Neighborhoods, At Last, Have a Ball



Barack & Michelle Obama as their first dance as the new President and First Lady (Full Version)

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

If that is all there is, and there is more than we ever imagined, then let us keep dancing.  Let us sing, and have a ball.  If that is all, then we, as a country, have much.  We can see the errors of our ways.  We can change.  Yes we can.  

A Democratic society adjusts to situation.  We alter course when we have gone astray.  The people can choose another direction.  Neighbors unite.  Belatedly, as it may sometimes be, we can come together and work more wisely.  We have.  We are the American way, at last.  At long, long last, our love has come along.

The lonely days are over.  Life is like a song.  At last, the skies above are blue.  Our hearts were wrapped up in clover the night we looked at you, America reborn.

We found a dream that we could speak to, a dream that we can call our own.   The vision is one we will, share, forever.  America, you are our home sweet home.

60 Minutes with the American People



CBS Video. 60 Minutes 11.16.2008

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

On Sunday night, November 16, 2008, twelve days after an historic Presidential Election, Americans watched the couple who represents the culmination of their efforts.  Barack and Michelle Obama appeared on 60 Minutes.  Journalist Steve Kroft sat with the President-elect and his partner and pondered all that had occurred and would possibly be.  Television screens flickered.  People felt elated, exhausted, energized, or just excited.  Few knew what would come.  However, most agreed, after the 2008 Presidential Election, everything was different.  

Barack Obama was not yet in the Oval Office.  The Illinois Senator’s promises of transformative policies are still not in place.  The transition team had begun its work.  Yet, until the President-Elect takes office nothing official can be done to bring about the pledge of change.  Only hope reigned eternal.  Nonetheless, the world had turned on its axis.  All were altered by what had occurred the night before.  The evidence was perhaps more obvious in the United States.  

A friend, who lives in Chicago, Barack Obama’s hometown, said, as he drove to work on Wednesday morning, November 5, he could not help but notice sanitation workers wore smiles.  Other commuters were more at ease.  Persons in cars were happy to allow pedestrians the right of way.  People on the road did not pass each other in haste.  Genuinely polite postures were adopted on city streets.  

The mad scramble, the race to nowhere, the need to rush was replaced by a pleasant amble.  People on the streets were authentically more polite.  It seemed to my champion in the Midwest, just as it did to me in the South East, America had done the unexpected, the unprecedented, the unpredictable, and for the most part, people were quite pleased with them selves and with the nation as a whole.

Some were shocked to discover a Black man could rise to power, and become President of the United States.  Others were in awe that the man, Barack Obama had not been scared off.  So many political opponents tried to intimidate him.  Any excuse was used to slam and damn the man some thought was not Presidential material.  Barack Obama was too thin, too fat, he did not associate with the “right” people; nor did he reside in a house that befitted his station.

Scandals were floated and filtered through the airwaves; the Illinois Senator was tied to the Chicago machine.  The constitutional lawyer was called a Socialist, and a Communist.  Those who misread reports in prominent periodicals avowed; the then Presidential hopeful palled around with American terrorists.  

As if all that was not enough, the candidate’s complexion was too dark in color.  Yet, for several, Barack Obama was not Black enough.  Threats, from the first, were heard on the campaign trail.  White supremacists, and those who merely believe themselves superior to African-Americans, attempted to put Senator Obama in what they thought to be, his place.  Racism was perhaps the most recognized reason for a possible retreat.  However, it was the one few wished to publicly broach.  Prejudice was perchance the only issue posed that could not be denied.

All the rumors were proved wrong.  Rants were rarely reasonable.  Rage rolled off Barack’s back.  Anger expressed against the person, Barack Obama was thought without cause.  The individual who asked to be President did not personally revile his rivals.  He did not antagonize his adversaries.  Forever calm, Presidential aspirant Obama held his own.  He captivated a country ready for change.

The person who emerged, Barack Obama, and the average people who endorsed him, helped build an American community so powerful, so full of pride, practical, and persuasive, they were able to elect a President.

That action was the change that transformed America.  A supposed “celebrity” did not move millions to go to the polls.  Eloquent speeches did not cause the country to suspend disbelief.  Citizens of this country did not wait in long lines to cast a ballot for a boy wonder.  Eighty-two year old men and women who had never voted in their lives did not register merely because they saw a man they could believe in.  Hope did not enter hallowed halls and bring people to their knees.

