Milwaukee, WI - It is a cold, windy summer night here in downtown Milwaukee, and hundreds of health insurance reformers are filing into Meier Festival Park. Earlier today, more than 3,000 reformers gathered in New York City with the same message of hope. One thousand came out in Portland. Another 1,800 are finishing up a reform event in Austin, Texas. And, nearly 800 rallied for health insurance reform in Fargo, North Dakota today. These crowds come on the heels of last night's 1,500-plus reformers gathering in Denver, Thursday's 1,000 plus rally in Albuquerque and another 1,100 on Wednesday night in Phoenix -- all part of Organizing for America's national bus tour. In addition to this, hundreds of health insurance reform activists were trained on community organizing skills in Maryland, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Arizona, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana and Montana in the past two weeks. Thousands more woke up this morning, gathered together as neighborhood volunteer teams, grabbed clipboards and continued going door-to-door, making calls and connecting with their neighbors one-on-one as part of OFA's methodical, meticulous, focused organizing strategy.
This weekend's outpouring of support follows weeks of organizing from pro-health insurance reform supporters across the country. They have visited their Congressional members' offices (some 64,000 in one week took part in that civil action). They have called their members' offices. They have attended town halls -- over 2,100 reformers in Reston, VA, 1,200 in Kansas City, MO, 800 in Albuquerque, NM, and 700 in Queens, NY, just this week alone. In addition, over 1.5 million OFA volunteers -- not to mention the volunteers from other health insurance reform coalition partners -- have taken direct action on health care in the past 11 weeks: writing letters to their editors, canvassing their neighborhoods, and organizing local events to spread the truth about President Obama's health insurance principles.
With each conversation, volunteers have been getting supporters to sign declarations of support and now those volunteer leaders are presenting those declarations to Members of Congress across the country. Here in Milwaukee, volunteer Community Organizers from every Congressional District spent the last 11 weeks collecting tens of thousands of declarations from voters in Wisconsin. In a few minutes Diana, Nate, Jessie, Terrell, Staci, Barbara, Joseph and Beth will present these declarations to Congresswoman Gwen Moore. Also today, 150 volunteers gathered in Reno, Nevada to deliver the thousands of declarations they've collected from health insurance reform supporters across the state. In Sonoma, CA, 300 volunteers came together and delivered their declarations directly to Representative Mike Thompson and Representative Lynn Woolsey. Ceremonies like this are taking place in Congressional Districts across the country this week. Since the President hosted his national forum with OFA, over 2,000 local events like this one have been planned before recess ends. OFA volunteer leaders already organized an additional 12,000 local public event events since our reform kick offs back in June.
In all of these events, local citizens have shared their personal health care stories; doctors, nurses, small business owners, and seniors have talked about the urgency of reform -- respectfully, personally, and truthfully. There is no doubt about it -- health insurance reformers are significantly outnumbering the supporters of the status quo at town halls and on Main streets across this country. Looking out at this crowd in Milwaukee tells the real story of August -- the story the 24-hour cable echo chamber has refused to tell -- the story of a nation on the brink of real, substantive change. Wisconsinites continue pouring into the park. There are now over 1000 people here calling for reform. They are young and old, wealthy and poor, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native America, Democrat, Republican and Independent. They are here because the status quo is no longer acceptable. They are here because they voted for change in November. They are here talking about this important issue because our President has wisely and courageously chosen to make real change.The real story of August is the story of these reformers. Don't let the cable news obsession with a minority group of angry protesters tell you otherwise. We knew it would not be easy, but the two volunteer Community Organizers from Milwaukee I am about to introduce -- Felecia Martin and Dream Gunther -- knew that too. It's why they have been building local groups of volunteers across Wisconsin who are contacting their neighbors, setting the record straight, recruiting more reformers, and building something that will bring change on health care, energy, and education reform (and beyond). Want proof this strategy can work? If the group of 800 reformers in Fargo, hundreds of whom signed up to volunteer door-to-door earlier today is not enough for you, then come on out to one of the 2,000 plus local events happening across the country in the next few days. We knew change was not going to come easy. It never has. But, it is coming. I can feel it in the air here in Milwaukee.
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