I did a very insignificant amount today to help the election of the most impressive political figure of my generation. It seems that almost everyone in Lakewood voted early this year, but the Obama campaign–through an incredible volunteer organization–left nothing to chance and pushed to the end. President-elect Obama is able to inspire a wide range of people to make significant personal donations -- of money, of vacation time, of weekend time, of spare time, of sleep, and of sanity to play a small role in doing what they feel is right for America. If he can spread this energy beyond his campaign into society as a whole, he may leave an immensely important mark on the character of a nation for generations to come.
I'm sure I'll disagree with many positions he takes, but I know that he will take those positions after careful consideration with input from people who know what they're talking about. And that's really the core of good leadership.
I was also heartened by John McCain's concession speech tonight. It was almost as if he was eager to flee the fear mongering and red baiting he's engendered over the last two months. Perhaps he wanted to do away with the last eight years and get back to the John McCain who ran for president in 2000: a true bipartisan concerned with honorable action for the good of the country. I hope he helps establish broad support for fundamental changes President Obama wants to bring through.
When Bush leaves Washington, I hope he takes with him not only cowboy diplomacy and faith-based science but also the practice of railroading policy through congress, legislating from the Oval Office (signing statements), and executive secrecy. If Obama is to excite me as much in four years as he does right now, he'll need to graciously divest the Presidency of the powers claimed by his predecessor. He'll need to bring about important reforms and new programs not just with the help of 300 of his Democratic pals but by convincing the American people that the plans are strong so that they can convince their elected representatives to get on board. This is how a great orator can become a great governor.
To everyone who became engaged in politics this year for the first time ever (or the first time in a long time), stay involved. Politics is one part exciting, three parts boring. But by and large, it's the boring stuff that has an impact in our lives. Several local races in my area were decided by a margin smaller than the number of people who didn't vote for that section of the ballot.
Democracy is government of the people by the people who show up.
Today, this month, and this year, Barack Obama's supporters showed up. In the few days I've spent with the campaign organizers, I can see them fight to keep the chaos in check, straining to make it to the finish line without collapsing from exhaustion. They deserve a chance to rest and a chance to celebrate. But democracy isn't just about one person on one day. It's our civic duty (some might call it a curse) to stay informed and voice our opinions. I challenge everyone to be more informed each year about the candidates and issues on the ballot. Democracy is government of the people by the people who show up and it's based on the hope that everyone will show up and know what they're talking about.
Good night, and good luck.