Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Letter from the (almost) President

I mostly try to keep politics out of this blog (sometimes unsuccessfully, I know), but on the day after the election I want to say something. I got the following email with the subject line "How this Happened" at 11:18 last night. Before Obama's acceptance speech, and about 20 minutes after Florida pushed him over the 270 electoral votes he needed to win.

Deanna --

I'm about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.

We just made history.

And I don't want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it's time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.

We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing...

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,


This touched me. Before he went to celebrate his victory, he took a moment to thank the people who campaigned for him and donated to his campaign, and to claim his victory, not for himself, but for them. He did the same in the acceptance speech. "This is your victory," he said. "We didn't start with a lot of money..." And that's true, he didn't have Mitt Romney money to spend on this himself, he didn't have lobbyist money. What he did have, and does have, is an incredible ability to inspire. Two thirds of people under 30 voted for Obama. And -- this is the statistic that is important to me -- 11% of the electorate yesterday was people who have never voted before. Three quarters of those voted for Obama. Even John McCain, in his concession speech, tipped his hat to Barack for his ability to inspire people to come to the polls. That is remarkable.

I said in a myspace bulletin yesterday, urging people to go and vote, that the next president will be the first since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to inherit a country under both financial and foreign policy crises, and that I believe Barack Obama can step into those shoes. And the letter above reinforced that opinion. Roosevelt's famous fireside chats took advantage of the most current media of the day to step into people's homes and make them feel like the president was their friend and concerned about their problems. Barack is taking advantage of email, youtube, and the Internet to do the same. I had the feeling last night as I read that, that I could send him a letter and he would read it. And it would matter. I don't know if that's the case -- and I'm aware that the email could have been pre-written and sent by one of his "people." Still, the feeling is there, and the fact that he inspired it impresses me.

I saw history made last night, and not because the first black man became President of the United States. I truly hope that within my lifetime we can have an election with a woman, or a person of any non-white race, and it's not a big deal. We can look at their personhood and their qualifications and not this periperhal stuff. No, that's not what I mean by making history. Last night, for the first time in my lifetime, I had the feeling that the man we elected is a great man. There have been few enough of those in American history, and fewer still in the oval office, and heaven knows we need one now.