What occurred on November 4, 2008 was the American dream.  Apathy virtually ended.  The people took back their power.  Since Election Day 2008, average Americans anticipate that the man they appointed President would do as they desire.  Common folks began to believe they were as the Constitution of the United States declares, equal.  There was a genuine hope; the government was truly of, by, and for the people.

City laborers did not glow with glee as they reflected upon Barack Obama in the White House.  Bus, train, plane, and subway riders did not rejoice merely because the son of a Kenyan scholar, and a Kansas student would take the oath of office.  Nor did millions dance with delight as they pondered the other prideful parent, Michelle Obama, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  A country did not celebrate Grandmother Robinson’s possible move to Washington District of Columbia.  Few found intense pleasure in the notion that the daughters, Sasha and Malia, and a new dog would romp around the Rose Garden.

Billions beamed throughout the globe for finally, everyday folks, at least in America, achieved the impossible.  Common people created enthusiastic communities that together showed they cared.  Masses knocked on millions of doors.  More made telephone calls.  All asked friends and family to have faith that change could come if we, the people, organized and acted together as one.  

The hope was that if the public believed in them selves, as the Presidential aspirant, Barack Obama requested, common folk would overcome all obstacles.  On November 4, 2008, many realized they had reached heights not attainable in year’s prior.

While Barack and Michelle Obama spoke of how the election had altered their lives, the audience trusted, in truth, what was transformed was not evident on the television screen.  Change came through challenging work.  Citizens accomplished more than they had.  Harden hearts were replaced with a reason to believe again.  On Election Day, the people and the nation were transformed.  

On that special Sunday, more than a week after an extraordinary election, the people’s image of self, and others, were seen in the smiles donned by Broadcaster Steve Kroft, Barack and Michelle Obama, by street sweepers, bus drivers, school teachers, stylists, police persons, fire fighters, doctors, lawyers, nurses, and so many more Americans.  Each grinned as they said to themselves, “Yes we can!”

Michelle Obama, Americans Are the Change We Can Believe In



Michelle Obama Keynote Address at Democratic National Convention

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

I had the incredible privilege of hearing, seeing, and being with the glorious Michele Obama a few weeks ago.  Near a month earlier, I listened intently to the speech she shared in Miami.  It was in the twilight of the day when Michelle Obama presented just a bit of the story she told the nation this evening.  Although, at that event, the entirety of her narrative was yet to be revealed, I knew then, that this woman was, is wondrous.  I said so when given the chance.

On that auspicious occasion, as Michelle Obama held my hands and looked me in the eyes, I spoke with the mother of Sasha and Malia, the individual I hope will be our First Lady.  I expressed my faith.  This sweet and sensational being, Michelle Obama is the change I can believe in.  She smiled gently.  We each trusted the truth that she and her husband Barack often offer; genuine reformation will not come unless we, the people, all of us, take part in our political system.

Now, in Denver, as she stands on the stage, in front of an audience that reaches further than can be seen from the podium, Michelle Obama related the saga that is yours, mine, and ours.   Again, she touched hearts.  She tenderly shared her tale.  Her life experience is average, American, exceptional, and exemplary.  Michele Obama is as we, the ordinary people, are.  

As a child, she believed.  Without the opportunities afforded to those born into opulence the two achieved beyond what many imagined possible.  

Tonight, we, every citizen of the United States, is asked to accomplish great feats, just as the Obama family has.  Here is our chance, our opportunity.  We can see the prospect of what might be.  The question is, will we embrace it?  Will we, the people pursue our own dreams?  Perchance, we might be inspired.

Change is a challenge.  Most of us chose transformation slowly.  We accept what might be bit by bit.   Our betterment is a progression.  Possibly, tonight we have we have sensed a glimmer of hope.  Might we be encouraged to believe, to achieve, just as I was when I first encountered Michelle Obama.  Might today be the day in which we begin to hold hands, walk with our heads high, confident that we, each of us, can be the change we believe in.

Please peruse the text, the transcript.  The words may be the inspiration you, I, we need.

Michelle Obama’s Remarks at the Democratic Convention

August 26, 2008

Transcript

The following is the text of the remarks by Michelle Obama, the wife of Senator Barack Obama, on Monday night at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions.

As you might imagine, for Barack, running for President is nothing compared to that first game of basketball with my brother Craig. I can’t tell you how much it means to have Craig and my mom here tonight. Like Craig, I can feel my dad looking down on us, just as I’ve felt his presence in every grace-filled moment of my life.

At six-foot-six, I’ve often felt like Craig was looking down on me too…literally. But the truth is, both when we were kids and today, he wasn’t looking down on me – he was watching over me.

