Jon Stewart said recently:
"And so at eleven o'clock AM on a Tuesday, a prominent politician spoke to Americans about race as though they were adults."There were plenty of "adults" at the meeting although the average age was probably around 20. The maturity and sharpness of the these young people's arguments were beyond many adults' ability. I was by far the eldest in the roomand often felt overwhelm by the efficacy of the meeting. One of the main criticism against Obama and his supporters is that they are idealistic and inexperienced. That could not be further from the reality at that meeting when it came to debating ideas and implementing campaign strategies:
Evaluation of the current primary race:
close and competitive but Obama could win the nomination before the convention with a strong showing in 50/50 state such as Indiana whereas Sen. Clinton cannot make the same claim.
Why are they supporting Obama:
36 students were present at the meeting. For the sake of clarity, here is a snapshot at the demographic of the attendees:
30 Caucasians, 4 African-Americans, 1 Indian-American, 24 young women, 12 young men, 6 new-comers, 1 official rep from the Obama campaign and myself. Here is a sample of the reasons why they were supporting their candidates:
Joshua: "Foreign policy". Steve: "The Democratic convention speech (audacity of Hope) in 2004.". Ruth :"A different approach to politics , getting results by reaching over bi-partisanship." John: "US 0f A cannot afford anymore of the Clinton's or Bush-lite's methodologies "
The reason for the meeting:
The young man and woman in charge ( both in their early 20's) did not waste time going into pleasantries:
"Our purpose here is not to decide who will be our next prom king and queen, we are here to help decide who will lead this country for the next 4 years. As you know although we are clearly leading, it has been a very close competitive race and we need to have a sense of urgency. Indiana will be a crucial battlefield, just like Iowa. We can end it right here on May, 6th. Senator Clinton has run a strong campaign and we should give her a lot of respect for her achievement in public service, but we know Sen. Obama is better suited to lead this country today. The Clinton Campaign is pushing hard in Indiana ( Bill was here yesterday, Hillary in Evansville) because they know that they cannot lose here. They think they have Pennsylvania and they gave up on North-Carolina. it is upon us to end this race before the Democratic convention.
How do we achieve that ? We help Purdue Students register for early voting on April 17th on campus. Let this be clear, we shall never show partisanship when we knock on people's dorm room to encourage them to register. We just want them to vote.
The records have shown that 80 % of students will support Obama. The challenge is to not disenfranchise them and get them to vote.
Knock on every students dorm rooms and get them to register for early voting on campus on April 17th and 18th.
They hold a notebook of of time versus number of registration. The record here is 11 registration in 1h 15 minutes. Whoever gets the most fellow students registered will get a signed copy of the "Audacity of Hope".
In a little more than 40 effective minutes, names of volunteers were assigned to each dorm floors on campus, strategies for registration incentive were covered and registration form were distributed. The meeting was then adjourned ( it is after all, it's exam season. Plus, the Purdue women's basketball team was playing against top seeded Tennessee in town) but a final word by the speaker:
"At the Iowa Caucus, Bill Clinton said: " Our caucus goers look like caucus goers, Obam's caucus goers look like they just joined a facebook group." ( :-) ) Let us show them that the facebookers they dismiss so quickly might just be the ultimate reason for their defeat. When we are out there, let 's show the Mc Cain's and Clinton's supporters the respect that they often failed to show us. Just know that by getting more people to vote, you are undeniably helping Sen. Obama get closer to being the leader of this country."
All in all, I came out impressed by the level of organization and purpose of the students while maintaining a joyful and youthful atmosphere. A few jokes about Hillary Clinton's ducking invisible bullets in Bosnia were thrown but quickly dismissed and overall, it was all about getting people to register.They were quite confident that the people on campus who have not registered yet would be favorable towards Obama. Quite a bold statement in a State that has always been Republican and who's senator is a strong Clinton supporter but this has not been your usual campaign elections.
Side notes about the elections:
1) You may have noticed that the motto for Foko-Madagascar is: "it takes a village to raise an idea". It also happens that Hillary Clinton won a grammy for an audio version of her book: "it takes a village". Let's just say that our inspiration came from this Kiswahili proverb: 'Asiyefunzwa na mamae hufunzwa na ulimwengu', not Hillary's book.
2) Do you want to know who has been the least truthful during the campaign ? Here is one of my favorite webistes for "truth control": the "truth-o-meter at politifact." you guessed it, dodging bullets in Bosnia does not rank very high on the meter. I pray that one day, we will have similar independent websites for elections in Africa.
3) It turns out B. Pitt and B. Obama are related, just like H. Cinton and A. Jolie. Now you know why the Pitt-Jolie story may not go the distance... For all you Brangelina fanatics, I am just kidding.
4) Another terrific speech on foreign policy ( via helmut):" the catastrophic consequences of the global climate crisis are matched by the promise of collective action. Now is the time for America to lead, because if we take action, others will act as well. Through our own cap and trade system and investments in new sources of energy, we can end our dependence on foreign oil and gas.."