Vol. 3    No. 23
November 13, 2008
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                     Generation inspiration
    It took a few days for the adrenaline to wear off after President-Elect — wow it has a nice ring to it — Barack
Obama’s stunning victory on November 4, becoming the first African American to be elected U.S. President. And
it is equally important that he became the first Democrat to get over 50 percent of the vote since Jimmy Carter in
1976 and his vote percentage is the highest for a Democrat since 1964 when Lyndon Baines Johnson received 61
percent of the vote. Barack Obama received three million more votes than George W. Bush did in 2004. In
modern terms, Barack Obama won a landslide victory. As he reaches out to other constituencies, Barack Obama
reaches out with a mandate and not out of weakness.
    It was so exciting to see the reaction of Madison to Barack Obama’s election. Neighborhoods ran out of their
houses banging pots and pans. African American, Latino, Asian American and Euro-American were equally
excited about his victory. Even young children who aren’t old enough to read or write sensed the excitement in
the air and were carrying around Barack Obama signs and photos.
    But African Americans had a special swelling of pride that signaled the beginning of the end of the effects of
slavery and segregation. It truly was a special moment. On Election Day, I volunteered at Barack Obama’s S. Park
Street office and ended up working with Cecelia Timmons in picking up potential voters in South Madison and
taking them to the polls. We took people to polls in the Town of Madison, the City of Madison and Fitchburg.
Never had I seen so many African Americans voting in my life. It was truly inspiring.
    And although we only ended up taking four voters to the polls and hardly made a difference in the vote totals
in Madison, it made me so high helping those four people participate in history. It is first-time voters like them who
helped seal the deal for Barack. And their children saw them vote and who knows what impact this election will
have on the civic engagement of the African American community and beyond.
    I had a little political dialogue with a friend of mine who was a Hillary Clinton supporter back in January and
we were arguing the merits of Barack’s candidacy. She argued that Barack was too inexperienced and didn’t have
the Washington connections to get the job done in Washington. My response to her was that Barack — I had seen
him four times by then — would either be a Jimmy Carter or a Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was elected
President. Jimmy Carter came into Washington, D.C. in 1976 as an outsider because he was Georgia’s governor.
Carter appointed mainly outsiders to key positions. In essence, they were considered to be an outside cabal taking
over the capitol. And Carter got little done as he failed to work the establishment and had little continuing
connection to the American people.
    While Roosevelt was governor of New York when he was elected in 1932, he had worked in the Washington
bureaucracy before that so he did know how to work the system. And Roosevelt kept and nurtured his connection to
the American people through his “fireside chats,” the first use of radio to reach a mass audience politically.
Roosevelt, working Washington from the inside and the outside, was very effective in getting things done.
At this juncture, I feel that Obama will turn out to be more like FDR. He has definitely shown that he has the
connection to the American people through his mass public rallies that attracted upwards of 100,000 people and
his almost unequalled organized campaign that used the power of the Internet and community organizing to
reach millions of people. And Obama has shown an insider’s savvy with his selection of Joe Biden as his vice-
president and Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. Obama is setting himself up with that insider/outsider tandem
that could accomplish many things in Washington, D.C. And he also has his sheer intelligence going for him to
effect change in this country.
    However, as big of a win as Barack Obama’s election is, it doesn’t mean that change will happen overnight or
at all. Barack Obama has always said that this election was about “We” and not about “I.” It is the increased civic
engagement of people of color and young people that got Barack elected. And it will be there continued civic
engagement that will make it possible for change to occur in America.
While Barack will become the most powerful person in the “Free World” on January 20, he will not be omnipotent.
He will depend upon a cooperative and willing Congress. And he will need all of us to be civically. He will need
state governments to be in a position to implement his policies. And most of the work of change will actually
happen on a local level.
      Barack cannot make things better for you and me. If you wait for change to happen, there is little that Barack
will be able to make happen and change will never happen. Change begins within each and every one of us and
once that happens, it bursts out of us and encircles the globe. So the real change starts at home to create the
conditions by which Barack can create change on a national level.
    What does that change entail? First and foremost, it involves education. Each of us needs to get as much
education as we can so that we know what is going on and we can effect change. We need the scientists and
inventers so that when Barack talks about alternative energy and the “Greening” of America’s economy, then there
will be enough educated and experienced people to make it happen.
    And people must become engaged in local government. There are always vacancies on city committees and
commissions that shape city policies. People need to learn how the system works and begin to work it. When
Barack gets a housing program, for example, enacted, who is going to implement it? It will be local governments
like the city of Madison that implement it. And how will the city implement it? Through its housing committees!
And who will be on those housing committees that will shape Barack’s housing policies? Hopefully by people on
those committees — African American, Latino, Asian American, American Indian and Euro-American — who
supported Barack and believe in the policies that he hopes to enact.
    While Barack can put that change in motion, it is only people like you and I on the local level who can make
that change happen. No one is going to make that change happen for you. If you wait for change, it will never
happen and Barack Obama’s election will only be a momentary high in a society where the same old, same old
always happens.
    The election of Barack Obama is just the beginning of the fulfillment of the Dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
and making the ultimate sacrifice of the martyrs of the civil rights movement meaningful. Each of us must make a
new commitment now that change is possible. Getting Barack Obama was the easy part. Effecting real change is
the hard part and it is only just now beginning. Just do it!

Stories & Columns

UW-Madison Artist in residence
Fred Ho: Revolutionarily speaking,
by Jonathan Gramling

Watching the presidential returns
at R's Place: Worth waiting for,
by Jonathan Gramling

Never thought this could happen in
my lifetime,
by Paul Barrows

Asian Wisconzine/ Nhiatong Lor:
Child soldier for the U.S.A.,
by Heidi M. Pascual

Simple Things/Seeds,
by Lang Kenneth Haynes

Politicas de hoy/Anecdotas para
by Alfonso Zepeda Capistran

An interview with MATC’s Dr.
Maurice Sheppard:
Elections and leadership (1),
by  Jonathan Gtamling

Youth Spoken Word: Youth
energized at East Side's Urban
Arts event,
by Laura Salinger

Dane County Youth Board: Straight
talk and dealing,
by Jonathan Gramling

Dialogue on Homelessness:
Nurturing Our Capacity to Change/
Trading stories,
by Jonathan Gramling

Wis. Dept. of Children and Families
Secretary Reggie Bicha
Focusing on the children (2),
by Jonathan Gramling

China Dispatch:
Broken hearts,
by Andrew Gramling

Obama/Celebraqting a historic
by Jonathan Gramling

Health Matters/Reducing the risk
of diabetes,
by Dr. Eva Vivian

Editorial Staff
Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Heidi Manabat
Managing Editor

Clarita G. Mendoza
Sales Manager

Contributing Writers
Paul Barrows
Fabu Carter-Brisco
Andrew Gramling
Lang Kenneth Haynes
Heidi M. Pascual
Laura Salinger
Alfonso Zepeda Capistran
Martinez White

©2008 The Capital City Hues