And he’s been there for me every step of the way since that clear February day 19 months ago, when – with little more than our faith in each other and a hunger for change – we joined my husband, Barack Obama, on the improbable journey that’s brought us to this moment.

But each of us also comes here tonight by way of our own improbable journey.

I come here tonight as a sister, blessed with a brother who is my mentor, my protector and my lifelong friend.

I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president.

I come here as a Mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world – they’re the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. Their future – and all our children’s future – is my stake in this election.

And I come here as a daughter – raised on the South Side of Chicago by a father who was a blue collar city worker, and a mother who stayed at home with my brother and me. My mother’s love has always been a sustaining force for our family, and one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion, and her intelligence reflected in my own daughters.

My Dad was our rock. Although he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in his early thirties, he was our provider, our champion, our hero. As he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk, it took him longer to get dressed in the morning. But if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing – even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my Mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier, and worked a little harder.

He and my mom poured everything they had into me and Craig. It was the greatest gift a child can receive: never doubting for a single minute that you’re loved, and cherished, and have a place in this world. And thanks to their faith and hard work, we both were able to go on to college. So I know firsthand from their lives – and mine – that the American Dream endures.

And you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that even though he had this funny name, even though he’d grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine. He was raised by grandparents who were working class folks just like my parents, and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. Like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities they never had themselves. And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.

And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children – and all children in this nation – to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.

And as our friendship grew, and I learned more about Barack, he introduced me to the work he’d done when he first moved to Chicago after college. Instead of heading to Wall Street, Barack had gone to work in neighborhoods devastated when steel plants shut down, and jobs dried up. And he’d been invited back to speak to people from those neighborhoods about how to rebuild their community.

The people gathered together that day were ordinary folks doing the best they could to build a good life. They were parents living paycheck to paycheck; grandparents trying to get by on a fixed income; men frustrated that they couldn’t support their families after their jobs disappeared. Those folks weren’t asking for a handout or a shortcut. They were ready to work – they wanted to contribute. They believed – like you and I believe – that America should be a place where you can make it if you try.

Barack stood up that day, and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about “The world as it is” and “The world as it should be.” And he said that all too often, we accept the distance between the two, and settle for the world as it is – even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations. But he reminded us that we know what our world should look like. We know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves – to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn’t that the great American story?

It’s the story of men and women gathered in churches and union halls, in town squares and high school gyms – people who stood up and marched and risked everything they had – refusing to settle, determined to mold our future into the shape of our ideals.

It is because of their will and determination that this week, we celebrate two anniversaries: the 88th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, and the 45th anniversary of that hot summer day when Dr. King lifted our sights and our hearts with his dream for our nation.

I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history – knowing that my piece of the American Dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. All of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work. The same conviction that drives the men and women I’ve met all across this country: People who work the day shift, kiss their kids goodnight, and head out for the night shift – without disappointment, without regret – that goodnight kiss a reminder of everything they’re working for.

The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table. The servicemen and women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it.

The young people across America serving our communities – teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day.

People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters – and sons – can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.

People like Joe Biden, who’s never forgotten where he came from, and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.

All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do – that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.

That is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack’s journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.

That is why I love this country.

And in my own life, in my own small way, I’ve tried to give back to this country that has given me so much. That’s why I left a job at a law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young people to volunteer in their communities. Because I believe that each of us – no matter what our age or background or walk of life – each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation.

It’s a belief Barack shares – a belief at the heart of his life’s work.

It’s what he did all those years ago, on the streets of Chicago, setting up job training to get people back to work and after-school programs to keep kids safe – working block by block to help people lift up their families.

It’s what he did in the Illinois Senate, moving people from welfare to jobs, passing tax cuts for hard working families, and making sure women get equal pay for equal work.

It’s what he’s done in the United States Senate, fighting to ensure the men and women who serve this country are welcomed home not just with medals and parades, but with good jobs and benefits and health care – including mental health care.

That’s why he’s running – to end the war in Iraq responsibly, to build an economy that lifts every family, to make health care available for every American, and to make sure every child in this nation gets a world class education all the way from preschool to college. That’s what Barack Obama will do as President of the United States of America.

He’ll achieve these goals the same way he always has – by bringing us together and reminding us how much we share and how alike we really are. You see, Barack doesn’t care where you’re from, or what your background is, or what party – if any – you belong to. That’s not how he sees the world. He knows that thread that connects us – our belief in America’s promise, our commitment to our children’s future – is strong enough to hold us together as one nation even when we disagree.

