Monday, January 14, 2008

Barack Obama - The Word Is Empathy

2008 is the year of firsts. My first book is soon to make the rounds with prospective acquisitions editors. My first time truly participating the the election process (more than just casting a vote). And my first time volunteering to help a political candidate.

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.

Sadly, around 2,000 people did not get in. Those inside rocked out to some great music while we waited. When Senator Obama finally walked onto the stage, he took the microphone. "I'm sorry I'm late but there's people outside who couldn't get in. Their important, too. I had to give them some love. I hope you understand."

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."
Amen, Barack.
All I can say is if you feel the way I do, go to your primaries and state caucuses, make your voice heard along with me...Yes We Can. And no matter how your vote is cast, participate in this great process that makes America strong. That is the key to change.


Lynda Lehmann said...

A wonderfully inspiring post, Lisa! Americans should not complain about a process they fail repeatedly to participate in! It sure takes more than just casting a vote now and then, to keep a democracy strong. Just imagine if we stopped chasing creature comforts look enough to find our political will! :)

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Lisa,
I to am throwing my support behind a candidate. I am typically loathe to discuss politics. But as the wise saying goes: "You may not be interested in politics; but, sooner or later politics will be interested in you." I cheer your enthusiasm, and I know you are a person of good will. Maybe after the election we can compare notes and see how our candidates performed. I am not saying who I am voting for, yet. But many who know me will be surprised. It's time for a huge change in this country. -Mike.

BookMomma said...

Saw this and thought of you...

What a lovely endorsement Hillary did for our boy!

Owner of said...

I strongly support Barack Obama this election period as I believe that he will make some changes that this country REALLY needs! I just hoping that he makes it. I was also a big fan of Colin Powell, but he decided not to run for president. It's really time to let the democrats, who actually care about the people, make the changes that this country desperately needs. Did you hear that our country was ranked the worst for health care in the industry world? I caught this on Yahoo! the other day, and it did not surprise me. Meanwhile, we give $150 billion dollars to Iraq to help them build sand castles, when they probably don't even want our help. One of the greatest things that I've heard about Obama is that he has a plan to reduce the debt which is dragging this country down caused by student loans. It would be nice for all college students to see a huge decrease in the debt we've acquired to "help this country move forward."

Lisa McGlaun said...


I can imagine it. If we all participated as we should I think our country would be very the very least, more hopeful. I think our dispair is a symptom of apathy.

Thanks for the comment..and everyone you are thoughtful enough to leave.


Lisa McGlaun said...


That's wonderful! I'd love to talk to you about it. You are someone I respect greatly and your opinion matters to me. When is your primary? Is it on Super Tuesday in February?

Thanks for the comment. Best Wishes,

Lisa McGlaun said...


I can't get the link to work but I had a good time looking through the interesting stuff of the website.

Hillary is my last choice of the remaining viable Democrats but I'm trying my best to damp down my opposition. When the time comes I'll get behind the person that wins the nomination.

I want it to be Obama. Because I think he has the same savvy knowledge as Clinton but with a MUCH keener sense of humanity and closeness to the needs of the people.

Also, have you thought about it Clinton is elected what that means? At least 22 YEARS of a Bush or a Clinton in the highest office our country has to offer.

Democracy is not about creating dynasties and it feels like that is what we are doing.

Love you,

Lisa McGlaun said...


I also really admire Colin Powell and feel he would be an effective president. It's too bad he doesn't seem to want the office.

I've been very happy with everything I've heard Obama say. I've read as much as I can about the policies he wants to institute and his plans for the future. I think he's right on the money.

I also am a realist. No candidate can fulfill every promise or expectation. He has to work with the congress and the people of the US and not everyone feels the same way. So then we need a person who can bring compromise and resolution.

I believe in my heart that's Obama.

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Come back and participate again.


Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Lisa,
In my home state of New York, the presidential primaries are on February 5th. I always vote, even for tiny elections like the school boards. My mother was a polling inspector for 18 years and she instilled in us the value of our voting rights. I am registered for a particular party, but I have crossed party lines in the polling booth. I will be doing so this time, for president. I've discussed my choice with my wife who feels the same way because we need a big change on a socio-political level in this country. We need divisive partisan politics to disappear, and we need smart people who care to discuss options and pursue ideas instead of slinging mud. It will be fun to compare notes after the election. Good luck, have fun, and enjoy this historic experience. -Mike.