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Why Obama?

Posted: 05/01/2013 10:23 pm

The people, whether they're citizens or members of the pundit media, who have constantly asked why most black Americans have overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama, only show how most Americans have notoriously short memories. Many have forgotten that from the beginning, most black Americans supported Hillary Clinton. Most Americans of all colors predicted from the beginning that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee in 2008.

It was only after then-Senator Barack Obama's stunning victory on January 3, 2008 in the Iowa caucus that he captured not only the attention and a second look from most blacks in America, but also from everyone else, even Republicans.

But not from me, for I had a head start. Barack Obama captured my attention the very moment he declared his run for the President of the United States of America on February 10, 2007. It all began with an intuition, which then prompted me to volunteer for the Obama campaign for one solid year from November 2007 until Election Day in November 2008.

Whether one is a voter, a volunteer, a staff member, a donor or a fundraiser within the vast apparatus of a major political campaign, one cannot nonchalantly dismiss the characteristic of likability in a candidate. Likability alone may not be enough, but it has to be among a candidate's arsenal of weaponry. People help people they like, and that mattered to me.

While volunteering for the Obama campaign all began with my intuition and this candidate's likability, there was undeniably a third motive driving me to help out again in 2012: resolve. After hearing all the hate mongering and birther talk during the past four years, I knew I had to go flat-out, full-throttle, full-afterburners on this one. For the Obama 2012 campaign I not only did phone banking, but also voter registration, data entry (despite being a not so fast typist), and canvassing a total of 15 times, much more than in 2008.

All of this reminds me of the commencement speech Senator Barack Obama delivered in 2006 at the University of Massachusetts, where he voiced the words of Robert F. Kennedy, "The world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease."

When I read those words, I clipped them out of a newspaper, because it is something I have always long believed that America had been missing. When Barack Obama decided to run for the presidency, I still had the excerpt from his 2006 commencement speech, and in addition to my intuition and his likeability, it told me everything I needed to know about the man.

A quality of the imagination, and that was it: imagination. And from that I believe right now, in the current sequester, America currently suffers from a poverty of imagination, which is also a chapter in The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto by Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. Along with a poverty of imagination, America suffers from a fear of uncertainty.

As Warren Buffett recently said, "Of course, the immediate future is uncertain: America has faced the unknown since 1776." This same man, the fourth wealthiest person in the world, who still lives in a five bedroom house he bought in 1957, with no wall or fence, and not one security guard and no surveillance cameras anywhere on the property. And it is this same man who appears comfortable with uncertainty, who also supports President Barack Obama.

I still remember what remarkably happened in this country after September 11, 2001. I left for Australia from L.A. for a 10-day vacation the day before on a Qantas 747 flight at 11:30 p.m. We missed it all. After I got back, it then suddenly didn't matter to people what side of the tracks you came from. It lasted only a month and people wished that things would get back to normal, while I wanted the continued abnormal of people being nice and more accommodating all of a sudden. And that's what we need now as a nation, to be galvanized and to be known for a nation taking giant leaps, as we have done before. We need to get out of our malaise. We've done it before, and we need to do it now before the middle class is reduced to only a whisper. We need to do it soon, and not in the future. We need to be galvanized, and backed by, the qualities of youth and of the imagination.

The interfaith services that were held on December 16, 2012 at Newtown, Connecticut and recently in Boston, proves Americans can unite for remembrance of the fallen and the sharing of sorrow. And tragedy, is no respecter of color, age and social status of any individual. Yet can't we also unite to galvanize America without a national tragedy and despite any grievance towards our president? Chris Matthews of MSNBC had said it best when talking to former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs after the president spoke at the Interfaith Boston Marathon Memorial when he said, "With the president one can always argue about his policies, but as head of state he comes through."

On that day of January 20, 2009 I was lucky enough to attend the Inauguration and as we waited for the Inaugural parade, it was cold, like a little over 20 degrees cold. Luckily, I wore thermals beneath my blue jeans, had gloves on and layered clothing beneath my jacket. Finally after we all waited for well over three hours, I heard a thunderous roar. That meant the first black American president and the first black American first lady were coming. We did it. We did it in 2008, and we did it again in 2012 -- people like Field Organizer Mark Jimenez from Sacramento, California; and volunteers like Kala Rehm of Las Vegas, Nevada; David Howell, Lisa Hayes and her son Caleb Haye, all three from Seattle; Bruce Chen from L.A., who I had canvassed with during the last week of the November 2012 campaign; and myself. We pounded the pavement and pounded the pavement and pounded the pavement until finally the pavement had to protest and give. We all did it. And together we can do it again.

 
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