It was strong enough to bring hope to those neighborhoods in Chicago.

It was strong enough to bring hope to the mother he met worried about her child in Iraq; hope to the man who’s unemployed, but can’t afford gas to find a job; hope to the student working nights to pay for her sister’s health care, sleeping just a few hours a day.

And it was strong enough to bring hope to people who came out on a cold Iowa night and became the first voices in this chorus for change that’s been echoed by millions of Americans from every corner of this nation.

Millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams; that Barack will fight for people like them; and that Barack will finally bring the change we need.

And in the end, after all that’s happened these past 19 months, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago. He’s the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital ten years ago this summer, inching along at a snail’s pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he’d struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her what he never had: the affirming embrace of a father’s love.

And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they’ll have families of their own. And one day, they – and your sons and daughters – will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They’ll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming. How this time, in this great country – where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House – we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.

So tonight, in honor of my father’s memory and my daughters’ future – out of gratitude to those whose triumphs we mark this week, and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment – let us devote ourselves to finishing their work; let us work together to fulfill their hopes; and let us stand together to elect Barack Obama President of the United States of America.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

References . . .

Presidential Candidates and the People; Politics is Personal

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

A tired and emotionally torn Hillary Clinton trembled slightly as she voiced her concern for the country and her campaign.  A somewhat shaken Senator said, “You know, this is very personal for me. It’s not just political.  It’s not just public.  I see what’s happening . . . It’s really about all of us together.”  Indeed, Senator Clinton, it is.

For months, former Senator John Edwards has shared a similar sentiment.   Once more, in an interview with ABC News George Stephanopoulos, Presidential hopeful Edwards emphatically declared, “I want to be the president who fights for the middle class, fights for working people. The kind of people I grew up with, George. I said this last night. This is not abstract or academic for me. It is personal.”

Republican hopeful, Mitt Romney also embraced the phraseology a month earlier.  In a campaign advertisement released in his home state of Michigan, Mitt reminded the voters, “For me, Michigan is personal.” The place of our birth, the era in which we evolved, the circumstances of our lives are all personal, as are our reactions to these. When we cast a ballot in favor of a policy or a Presidential aspirant, as profound as we wish the decision would appear to be, essentially it is personal.

Each and every individual is influenced by what occurs in the privacy of his or her home.  Our hearts speak more loudly than our minds.  However, reluctant we are to admit this, humans are emotional beings, who rationalize their resolutions, often after the fact.  

The New Hampshire primary elections, as well as the Iowa caucuses were stark reminders of the fact, we cannot predict what people will do.  However, if we understand what truly motivates us, we may better understand the incomprehensible.  From the moment we enter this Earthly existence, we learn what is Right, Left, Middle, or ‘just wrong.’  

Mommy exclaimed, “Do not do that; it is inappropriate.”  Daddy declared, “No more.  What will the neighbors think?”  Grandpa gave the evil eye when he thought some word or deed not becoming of a little lady.  Grandma gently tapped young Sammy’s small hand when the lass reached for what the older woman thought unacceptable.  Brother James also guided the girl’s decisions.  “What are you; crazy?” he would say.  James’s manner was never gentle.  Sammy’s nursery school teacher was far kinder, although equally critical.  “Young women do not do that.”  “We do not speak that way in class, on the playground, in the cloak room.”  “I hope you do not do that at home!”

What Sammy did at home was never correct.  She wanted so much to be appreciated, especially by her elders.  Even among her peers, Sammy felt it vital to feel needed, wanted, valued, and cherished.  She realized at a tender age, that if she was to be happy, she must obey the rules.  Sammy learned to be a good girl.  Today, she still is.  When voting in the Presidential primaries and in the General election, Sammy will cast a ballot for the candidate her friends’ vote for.  Conventional wisdom is always best.  

There is a certain contentment you feel when others concur with your opinion.  Life is calm  Sammy, prefers agreement; she wants no arguments.  Perhaps, that is why she struggled to decide, whom would she vote for.

Sammy remained undecided up until she spoke with acquaintances of the Clinton cry.  Although Sammy and her friends were not Clinton constituents, indeed, they feared she might be soulless, ultimately; each plans to cast a ballot for the candidate.  Just as women in New Hampshire expressed, it would feel good to possibly place a woman in the White House.  The tears Hillary shed resonated within many of the “gentler sex.”  They thought the candidate’s cry was a show of strength.  Throughout America, and New Hampshire women [and men alike] personally identified with the pain Senator Clinton expressed.

