Educational Philosophy

Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.

~ John Dewey

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Our Family Experiences Working for Obama’s Campaign for Change

Our family’s journey for change began 4 years ago when I was watching the Democratic National Convention and Barack Obama began to speak. I remember calling D into the room and saying, I want him to be President. So, when Obama announced his bid for the presidency, we were supporters, quiet supporters. We chatted with friends and family, many who supported Hillary Clinton and others who were not Democrats at all. We put a bumper sticker on each of our cars and we talked about how much we liked Obama, but that was about it.

Then, in March, Obama came to Charlotte. D, the girls, and my parents and I stood in line for several hours to see Obama speak. We sat high in the bleachers in Ovens Auditorium and waited. Obama was late. The crowd, though, was so excited. And, as we looked around, it was clear to all of us that something was different. People of all races, all ages, all sexes, all religions, and all abilities filled the auditorium. Then, Obama arrived. He spoke eloquently about his vision for the future of America. He spoke of the economy, the war, and the environment. He shared a vision of an America full of HOPE. We felt lucky to be there.

In the Spring, my mom registered voters. The girls and my mom worked on flyers and phone calls for the campaign. I still hadn’t done anything. I believed in Obama. I wanted him to win but I wasn’t volunteering at that point. Then, in September, Obama came back to Charlotte. We volunteered to work at the event. On a sunny day in late September, we left the house at 8:00, reported to our volunteer locations at 9:00, and proceeded to meet thousands of people from all walks of life as we handed out tickets to get in to see Barack Obama's Change We Need Rally in Charlotte.

From 9-1, we walked the lines that formed for admission to Obama's speech. We distributed tickets, gathered volunteer forms, and registered new voters (17 of them!). We split up. And, all 6 of us (my children, my parents and D and I) had different conversations with different people. The diversity of the group was striking. There were single fathers with young children, old women with walkers, men in suits, girls with pierced noses, disabled people in motorized wheelchairs, babies in strollers, students of all ages, black people, white people, fat people, pink-haired people, tattooed people, toddlers with signs, sick people, non-citizens, Hillary supporters, Republicans, churchgoers, gay people, Hispanic people, Asian people, Muslims, wealthy people, people on welfare, plumbers, doctors, teachers, Jews, Christians and atheists.

What was abundantly clear to me at that rally was that Obama was right when he said, "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America ... We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

The crowd at the Obama event believed. Like Obama, "they believe[d] in the things unseen. They believe[d] in the better days ahead. They believe[d] that we c[ould] give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. They believe[d] we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. They believed [that we could] meet the challenges that face us."

When my children and I were discussing what moved us most during the day, each of us had a story of someone who touched our heart. Most memorable was one of the girls’ stories of an austic 12 year old girl who begged her mom for money so that she could buy a ticket (the tickers were free) to meet Mr. Obama. All of us were moved by that "skinny kid with a funny name." And, we were HOPEFUL that he would lead America.
I shook Obama’s hand at the end of the rally. I stuck it up in the crowd, and he chose my hand. What he touched was my heart. That day, I committed myself to really helping Obama become our next President. I put my second Obama bumper sticker on my car.

For most of October, I squeezed in hours each day to make phone calls from home for the campaign. D found time after work to join phone banking crews. My parents hosted some phone banking at their home. We ordered several hundred bumper stickers and began passing them out to anyone who wanted one. We ordered a hundred t-shirts and did the same thing with them. Early voting began Oct. 15. I voted. Every day on my way to pick up the girls from school I passed an early voting line at the public library. By Oct. 18, I had 4 bumper stickers on my car and I was stopping every day to hand out water , t-shirts and bumper stickers to the folks standing in line. I chatted with people about Obama and what he stood for. Everyone was HOPEFUL. No one was complaining about the lines.

One day, I met a nice young gentlemen who was working for the campaign. I had seen him at other events and I was pleased to meet him. I promised to help him canvas.
For me, that’s when things really changed.

The first time I canvassed, I was nervous. But soon, complete strangers from low-income neighborhoods were opening their doors to me and they were unlocking my heart. I met a gentleman who thought that he could not vote because he could not read. After we spoke with him, he went to vote! There were multiple elderly women who could not get to the polls by themselves. We offered to help them get there. They were ecstatic. I spoke to one woman, Arion, five times one day to make sure she got her ride to the polls! When children answered the door, I gave them stickers and asked if they liked Barack Obama. I told them that this might be the most important presidential election in history. They looked at me with big eyes and smiled. They knew too!

We knocked on doors in a very low-income neighborhood. At one apartment, a man and his wife opened the door to us. We shared that were volunteers for Obama. The first thing he said to D was, “I never thought I’d see the day when a white man was in my neighborhood knocking on my door telling me to vote for a black man for president of the United States." His wife slapped him, but he was speaking the truth and his words touched our hearts. He hadn’t voted yet. Neither had his wife. They got on the bus shortly after we talked to them.

