The more deeply you’re immersed in an experience, I’ve learned, the more reflection it warrants once it’s over. But the thing about my experience with the Obama 2012 campaign is this: It doesn’t really feel over. In fact, it feels like it’s just the beginning.
Because it’s time to look forward.
I’m proud of the work I did on the campaign for more than a year, as a volunteer leader in the field and as Michigan Deputy Digital Director. As gratifying as my personal experience was, though, what I witnessed in the process was even more important. It’s the dedication of others that humbles me — and demonstrates just how much impact the power of the people had on the election’s outcome.
There was Dawn, who is legally blind yet went out knocking on doors in downtown Detroit with any partner she could find, to help get out the vote for the President.
There was Ken, a retired Marine who found a new mission: re-electing the President. His first time volunteering he signed up for six phone bank shifts. When I saw him again 10 days later, he was at 12 shifts and counting.
There was Brian, a new veteran who served half his time in the Navy keeping his personal life a secret until the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He signed up to serve in honor of President Obama even before the repeal, and went on to play a major volunteer role during the 2012 campaign.
There was Rita, who became a member of my own diligent, dedicated neighborhood team. We met her while out canvassing one day, and she eagerly signed up to volunteer. She didn’t miss a week for the next five months.
These are only a handful of the literally hundreds of stories I heard during the campaign, many of which I had the privilege of telling on the Obama for America-Michigan blog. Reasons why people were supporting President Obama with their vote and their volunteerism.
It was the power of community, made more tangible to me with every person I met. It was the power of grassroots organizing, of one or two people igniting a spark that can spread across a city, a community or a country.
Community organizing is how President Obama first exercised his commitment to civics and leadership. I’m proud it’s the same way I first exercised mine, in service of the man who inspired me to be the change.
I’ve always believed one person can make a difference — and I still do. But I see more than ever how the power of individuals is amplified when they come together for a common goal.
This is what moves us forward. It doesn’t matter what party we affiliate with or even if we don’t align with one. It doesn’t matter where we come from or how much money we make or what our spiritual beliefs may be.
What matters is that we are connected by our shared humanity. We are connected by being citizens and aspiring citizens of this great country — citizens of the world, in fact.
Yes, our country has work to do. Our leaders have work to do — and they have to do it together, putting country before party and making changes that benefit all Americans.
But each of us has a responsibility, too, no matter who we voted for. To put petty partisanship aside and find the common ground we all know exists if we take the time to look for it. To work together, not against each other, for a common good that allows individuals to excel but leaves no one behind.
If we want our leaders to change, to put people before politics, we have to do the same from the grassroots level on up.
We have to be the change. I’ve seen that we can do it. And we can do it again. Together.
What’s next? Here are two ways I’m getting involved, for starters. Both movements emphasize community organizing, where individual citizens can make a difference:
No Labels, a group of Democrats, Republicans and independents united in the politics of problem-solving.
The Action, an initiative to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and level the playing field.