Some New Hampshire women admitted they were touched by Clinton’s display of vulnerability at a local cafe, when a voter asked her how she remained so upbeat and Clinton’s eyes, in turn, became misty.

“When I saw the tear-up replayed on the news, it looked like Clinton was truly moved.  It proved she had soul,” said Carol Brownwood, a New Hampshire voter and Clinton supporter.

New Hampshire women voted for Clinton by a margin of 13 percentage points over Obama, according to exit polls.

James, Sammy’s sibling, was never much for conventions.  He was a rebel.  For him every issue was a cause.  As an adult, James will likely not vote for the most popular candidate.  He plans to weigh every angle, assess each agenda.  James will do his own research before he decides whom to support in the Presidential Election of 2008.

Even as a youngster, James had a mind of his own.  He knew what was truly important and what was trivial.  It did not much matter to James what his Mom or Dad might think.  This chap was certain when he thought a particular point of view right or wrong.  While James valued his parents’ opinions, and he did, he was his own person.

When James screamed “No,” at the age of two, it was not a phase; this tot could be authentically defiant.  No matter his age, James was never afraid to speak up.  “You are just wrong,” he would tell his mother or father.  In truth, James often took what his parents thought to heart.  However, he would never give Mom, Dad, or most anyone else, the satisfaction of knowing that he thought their opinion wiser than his own.

In his youth, James was independent and strong.  Competitions were his pleasure.  Enrolled in Little League, Soccer, and Football at an early age, James learned to be a sportsman.  He understood how important it was to win.  He still does.  

Throughout his life, James has been a fighter.  In college, the young man was considered a radical.  He protested for peace.  The little guy was his friend.  An underdog could soar when in the company of James.  He cared for his fellow man deeply.  This chap worked on a political campaign.  He was an activist, and he was motivated to make more of his life.  James studied as hard as he played.

Later, as an attorney, James did not shy away from a fight.  In his professional career, he retains his principles.  While James could make scads more money as a corporate lawyer, he serves the downtrodden.  James is known as an aggressive trial lawyer.  He fights for what is right.  John Edwards is his candidate of choice.  As he ponders the tales the populace aspirant tells, James relates. For James, just as for John Edwards, the battle for change is personal.

One Edwards supporter, departing after a big rally in Des Moines on Saturday night, said he hasn’t heard a message as passionate or strong since Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign.

Nice clothes aside, Edwards has turned street-fighter for the final stretch run.  His message can be boiled down to a single word — “Fight!” — which he repeats over and over and over and over again: Fight.  Fight.  Fight.  Fight.

Edwards has rolled out anecdotes he never used in the past to make it all the more personal.  They conjure up images that hardly square with his slight frame and good looks.  He was, as he now explains, a brawler as a kid, taking on bullies the way he later took on corporations and insurance companies as a trail lawyer.

“Like many of you, I had to fight to survive,” he told an audience of nearly a thousand people on Saturday night.  “I mean really.  Literally.”

He describes the southern mill town where he grew up as a tough little place and tells the story of getting into a fight one day with an older boy.  “Got my butt kicked,” he says.  When he got home, his father offered a stern lesson in life.

“I don’t ever want to hear, son, about you starting a fight,” he says his father told him.  “But you listen to me and listen to me clearly.  I don’t want to ever hear that you walked away from one.  Because if you’re not willing to stand up for yourself and if you’re not willing to fight, no one will stand up for you.”

Emma, James closest friend is not a fighter.  She is a woman, yet, not one who sees herself as a warrior. While Emma might love to have a woman in the Oval Office, she does not want Hillary Clinton to be her President.  John Edwards does not move this passionate person.  Too often Edwards goes negative.  Emma experienced enough combativeness in her life.  She is turned off by the fervor she experienced in her family home.  

Emma grew up in a good home.  Her parents are well-educated.  Each, is a professional in his or her own right.  Economically, her family is considered Upper Middle Class.  By all appearances, this young woman has had a good life.  She and her folks are healthy, slightly wealthy, and definitely wise.   However, when Emma was young, she realized, for her Mom and her Dad, every event was a drama, a trauma, a crisis, or a catastrophe.

Emma often hid under the bed, went to another room, spent time at a neighbor’s home, just to avoid the chaos she experienced when with her relatives.  As the little girl blossomed, she realized there was fun to be had.  “You cannot choose your family, but fortunately, you can choose your friends.”  A cheerleader, a “Journalist” on the school newspaper, active in a school leadership program, Emma was quite popular.