Our girls joined us later that day and we returned to that same neighborhood. They talked to people about their hope for America and the importance of voting. That was the last day of early voting in North Carolina. We estimate that we got another 50 or so folks to the polls that day. It was rejuvenating. We were connecting with people that came from a totally different background than we and yet, we were all excited about the same thing: CHANGE. And, we all had HOPE.

With little time before the election, we poured all we had into canvassing and phone banking. I canvassed one evening with D. And, although we had a few doors shut firmly in our face, we still had HOPE. A complete stranger offered her bathroom to me. Another evening, I went out with H and my mom. We were getting discouraged by the number of folks who seemed angry with us for being Obama canvassers when I decided to knock on another door. My mom and H waited in the car. When I knocked a women came part of the way to the door and hollered at me through the glass screen, “What?” I shared that I was a volunteer for Obama and she said she was undecided. I asked what I could help her do to decide. She invited me in to talk to her. She was a single mom of two. Her disabled mother lived with her. Her 43 year old brother had just lost his job and his home and had moved in with her as well. She worked two jobs. She could not afford day care for her 1 year old, so her disabled mother cared for her. She was struggling to make ends meet. She wanted to know what Obama could do for her. So I told her. Before I left her house, I had explained curbside voting for her mother and they both had committed to voting for Obama. When I arrived at her house, it was full of despair. When I left, it was full of HOPE.

The next day, the girls, my parents and I spent 7 hours loading 25,000 people on buses at UNC-Charlotte to see Obama speak. The girls handed out 200 Obama tattoos that we had made. My mother fired up the crowds by hopping on every departing bus for a YES WE CAN FIRED UP READY TO GO cheer. My girls proudly wore their Obama “Got Hope?” shirts and shuffled folks onto buses. They talked to everyone. They were engaged. They showed their HOPE. I was proud of them. At the end of the day, T and I tried to get over to see Obama speak. The lines were amazing. Again, tears dripped down my cheeks. It was pouring down rain. No one was leaving the line. Everyone was marching forward. When some anti-abortionists shouted, “Vote for Jesus by voting for McCain.” A young voter shouted out, “When Jesus is on the ticket, I’ll vote for him; until then, I’m voting for Obama!” T and I laughed. When we got through security and made our way to the entrance gate, it was closed because of a security breach. We went home in the rain, but only after admiring the diverse crowd. On the way home,

On election day, I went to work at the polls in the Obama Houdini project. We were supposed to collect information and track voters during the day so that we could find folks who hadn’t voted and get them to the polls. I worked at three city precincts. All of them were almost 100% African American. Although there were no lines, the traffic was steady and the HOPE was palpable. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was excited. I chatted with strangers about the future. Again, although we came from different places, we were at the same destination. We were ONE. It felt great. I spoke with a 10 year old boy who approached me quietly to ask if I had voted for Obama. We talked about the war, the economy, jobs and the environment. This young boy knew that he wanted a future without war where the economy was strong and his parents could find jobs. He wanted a future with wind and solar power. He had HOPE. It made me cry.

At the end of the day, D rushed from work to join me. We painted our car and headed out for the last two hours to find folks who needed a ride to the polls. On route, we got a call from our field organizer asking us to head to a polling location to observe and report on lines. What I saw when we got there was a Repulican pollwatcher hovering over curbside voters. He was the only white man in sight. He seemed angry and nervous. He made several invalid challenges to voters. Had I not arrived when I did, he might have made more.

The contrast was stark. There were disabled or old people who wanted to vote so badly that they done everything that they could to get to the polls and there was an angry white man essentially threatening them. While I observed and reported, D chatted with volunteers from a variety of local campaigns. It was awesome! A 17 year old driver brought voters to the polls in her car to vote at the curb. Again, it was a time of HOPE. After the day wound down, we took our picture in front of big sign truck with VOTE Obama signs on both sides. In the car, I cried. The whole experience had changed me.

When we got home and I sat down to check my email, it was about 6:30 PM EST. I got an email from the Obama website asking me to call states where the polls had not yet closed. I chose Nevada and made another 100 phone calls. My last call was to a man that thanked me for working for CHANGE. He said his whole family had voted for OBAMA and that he would celebrate with our country later that night. It felt good and I went upstairs to watch the election results.

When the results came in and John McCain was ready to speak, we woke the girls up to watch him. The girls said it was the best speech that they had seen him give. I agree. McCain looked relieved. He spoke of CHANGE. He seemed hopeful too.

When Obama spoke, like millions of others, I cried. I am crying as I write this.

America is beautiful. I feel privileged to have met hundreds of folks over the past few weeks who generously spent countless hours bringing CHANGE to America. Thanks to everyone who voted, everyone who volunteered, everyone who believed, and everyone who will continue to make this country the most beautiful United States of America possible. Today, we can all stand up together as proud Americans! I support you President Elect Obama. The future is ours!


  1. I love your blog. Congratulations on your tireless work on the campaign. What great experiences your children are a part of!

  2. I enjoyed your eloquent post.

    I am happy that my teens could spend hours canvassing, talking to people, knocking on doors. It was an enlightening and thrilling experience for them. They were so involved and I think that will translate into a life-long engagement in the political process.

    And I feel relieved, and yes, hopeful.


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