It seems that these "firsts" extend well beyond me. Barack Obama made history in Iowa as the first African-American presidential candidate to carry the Iowa caucus, or any caucus or primary for that matter. He's well on his way to making history as the nominee for the Democratic party and the first African-American President of the United States.
I'd been passively watching the debates and all the stumping, ad nauseum, of the past year. I told myself I'd pay attention later, maybe in the summer, when I voted in the primary. Then I got a phone call from the Democratic party, asking if I knew about the upcoming caucus and how it worked. I did and I didn't. I said, "Yes but I'm voting in the primary."
Imagine my shock when she answered, "There is no primary in Nevada this time. We are an early caucus state. This is the only time your voice will be heard before the general election in November." That woke me up.
I grabbed my latest copy of Newsweek and some of the local papers stacked up in the garage, hit the Internet, and educated myself on the Presidential Race. I looked at voting records and issue comparison sites, hoping that the pieces would fall neatly into place.
They did. Barack Obama's name kept coming up (along with Dennis Kucinich) when I took the polls or looked at the candidates views side by side. End the war in Iraq within a safe and reasonable time period - check. War, in general, is a bad idea - check. Health care for everyone - check, Common sense education reform - check. Practical leadership experience - check.
Now I got excited and went to my local campaign office to volunteer. Three hours in the stuffy, cramped office and I knew I'd found my political family. As I looked around the phone banks at my neighbors diligently making calls, I noticed something amazing - the America I always believed existed, so different from the image pushed on us by the media. There were young people, college students, retirees, mothers (me with my three year old wandering around the office), white, African-American, Latino. Every walk of life was represented.
I found out about a rally at a neighborhood school and scrambled to get tickets and attend. I had to see for myself if this man and the feelings he ignites are for real. My twelve-year-old son went with me. We stood in line with close to 4,000 people for over an hour, hoping to get inside the gym. Daniel and I made it but just barely. We made out way with the last 100 or so into the few remaining seats at the top of the bleachers.
You know that line from the movie Jerry McGuire..."You had me at hello." Well, he had me. This was different. He did what I would have done - what I would have wanted someone to do for me. Now that's cool.
Before long he opened the floor to questions and I was privileged to ask the last question of the night. I wanted to know his views on the Military Commissions Act of 2006. I got the answer I'd hoped for. Turn back and amend the act, restore the writ of habeas corpus, repeal unconstitutional executive powers. I could go on and on but in my excitement that's all I remember well enough to quote.
The two things that made me happiest - He talked about empathy and understanding, walking in the other guys shoes as a powerful negotiation tactic as well as a life philosophy. That is what I experienced in his campaign office as the staffers played with and put my little boy to work. No one pushed him away or told me not to bring my child. He was included. They were empathetic.
He talked about transparency in government, putting health care negotiations and round table discussions on C-SPAN.
And finally, "No one will be reading your emails or wiretapping your phones or looking at what books you checked out of the library when I am your president."