Academically, Emma had been and continues to be a serious student.  She is enrolled in graduate school, and is doing very well.  She is enthusiastic and energetic; however, she has never been energized by politics . . . that is until now.  Although, in the past, Emma defined herself as apathetic, now she sees herself as an activist.   Emma intends to vote for Barack Obama.  She feels as many throughout the country do.  Individuals, particularly those in her age are excited.  This may be the first time Emma will vote in an election.  She is stoked and not alone in her excitement.  Since hearing Obama speak, for Emma, this election is now personal.

“I just started hearing a lot about him last year, so I started doing my own research,” says Kinkead. “I wanted to know who this guy was that everyone was talking about. I know he has a liberal voting record in the Senate, but he just seems so open-minded to me. He’ll be able to work with Republicans and get stuff accomplished. Hillary Clinton has too much baggage.”

Young voters helped propel Obama’s win in Iowa and McCain’s in New Hampshire. Exit polls in New Hampshire indicated that 31 percent of the youngest GOP voting group went for McCain, with 23 percent voting for Romney; 51 percent of young Democrats supported Obama, while 28 percent supported Clinton.

In Iowa, Obama won 57 percent of the youth vote, compared to 11 percent for Clinton.

The social networking site Facebook has been a huge hub of political interest, with students flocking to Obama on the Democratic side  . . .

Others in the cyberspace community may be connected however, the do not wish to join the rally for Ron Paul nor do the oratory skills of Barack Obama sway them.  Beth is among those who walks to the beat of a different drummer.  This woman is not old or young; however, just as the candidates and constituents she too is deeply affected by her history.  Beth’s parents were and are scholars.  Amidst her earliest memories, Beth recalls research.  Daddy would ask her of newspaper articles she read.  The discussions were deep.  He was not only interested in her superficial comprehension skills he wanted to be certain his daughter became a critical thinker.

Mommy’s style differed; however, the intent, and results were similar.  Beth’s Mom, a brilliant woman, read endlessly.  She spoke of all the information she devoured.  This highly erudite parent encouraged her daughter to be herself, not part of a group, not identified by her gender, not even rigidly tied to which hand she preferred to write with.  Beth, just as her mother, never fit in, and she was fine with that.  Mommy and Daddy were principled people, not influenced by peers or popularity, and so too is Beth.  Perchance that is why she supports Dennis Kucinich.  She feels personally obligated to her country and all the people.  For Beth ethics matters more than an election win.  

I think the question isn’t whether I have a chance. The question is whether peace, health care, jobs for all have a chance. Everyone participating in this chat, everyone reading it, needs to ask what this election means for them. If it means not staying in Iraq until 2013, then perhaps people should consider my plan to leave Iraq immediately and employ an international peacekeeping force. If you want peace in the world, consider that I’m the only candidate who rejects war as an instrument of foreign policy.

This isn’t just about Iraq or Iran, this is about a president wise enough to work with leaders in the world to avoid conflict.  While I wouldn’t hesitate to defend our country, I’ve shown more than any other candidate that I understand the difference between defense and offense. . . .  I’m the only candidate running who voted against the war and against funding for the war. To me it’s inconceivable to say you oppose a war you’ve given hundreds of billions of dollars to.

If people are participating in this and are concerned that they have an outcome in this election that relates to their needs, they should know that I’m the only candidate who would create a not-for-profit health care system that would cover everyone.

No other candidate is saying they would cancel NAFTA and the WTO — I’ve seen the devastation wrought by these agreements. I’ve stood in front of the locked plant gates, with grass growing in the parking lots. I’ve seen the boarded-up nearby business communities, the neighborhoods where people had to leave because they couldn’t pay their mortgages.

I’m the only candidate talking about a profoundly different energy policy, moving aggressively toward wind, solar, and investing heavily in green energy, reorganizing the government along principles of sustainability. We have to challenge these oil companies — we’re in a war in Iraq because of oil, one of the principle reasons we’d attack Iran is because of oil, we continue to destabilize our relations with Russia because of oil.

It’s time for Washington to get control of our energy polices, and the only way we may be able to do that is to take control of the oil companies. We cannot sacrifice our young men and women on the altar of oil. We must regain control in the nation, of our ability to truly be a government of the people, by the people and for the people. That’s why I’m running for president, and in the end if I win, the people of the United States will win.

For a time, people, from various backgrounds, also endorsed Dennis J. Kucinich.  Beth met declared Democrats, Independent minded Greens, Libertarians, and even Republicans who thought the Congressman from Ohio was the only one who could and would turn this country around in a way that gratified them personally.  

