Last night, I watched the Republican National Convention and thought to myself, "Is there an African-American, Latino, Asian or, for that matter, any minority in this audience? It has to be a 99% white." Should I be surprised by that fact? No. But it is still startling to realize how small the constituency of the Republican Party has become. They have alienated immigrants, and African Americans, and gays, and women. There aren't too many more groups to alienate.
I was excited to have tickets to the Obama Rally in Charlottesville today. My 15 year-old son, his friend Zach and I headed off to Charlottesville at 10:30 this morning for a projected 3:00 pm speech by the President. One of the first things I noticed was the make up of the crowd. There is no question that the President has the support of many, many people from all walks of life....young, old, white, black, Latino, Asian. It was an audience filled with diversity, but more than diversity, the audience was friendly, humble and helpful.
We went early enough and were therefore lucky enough to be on the front row with two other Dems from Nelson. I said to the boys, "You are going to shake the President's hand today." Of course, they looked at me as though I had two heads and had lost my mind. We talked to our neighbors, listened, danced to the music and had a great experience. When someone needed help, folks surrounding them responded. If someone was walking with a cane, folks created a path, offered an arm.
To my right was Penny, from Staunton. By about 2:30 we'd been waiting for hours as is always the case with these kinds of events. During a conversation, Penny and I both mentioned that we needed to use the facilities. What to do...we'd lose our space on the front row, but when you need the facilities, well, you know. This very nice young man standing behind us heard our discussion. It is impossible not to hear everyone's discussion in such "sardine" like situations. "I'll protect your spots," he says, "No one will take them." So off we went, and when we returned the lady behind me jokingly said, "I tried to get him to let me take your position, but he was having none of it." So, Penny and I assured our friendly front-row space guard that we would make sure he got to shake the President's hand.
The President was energizing, and honest and told us that it is up to us. We must work to win in Charlottesville, and by extension we must work to win all across Virginia. When we do, we win the Presidency. When we chanted, "Four more years," he replied, "Don't chant, vote." When we booed when he spoke of the other side's non-existent plan for our future-the middle class' future, he said, "Don't boo, vote."
We can watch and be dismayed by the Republicans lack of diversity, by their lack of compassion, by their continued support of tax breaks for the elite and corporate America at the expense of the middle class, seniors, and our youth. We can allow them to discourage us by the constant barrage of false advertising. After all, they have said they won't run their campaign based on "fact checkers." We can allow them to make it hard for voters to vote. Or we can work to overcome all of those obstacles by working to elect a President who represents us, who understands that the way our economy works is from the middle class up, not from the elite down. We know what we have to do. Will it be easy? No. Obviously, truth, fact, nor honesty has any meaning to the Romney campaign, so it is up to us to knock doors, to make calls and tell the truth. The President can't do it alone. As one of the UVA presenters, Peter, said today, "We're going to turn Virginia, Cavalier Blue in 2012."
During the Inauguration, my son, then 11, asked me as we stood among the crowd talking, "Do you know these people?" My response was, "No, I've never met them." But the feeling then was one of camaraderie, friendship and accomplishment. I felt that same sentiment today. Good people, honest people, hard working people all loving our country, yearning for improvement in our current circumstance and believing the man to move us "Forward" is Barack Obama. It is up to us.
By the way, my son and his friend did shake the president's hand so I might only have one head after all, and not be quite as crazy as they thought earlier in the day. Penny and I were as good as our word, and our friendly front row space guard shook the President's hand, as well.
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