Monday, November 17, 2008

A Great Day, November 4, 2008 - God Was With Us

Today I got to witness an historic moment, surrounded by an amazing community of people (the Obama volunteers who came in and phone banked all day to get out the vote in critical swing states).
First of all, THANK YOU to all of you who have come in to help us with the multiple phone banks over the past few weeks. YOU PERSONALLY MADE A DIFFERENCE. I didn't realize how straight the line was between our work and the election outcome until tonight at the convention center when a friend said to me, "we did it. 4%. That was us", meaning that the small difference in the popular vote was what WE did!
It was an amazing day I went to the convention center at 630am (only Obama could get me to do that), and soon found myself in charge of overseeing 5 phone bank captains. For 13 hours we had a continuous stream of new volunteers, constant switching of states we were calling, turnover of staff shifts, and constant movement. It was like cat herding (my specialty). Just when we got one state going, we had to start switching to another. I can't imagine what was going on in Chicago (HQ's). We had 1000 volunteers who made 83,000 calls. The phone bank was actually a "36 hours to victory" phone bank at the Oakland Convention Center. Some people had worked all last night, hardly slept, then went all day today. My "boss", Erica, literally spent all day training groups of 20 volunteers non stop. I coordinated wth Noelle, who also oversaw 5 phone bank captains. Between the 2 of us, we had to keep all the phone captains trained and up on the latest strategy. Wild!
In the morning, we called the East Coast, slowly working our way west through all the swing states, getting Obama supporters to the polls. Our last state was calling Alaska. We ended the marathon at 7:30 and proceeded to watch the returns.
With each announcement of yet another state won, there was a huge ROAR in the room. People were jumping up and down, so excited. It just went on and on. You cannot believe what it was like when we heard we got Ohio! When the win was announced the place went wild! Then the song "Change is Gonna Come" came on. I cried. We did it, and now we can go about doing the hard work of turning this country around. Winning is just the start. Now the real work begins.
I met so many great people, friends who are neighbors. People who have committed to stay together and work together on change. This campaign has started to rebuild our communities. I feel like I gained an instant community of engaged friends who all live near me. We just needed to meet. Obama gave us all a chance to meet. . We are ready to practice democracy again. Over the past few weeks, I've worked at 3-4 different sites, and I have to say, the team at the Lake Merritt site was so healthy, collaborative, and efficient. Thanks to our leader, Erica Rodriguez, who many of you met. Erica has been working hard on the campaign for over a year, maybe even two. During the day, she is a special ed teacher who teaches deaf kids who are 5 years old. She is amazing. She built our little team and made sure we all had clear roles. There was no weird stuff or "organizational" issues. It was such a joy to work with that team. I love them all. I could only hope to have one fraction of the commitment and energy that Erica has. She is a great role model of selfless service.
I stayed to hear the acceptance speech. I was standing next to a woman who is a "second grandmother" of Erica's. She is an 82 year old beautiful black woman. During the speech, she stood on a folding chair, leaning on me on one side, and another friend on the other. I asked her if she ever thought she would see this day. She said no. It was surreal, standing there with her. I don't think the enormity of this day has really sunk in yet.
The room was filled with people of all ages, all colors, all sexual orientation, all kinds of cultures, all kinds of classes. This diversity is what I really love about Oakland. It's real, it's genuine.
I left after the acceptance speech. The streets were full of people driving their cars and honking their horns.
It was a great day. Such an honor to be part of it. My faith in the power of "little people" is strengthened. When we all come together, we can do anything!
Thanks for all of your support and participation.
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