While Americans will vote for everything from dog catcher to judges, all eyes are on the "big race." Will Obama win again, or will Mitt Romney be successful in becoming the next resident of the White House.
I always thought of politics as a type of "sport." Although unlike sport the results have real world implications.
In the fall of 2008 at the height of the "Hope and Change" frenzy that swept much of the US — I pondered the possibility of jumping from the bleacher onto the field. After reading about some BC college students who were driving across the border from Canada by the car load to volunteer for the Obama campaign in Washington State, I wondered aloud "wouldn’t it be awesome to be part of history?"
My wife Tracy said "you should really go. You’ll always wonder what it would have been like to be a part of this. So at least look into it."
Look into it I did, and sure enough the Minnesota office of the DNC was also aware of Canadians out west volunteering for Obama. However they didn’t have any in Minnesota, yet. I asked if they would like one. For the record (and legal reasons) I volunteered and was never asked to go, but go I did.
The morning after Halloween I packed by bags and went to Moorhead Minnesota (just across the river from Fargo ND). I drove straight to the campaign office and registered as a volunteer, and that day immediately started knocking on doors. The office paired me with another volunteer and we knocked on countless doors asking people to vote for Obama and the Democratic "ticket" that also included former SNL alum Al Franken for Senator.
How was I received at the door? Of the hundreds of people I spoke with, most were nice, most were excited to vote and most thanked me for the information I left for them. A couple had questions, and I did my best to answer them. But my favourite memories were with the people who walked with me, clip board in hand, from house to house to house. Like the woman who met Robert Kennedy when he ran for President in the mid 60’s, just weeks before he was shot in Illinois. She not only met him, but heard him speak in Fargo. As we walked you could hear her emotion, and her eyes fill with tears as she talked about the hope and change many thought Robert would bring.
Then there was the man who spent an afternoon with me walking on the MSU campus. He volunteered so he could see a black man be President. He told me the story of a trip he made to the movies as a kid. It was the early 60’s and in the lobby of the theatre were two water fountains. One said nothing and the other had a sign above it that read "colored."
A young boy, just able to read, walked to the fountain and drank from the one with the sign on it. Well, his father grabbed him by the arm, threw him in the car and drove straight home. He told me, he proceeded to get the whipping’ of his life for drinking from the wrong fountain. As we walked on that warm November afternoon, I’ll never forget him saying to me "I had no clue why my dad beat me. We never talked about it again. It wasn’t until later I realized what the sign meant. Funny thing is, all I wanted was colored water. I thought wow, maybe strawberry, or blueberry water. Why I got my whipping’ was a crime. And so now, I want to make this guy be President."
Of course he was talking about Barrack Obama. The man of "Hope and Change" that was to bring a new spirit to a country healing from the pains of war and terrorism. Next to the exact moment Obama became President, my favourite memory is that of a Fargo man who called the campaign headquarters to tell volunteers he had just had surgery and was unable to get to polls on Election Day. A ballot had to be picked up at the Clay County courthouse from a judge and taken to the hospital, then taken back to the courthouse for it to be legal.
Giving this Canadian volunteer a chance to handle the actual ballot on Election Day made my eyes as big as saucers, and with big smiles and a chuckle, officials at the campaign office said "we gotta send Tyler." I was the happy man for the job. I had to sign an affidavit to possess the ballot, but it was given to me and I ran the ballot over to the man in hospital. He was so happy he could vote he was almost in tears. I remember visiting with him and his mother as he filled out his ballot, and we spoke about me being from Canada. He said he had a brother in Manitoba, in Dauphin, who was a teacher, although he hadn’t seen him in quite a while. What a small world. As I help this man fill out his ballot, there was no question who he was voting for. I wished him well and took the ballot back to the courthouse where it was processed, and finished Election Day knocking on more doors, making phone calls, and monitoring polling stations for turnout numbers.
Then polls closed. Volunteers from both parties (in separate ballrooms) gathered for the results at the Moorhead Marriott that night. All of us waiting anxiously to see if all the efforts paid off. Amidst the big screen TV’s, the media and the volunteers, we waited. I will never forget talking to a nice woman named Kathy about how to make perogies, when all of a sudden the tremendous thunder and screaming of the crowd in the hotel felt like the windows were going to smash. People screamed, and jumped and popped champagne corks, and hugged each other and cried. There was much crying. Many wept openly at the history being made.
As I looked across the room at a young black mother hugging her young teenage son, both crying, I started to "leak." I thought of Martin Luther King. I thought of my own family, and how my life would have been raising that family as a black man in America among bigots and haters. I thought of my friend and his fountain story. I thought of how for that single moment in time, it felt like anything was possible for anyone regardless of race or color. Yup, I joined and soon felt hugs from perfect strangers. It was pure magic. Although the celebration would be short lived, and a broken economy would spoil the party, that night was absolutely one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Sore throat from talking, sore feet from walking, but we didn’t care. History was made. Hope and change had arrived. Will it be the same on Tuesday? No. Will there be as much hype and drama as the last campaign. No. This one will be close. Romney could and might win. This one will be a photo finish.
KC Blair* (Starfm announcer)
JOKE This Week
After Late one night in Ottawa a mugger wearing a ski mask jumped into the path of a well-dressed man and stuck a gun in his ribs.
"Give me your money!" he demanded.
Indignant, the affluent man replied, "You can’t do this — I’m a sitting Member of Parliment!"
"In that case," replied the robber, "give me MY money!"
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 3, 2012