Saturday, November 08, 2008

What a Country!

Line at my polling location
Outside the West End Library
Cambridge Street, Boston
6:45 a.m.
November 4, 2008

Reed Passafaro, fellow Obama volunteer, raised a glass to me on election night at The Mission Bar in the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston.

"What a country," he toasted, a reference to the late Tim Russert.

"What a country!" I replied.

Tim Russert is no doubt smiling in heaven this week. For Republicans and Democrats alike, the 2008 Presidential election proved to the world how great America really is. More people voted this year than in any election in U.S. history, and when all is said and done, election turnout will be higher than in any election since 1960.

Senator Barack Obama became President-elect Barack Obama at precisely 11 p.m. eastern time on Tuesday, when the networks projected that he would win California's 55 electoral votes. Fittingly, the networks that have been analyzing and re-analyzing this amazing race to eager consumers-- well, they all stopped talking. And for five minutes we listened to cheers in Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York. We quickly saw a makeshift celebration outside the north entrance of the White House.

A catharsis was at hand.

Regular readers know I voted for Barack Obama. Beyond my vote, I worked more for Barack Obama than for any other Presidential candidate in my lifetime. It started back in February, when I knocked on doors in the Boston neighborhood of Back Bay the weekend before the Massachusetts Presidential Primary. I traveled to New Hampshire four times to help with canvassing efforts there, including Monday and Tuesday of this past week.

Beyond campaigning for Obama, I also helped Sonia Chang-Diaz and her campaign team in the Mass. 2nd Suffolk Senate race. It created quite a schedule for me during the final two days of the election season, with travel back and forth to New Hampshire, periods spent hanging signs, making phone calls, and driving volunteers to canvassing turfs. And of course, twenty minutes
out of my schedule to vote in Boston on election morning.

During the final weeks of this election season, it was hard not to get caught up in the wave of excitement about Barack Obama. There were so many examples of the ebullience for change-- a feeling that overflowed in those five minutes after he was pronounced President-elect.

  • In Alabama last week on the way to Panama City, I was stopped by two Georgian residents who asked me where I got the Obama sign I had taped to my window. They wanted to buy one.
  • On the phones on Monday, I reached an 18 year old woman and asked her if she was planning to vote on Tuesday. "OH, yes," she exclaimed. "I am planning to vote. Let me just walk through with you my schedule so you know exactly when." I really didn't care about her schedule, but I let her walk through it with me, since it sounded therapeutic for her.
  • Waiting for volunteers at my car pool meet up location on Beacon Hill, runners and joggers would flash a thumbs-up when they spotted my Obama sign. Cars driving buy would honk their horns, and it wasn't even like I was trying to be seen.
  • On the street corners of Manchester, an average of 10 Obama volunteers could be seen at busy intersections holding signs and chanting "Yes, we can."
  • Late on election eve, while hanging signs at polling locations in Mission Hill, a random stranger came up to me (I admit I was a tad alarmed) to simply ask me what time the polls opened in the morning. Another told me he was voting in the election for the first time

Putting aside the winners and losers of the election, I think we can all be proud of what happened this past week. I remember four years ago, staring out into the void of space and trying to figure out what country I was living in. I could not understand how America could have re-elected President George Bush. I faced the reality that too many across this land just did not agree with the things I believed in. That perhaps I was just hopelessly out of touch.

Looking at the thousands of cheering faces this past Tuesday, I recognized America again. And I like what I saw.

What a country!

1 comment:

Rachel F said...

This gave me chills, Ross. So true. What a country and what a great election. Tim would be smiling in heaven. I miss him.