A Nation of Community Organizers
It's all very exciting. And nerve racking. I just came from our "Campaign for Change" Arlington VA headquarters office where I dropped off breakfast. A very good buzz while they got ready for the final push. There were several intersections where "young people" had signs that said "Honk for Obama". I passed several very long lines at voting places. We have volunteers at all the polling places to help people pass the time.In an earlier email, in which she explained how she got from supporting GHWB to supporting BHO, she put it plainly:
It will be a very long day. I woke up at 5:45 to cook after not much sleep last night. Yesterday I put door hangers on 71 houses. I will have some time to take a nap this afternoon and should... but it's hard to sleep. And I'm sure I'll be up late tonight, either way!
I'm just trying to pay my penance!Indeed, I think we as a nation have a penance to pay. Change will not come just because a new President will move into the White House. This will become apparent to us all quickly enough. I suspect the euphoria over the election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United (and yes, I mean "United") States of America many of us feel will be short lived. There are simply too many incredible challenges facing us for the celebration to last. The hard work begins now. As the former community organizer said in his victory speech last night:
If you watched that speech though, you couldn't help but notice a certain heaviness in President-Elect Obama's tone. On a night when he should have been so very proud of his accomplishment, he seemed genuinely humble and perhaps even a bit somber. Something George Packer noted [via Sullivan] might explain why:
The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.
There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.
But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand. [...]
It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.
Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.
In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.
As I watched the throngs celebrating last night in Chicago, in Harlem, in Rockefeller Plaza, in Times Square, I thought to myself that President Obama need not be afraid that he will not have the strength to do this job. He need not fear because we, the people, will be right there working with him. Things simply have to change. Thousand of people are losing their homes, their jobs, their healthcare insurance, their businesses, and their security. The "Era of Me" must come to an end. It's time for the US to become a nation of community organizers. We have a penance to pay and it's truly now or never.
Obama seems a bit grave to me these days. The death of his grandmother has edged his public mood with sadness, but this heaviness preceded it. [...]
The reason came to me when I was reading the galleys of H. W. Brands’s new biography of F.D.R., “Traitor to His Class.” On the night of his landslide victory over Hoover, in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, Roosevelt had an intimate conversation with his son James:
“You know, Jimmy,” Franklin said, “all my life I have been afraid of only one thing—fire. Tonight I think I’m afraid of something else.”
“Afraid of what, Pa?”
“I’m just afraid that I may not have the strength to do this job.” He paused reflectively. “After you leave me tonight, Jimmy, I am going to pray. I am going to pray that God will help me, that he will give me the strength and the guidance to do this job and to do it right. I hope that you will pray for me, too, Jimmy.”
Bambino and I attended a benefit for The Coalition for the Homeless Monday night and the event's co-chair Richard Gere told the assembled what must become our mantra: it's easy to give when you're flush with cash...it's easy to be generous when times are good...but it really means something when you give when it's hard. It's gonna be hard for so many folks. Unfortunately, the experts all seem to feel it will get worse before it gets better. Now is the time to donate to your favorite charities. Now is the time to volunteer in your community. Now is the time to ensure our new President that casting our votes was our commitment to do our part, that we understand it's not "Mission Accomplished," but rather mission just getting underway.
For anyone out there still unfamiliar with the term, I should explain what a "community organizer" is I suppose. It's a bit tough, actually, as the term is used more as a description of a belief system than any concrete sets of tasks or responsibilities, but I guess a community organizer is kind of like a small town mayor, except that a community organizer can actually change the world. *
*OK, so pettiness and immaturity are hard to give up...but I promise to try hard to make that my last swipe.