As I make my way to Charlotte I can't help but think of the trek I made four years ago to Denver as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. As an Obama delegate, I was part of a diverse group of Californians. We went to Denver after a bruising primary against Hillary Clinton. Even though it was believed Obama had the nomination locked up at that point, there was still a question of what the Clinton delegates would do on the convention floor. Fortunately, we left the convention united and went on to win the White House.
We were already in a recession at that point. In the Inland Southern California area where I live, many families had started to realize they were in over their heads as early as 2007. Weekends in middle class neighborhoods consisted of block after block of garage sales. Previously empty driveways now had overnight parkers as families moved in together. Long before the mainstream media began to focus on the extensiveness of the recession, Inland Empire residents knew it was bad and getting worse.
In 2007, local Obama supporters formed a lively group of grass roots supporters we called Obama Riverside. We managed to open a campaign office in Riverside even though most of us had never been involved in politics before. The group united the community in a way that had not previously been done. Obama Riverside consisted of local high school students, an active group from UCR, old timers, members of the religious community, all races, the LGBT community, and even a few Republicans! We came together in our hope for change and better times.
That November, Obama won the previously red county, and at the inauguration the following January, we celebrated the victory of hope and change over the status quo, never doubting that the road ahead would be rocky.
We know what happened next -- the enthusiasm among the supporters gave way to frustration. The president couldn't get the compromise he needed from the so-called patriotic Americans on the other side. All they could say was "No!" They had no hesitancy in letting the country go over a financial cliff. Anything, it seemed, to make Obama look bad.
We watched a group called "The Tea Party" emerge and launch a full scale attack on immigration, gay marriage, civil rights, voting rights and women's rights. Tons of corporate money was funneled into state and local races to create a political landscape that favors the wealthy.
We saw ugliness and blatant racism in the halls of Congress and at rallies through-out the country. We saw a president forced to show his birth certificate. And, most telling, we saw a Republican Congress intent on going against every initiative from the administration. They all marched together lock-step.
Still, President Obama managed to pass the most important legislation of our time to help individuals and families manage rapidly escalating health care costs. And, most agree the stimulus he passed did slow the tide of the recession. (Ironically, many Republican members of the House made sure to spread stimulus money around in their communities.)
We have made it to 2012 and as America struggles to regain footing -- with many still unemployed and unable to pay their mortgage -- there is something else we are seeing now: even in the hard hit Inland area. Better times. A little more disposable income, a lot more saving. Glimmers of hope!
It is Charlotte's turn now. Our guy is already president this time. There are those who say the enthusiasm isn't there... but the reality is how could we ever match the excitement of first electing a candidate that truly represents today's American future? Supporters may be slower in coming to the table, nevertheless we must. There is a growing feeling that this just might be a more critical race. There is more to 'lose' in this election. The choice has never been clearer -- backward or forward?
From the other side we see a desire to return the country to 1950's America -- backward. Today's America -- today's diverse America -- deserves better than empty chairs. We deserve a seat at the table to help our communities grow and thrive.
Hope cannot be measured in time. It is not a one shot deal. It continues, and more importantly, it sustains. It is the glass half full and the attitude that says, "Yes, indeed! We are going to make it!"
Our hope is resilient. We're not done yet!