On the morning after the most historic election in our history, newspapers all over the country blared out mile high headlines. "OBAMA" the New York Times shouted. But only a few hours after Obama was declared the President-elect, the advice giving started. Don't get arrogant, a Phoenix newspaper opines. Move quickly from campaigning to governing, suggests the Des Moines Register. An Indian newspaper warns of an uncertain road ahead for Obama. A Japanese newspaper says that the hard work starts now.
My question for Obama and for the millions of volunteers who worked so hard to elect him is, "What now?" What will happen to the incredible energy and enthusiasm? The almost obsessive activity that many of us engaged in over the past 22 months? Can Obama harness and redirect this energy and interest in our democracy? Or can WE harness and redirect the energy we felt?
It's not really Obama's responsibility to keep us involved. It really is ours. We should not be asking what Obama can do for us. We should be asking what we can do for him and the country. So here are some suggestions I have for keeping alive his call to service.
1. Turn your attention to local politics. Take what you learned from the Obama campaign and focus it on what is happening in your city at the City Council, the Board of Education, whatever governing body affects your daily life.
2. Talk to people who did not vote for Obama. Find out why. Try to refute some of the smears that will only continue. Don't let acquaintances or co-workers get away with these lies.
3. Volunteer -- in your own community. If you were not actively volunteering before this campaign, start now. The need is huge. The opportunities are many. Obama will no doubt increase the size and scope of existing volunteer programs like VISTA or Americorps or the Peace Corps. My husband and I were in the first Peace Corps group to go to Ethiopia under President Kennedy. It changed our lives.
4. Keep your elected officials honest. If you have never written to your local, state or national elected officials, start doing it now. No use complaining about Washington unless you are willing to do something about it. I expect Obama to set up an active rapid response effort to legislation he proposes. Imagine the impact of millions of emails to a congressman or woman who does not support Obama's health reform plans?
5. Blog and comment online. Many of us blogged about Obama during the past few years, and it was fun and enlightening to read comments and make comments of our own. I myself started blogging for the first time because of Obama. I complained about the media's shallow interviewing of Palin; and I tried to point out the radical nature of McCain's health plan proposal. In addition, I registered on various state-level blogs and wrote diaries and blogs there whenever I could. There will continue to be a need for ordinary people to blog about their experiences during the campaign and their opinion about what Obama does once he is President.
UPDATE: President-elect Obama launched a website on Thursday, November 6th- www.change.gov - to allow the public to find out information about his policies, the inauguration, share stories about the campaign, and send their resumes for government positions.