A wide breadth of the population thought the Presidential hopeful would be the best for the country as a whole.  However, as is oft occurs, personal perceptions became the reality. The true Progressive, Congressman Kucinich was haunted by a claim continually, reiterated by Americans, “Kucinich is not electable.”  This statement was frequently preceded by the phrase, “Kucinich is great, but . . .”   Group think set in.

Intellectuals, pundits, so called professional political analysts, and regular persons would  say this is not so; however, as we assess human behavior, it is a challenge to think otherwise.

A public less aware of the dynamics of a caucus, or familiar with a seventy-two page rulebook, concludes a decision to influence a voter’s second-choice in Iowa might be thought a sign of weakness; perhaps a concession, or even an endorsement.  Some avid Kucinich supporters began to question the candidate’s faith in his campaign.  More importantly, many Kucinich backers felt personally abandoned.  The slogan “Strength through peace,” was less forceful than this allowance.  To suggest an alternative commitment may be less strong than the sweet smell of freshly baked bread or a promise to stroke your back if you rub mine

Intimidation is not unknown. Also, it is possible for a leading candidate to help a weaker rival against a stronger one.

More often, though, the gaming of the caucus and the wooing of supporters is subtler.

In a training video prepared by the Edwards campaign, for example, a cartoon precinct campaign named Joe leaves for the caucus with a calculator, Edwards signs, and fresh bread. The narrator explains: “His homemade bread is perfectly positioned. Everyone can see it and smell it, especially the undecideds.”

Then, too, “there are always stories of ‘I’ll shovel your walk the next time it snows,’ ” said Norm Sterzenbach, Iowa Democratic Party political director.

While these tactics are troublesome, perhaps what worries supporters of any candidate is their own “personal” standing . . . in the community, in a crowd, in the cavern known as their rational mind.

Might we speculate as to why a presumed front-runner receives more funds in support?  After a primary win, contributions come in.  Every person in the electorate scrutinizes a candidate and the company he or she keeps.  The assumed quality of a spouse can be an asset or a deterrent to the campaign.  If nothing else, when humans are involved, whom a Presidential hopeful weds, why, or when, will certainly be a distraction.  Americans, humans are invested in the personal.  People ponder their lives and wish to know what occurs in the lives of others.

Politics is personal.  Running Mates, and these are not possible Vice Presidential choices, warrant an in-depth and detailed article in the Washington Post.  These individual have greater access to the future President than any other person might.  If Americans elect x, y will have the President’s ear, heart, body, and soul in their hands.  The electorate believes spouses are significant.  The personal permeates the political, or at least, Newsweek Magazine thought so.  This periodical devoted a full spread to the Bill factor.

His New Role

By Jonathan Darman

Newsweek

August 21, 2007

“Man, I like that stuff,” Bill Clinton said. “I shouldn’t eat it, but I like it.” It was Sunday, March 4. On a private plane headed south from New York, the former leader of the free world was staring hard at a fully stocked bowl of food. A recovering snack-addict since his quadruple-bypass surgery in 2004, Clinton was thinking about falling off the wagon with a few bags of Fritos and some granola bars. No one on the plane was going to stop him-certainly not Malcolm Smith. The Democratic minority leader of New York’s state Senate, Smith was just happy to be along for the ride. “He sat right in front of me,” Smith later gushed to a Newsweek reporter. “We shared the food.” . . .

For Hillary’s campaign, “The Bill Factor” is a complex one. To some he’s a shrewd politician, a clear thinker, a brilliant explicator who was president during an era of relative peace and indisputable prosperity. To others he’s “Slick Willie,” an undisciplined man who let his private appetites, and his addiction to risk, blur his focus, distracting the country for much of his second term.

Nonetheless, a polished President offers the public a sense of personal security.  The Clintons are a known entity.  They have a traditional marriage, and they have proven themselves in many arenas.  Regardless of whether or not  you agree with their positions, the two are accomplished; certainly not on the fringe.  

Barack Obama is also quite an achiever.  Born to parents who separated when the future Harvard scholar, United States Senator, and front-running Presidential aspirant was but two years of age, Barack  Obama went on to create a stunning and successful Christian family of his own.

When wife Michelle Robinson Obama is by the candidate’s side, audiences marvel.  The couple is physically beautiful.  The two are statuesque and poised.  Each is extremely accomplished.  Michelle Obama is the a vice president at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Initially she was criticized for retaining this position during the campaign.  However, since she agreed to reduce her workload and currently works far fewer hours than she had, the public, many of whom took her to task for her “personal” life, are now content.  People specifically enjoy how real this spouse is.

