In 2008, Americans sent President Barack Obama to Washington. We did not send him to do a job -- to save our economy, to safeguard the constitutional rights of all Americans, to protect the earth's resources, to champion the needs of working people, or to bring more peace to our troubled world. We sent him to lead us in getting the work done.
As he told us on that cold and snowy Sprinfield, Illinois day three years ago this week:
...This campaign can't only be about me. It must be about us -- it must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice -- to push us forward when we're doing right, and to let us know when we're not. This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change... By ourselves, this change will not happen. Divided, we are bound to fail... Together, starting today, let us finish the work that needs to be done, and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth.
Then-Senator Barack Obama warned us,
...after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own...
It is that time. Three years later, we are indeed divided. The arm-chair pundits are criticizing, the nay-sayers are shouting "I told you so" and the echo chambers are getting louder and more crowded. From every television, computer, radio, and newspaper they shout, "You can't trust them. They are not doing enough. It was all a pipe dream." The divisions are deep, the fear explosive, and real solutions hard to find. Extremists from both the left and the right have filled the air-waves with tea-party chants, unfounded accusations, hateful rhetoric, doom-and-gloom, shouts of "gotcha" and assaults on our hope.
But still, in each community, in each neighborhood, in each school or workplace, a small voice here and there says, "Yes... we still can."
There are people who wake up every day committed to answering the call put forth by the senator from Illinois, 36 months ago. Some teach students in inner city schools, some volunteer in homeless shelters, some coach after-school sports teams, some build solar panels, some work in hospital emergency rooms, some grow organic food, some design fuel-efficient cars, some read to their young children at home... and some run for office.
Among the latter is Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who, like President Barack Obama, still believes in the promise of working together. Bennet is a public servant who was appointed for office by Governor Bill Ritter because of his intelligence, ability to solve problems, and readiness to roll up his sleeves and tackle tough problems. He spent many days in his first year of office listening patiently to Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike. He is a pragmatist who criticizes back-room deals, who refuses to be swayed by special interests, who will not be caught up in petty politics and grandstanding. Senator Bennet left his successful private-sector career one year ago, and went to Washington to answer the call for CHANGE.
In the year since he took office, Senator Michael Bennet has many accomplishments. Among them, he:
• voted for equal pay for women under the Lilly Ledbetter Act,
• voted to appoint Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor,
• expanded health benefits for children under S-Chip,
• co-sponsored the DREAM Act to give children of immigrants a path to legal citizenship and a brighter future,
• voted for the Matthew Shepard hate crime bill,
• said on national television he would be willing to lose his job to get health reform
• co-sponsored bipartisan Troops to Teachers legislation
• called for the investigation of failed banks,
• pushed for increased lending to America's small businesses,
• cast an historic vote for the Senate's version of the health reform bill,
• denounced the Supreme Court decision to give increased personhood rights to corporations,
• fought to stop last-ditch efforts to jack up credit card rates,
• promoted the potential of Colorado's natural gas reserves during climate change negotiations,
• voted for the President's plan to save and stimulate the U.S. economy,
• has called for the repeal of federal anti-trust legislation for the health insurance industry,
• introduced Pay-As-You-Go legislation to get a handle on the budget deficit,
• pushed to improve delivery of clean drinking water for Colorado communities,
During the course of Sen. Bennet's first year in office, President Obama saw something distinctive in this fresh, young senator from Colorado. He saw a partner in getting the job done -- one who listened intently, made thoughtful decisions, and succeeded at every "impossible" job throughout his career. He saw a principled leader who put policy over politics, bipartisanship over bickering, and integrity over expediency. He saw a partner for transformative CHANGE in Washington.
On February 18, President Obama will come to Denver's Fillmore Auditorium to officially endorse Michael Bennet for the United States Senate. In the audience will be thousands of supporters and constituents -- Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike, ready to stand with Senator Bennet and President Obama to pledge to work together for the good of the country.
I will be there. Please join us to lend your voice, "We cannot be divided. We will succeed."
Disclaimer: This post is my personal opinion only and does not reflect that of any group or organization with which I may be affiliated. Thank-you to professional editor Leslie Lyon for her assistance with this blog post.