards supporting him. Only one person responded with an unequivocal "Not interested!" when the Reverend approached him. As we began to walk away, though, his teenage son poked his head out of the door and said, "Hey you guys are with Obama? Can I see that? I'm interested."
Throughout the day, it became clear that there was something else happening-- something much bigger than merely checking off names and drumming up support for Barack. People were talking about the collective challenges facing their communities. People were sharing common hopes for change in 2008. People were connecting. And in Reverend Scipio's case, reconnecting.
The very last door Reverend Scipio knocked on brought a surprise-- the man who answered was a classmate from North Charleston High School, Class of 1969. The two hadn't seen each other in nearly four decades. After catching up, the gentleman introduced Reverend Scipio to his son-- and the Reverend, ever the canvasser, made sure to sign up the young man to register to vote. Both father and son enthusiastically agreed to support Barack and spread the word in their community.
All over the country, people were connecting and reconnecting with their neighbors.
From New York City...
To Salt Lake City...
From Omaha, Nebraska...
To Anchorage, Alaska, people Walked for Change.
In South Central, Los Angeles, an extraordinary 220 people from all different backgrounds showed up to Walk for Change.
Here's a video recap of walks that occurred all across the country.
The number of people who got involved for the first time was remarkable.
Take Antonio, who Walked for Change this Saturday:
I am very happy to have been apart of the June 9th "Walk for Change" day. I am 30 years old and this event was my first time every participating in any such political event. It was a step of faith for me putting aside my fears and moving forward. Senator Obama is fresh and exciting. He provides a sense of hope for me as a young black male who is an entrepreneur working hard to provide the American dream for my family. Today was a great day!.. Me and my mother n law hit the streets together and we got results!
Or Samantha from Wyoming, who told us:
This is the first time anything like this has been done in my community and those that had never canvassed before loved the experience. Sure, we got some grumps, but for the most part the event was received well and the participants can't wait for another opportunity like this!
Or Andre, who canvassed in front of his local grocery store:
It's been 37 years since I immigrated into this country, and I never got involved in politics before... Well, I guess it's never too late to get started…
I talked to Russian immigrants, Asian families, whites and blacks, young couples and old ones, gays and straights, you name it. Just about everyone seemed to agree that we had to stop the war in Iraq now, and that a universal health coverage was very much needed in the richest country in the world.
Barack often says, "If you decide that you're going to get involved, we'e not only going to win an election, we're going to change the country." This is exactly what he's talking about-- reversing the dark cloud of cynicism that has loomed over our politics for too long and getting ordinary people to believe that they can make a difference, to understand that the process can work for them if they participate.
That's what happened this weekend, and that's what's happening every day in this campaign. Someone who didn't care yesterday, cares today. Someone who didn't believe in the possibility of change yesterday, believes today. Someone who never thought they'd ever get active in the political process yesterday, got active today.
For too long, special interests, lobbyists, and corporate donors have held our politics in a stranglehold. They have benefited from a status quo in which ordinary people have long felt alienated from the political process.
This weekend, the American people got engaged, and in doing so, they shook the political establishment and sent shivers through the special interests in Washington. They proved that ordinary people have the energy and tools to organize themselves and act in unison for change. They showed that, in the long run, big money is no match for a big movement.
They showed that when the people care and the grassroots gets active, the status quo can shift and the government can become ours again.
In early May, we tried something that might have seemed preposterous a few years ago.