[Michelle] She has revealed that the man who may become the world’s most powerful politician is sometimes banished to the spare room for being “kind of snory and stinky.” He also admits obeying her instructions to give up smoking before the campaign.

[Michelle] Obama got off to a rocky start in her early speeches when she talked about her husband’s dirty socks and how he was “stinky” in the morning, an image people perhaps might have found a little too human. Those references have since been dropped from her stump speech, and she’s not giving many interviews these days.

On the other hand, Elizabeth Edwards volunteers to speak to anyone, everyone.  Wife of John Edwards, Elizabeth, is equally at ease in most any situation.  She does not hesitate to speak her mind.  

Elizabeth Edwards will say in one breath that her job is made easier by the fact there are now “so many more female role models in careers like entertainment, the media and politics.”  But she will also say she’s not about to make the same mistakes Clinton did.

“Hillary Clinton in 1992 is a lesson in what not to do,” offers Edwards, also a lawyer by training, whose husband is one of Clinton’s opponents in the presidential race. “She was dismissive of the range of options women had chosen, declaring, ‘I don’t bake cookies. . . . I don’t stand by my man.’ That turned off some people.”

Elizabeth Edwards has been startlingly outspoken during this campaign, calling in to a live news-talk program to take on right-wing pundit Ann Coulter on national television and saying there was too much “hatred” of Hillary Clinton for her to win the general election. She maintains she’s not behaving much differently from 2004, when her husband was the Democratic vice presidential nominee. “There’s just a lot more coverage,” says Edwards, who has received additional attention since revealing she is battling incurable cancer.

In a campaign where every issue is personal, even illness can be the cause for insults.  John was judged harshly as he continued to campaign.  Some said he was consumed with ambition.  Many mused, why did Elizabeth not take it easy.  The drive to the White House is long and hard.

Nonetheless, many men, women, and spouses seem up to the challenge.  As we learned in what many thought to be a “personal” attack, some aspirants thought to seek the presidency when they were in kindergarten.  Others decided later in life.  Each has a history of profound accomplishments achieved at an early age.  As Americans, we appreciate a good wunderkind tale.  

In this country, the legendary captivates our attention.  After all, we all wish to aspire to excellence.  The excellence achieved by another gives us reason to believe, and we do have personal stake in a candidate’s story.  

Another aspirant also has a tale to tell.  At an early age, Dennis Kucinich was also considered a genius.  He had dreams and accomplished more than most thirty-one year olds.  Dennis Kucinich was elected Mayor of a major city, Cleveland, Ohio.  The young public official stood on principle against a corporate giant and saved the city and the community millions.  While the yarn is legendary, it is not as distinguished or as frequently discussed as wife, Elizabeth Kucinich is.

True, English born Elizabeth Kucinich is not close in age to her husband, as are the wives of numerous other candidates.  Conservatives John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson married women much younger than they.  However, that is but a minor source of intrigue.  What mesmerizes America and is among the stories supporters felt a need to stave off is the metal in the exquisite woman’s mouth.

O’Donnell: I have to ask you about two very interesting things. Because America has had a traditional of having traditional first ladies, if you will. You would be the youngest first lady ever if your husband were elected president. You have a tongue ring. What about that?

E. Kucinich: What about that?

O’Donnell: Well, it’s very unusual. I don’t know that there are many political spouses who have tongue rings.

E. Kucinich: I’m 30 years old. I’ve had it for 10 years. I don’t see it as being a problem. I do still wear pearls.

The English Elizabeth Kucinich hints at the truth the American electorate is embarrassed to avow.  In this country, politics, policy, and proposals do not garner support.  A president is not placed into the Oval Office when the constituents prefer his or her plan.  Appearances matter more than the issues or a solid, substantive agenda.  

Each ballot is a personal endorsement for a look, a life style, a gesture, a posture, and on rare occasions, a principle.  A vote for a candidate is an endorsement for the values of friends, family, business associates, and anyone who might judge an individual.  Americans want to elect a winner, someone whose rise, will add to a voters personal sense of worth.  

Principally, what most Americans wonder about as they assess the Presidential contenders, what causes citizens of the States to worry, and weep is as a questioner in a recent debate inquired.  “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?”  If a constituent thinks, he or she can “personally” relate to the answer a candidate delivers or the manner in which they reply, then that candidate can pack their bags and move into the White House on January 20th. In Election year 2008, Hillary, John, and Mitt are correct; for them, you, and me this process is personal.

Personal, Personalities, Preferences . . .