Posts Tagged ‘hope’

Reason #2: For Voices Like Sister Regina

November 3, 2008

Yesterday I said goodbye to my uncle and aunt after a family wedding over the weekend. As they drove away, I caught a glimpse of a small card they had hanging from their rear view mirror. I took a second look somewhat incredulously – there was Barack hanging proudly from the rear view mirror!

This got me to thinking about how this guy, who stands on the cusp of being elected to our presidency – hopefully – tomorrow, has managed to inspire voices from around the country, as well as the world to shout, speak, sing, and even cry out in support. How did Obama, in essence, come to adorn people’s rear view mirrors?

Sure, there have been some  oratory displays on issues that have long plagued our country, like race, that will surely go down in history. There have also been a sound political platform and promises of change.

But the excitement I’m seeing in the streets and cafes and airports and universities clearly trancends these essential aspects of a campaign. People are literally moved to tears over the raw emotion Obama evokes.

I’m betting the Obama mystique represents something much bigger. I’m betting it represents not only him having a voice and presenting policies we more or less agree with. I’m betting, on a larger scale, that Obama represents – more than ever before in our lifetimes – the possibility that you and I and our neighbors and friends might actually become part of a new progressive majority that is able to be heard amidst the cacophony of that complex and monolithic thing we call government (remember those community organizing roots that Palin bashed as unimportant). That would be a change. And that possibility is what is making people cry (and we’re talking public figures like Oprah, Chris Matthews, and Drew Barrymore, but also regular folks who attend his rallies).

Now this won’t come without a price, my friends (said in my best McCain accent). Here’s what Obama is asking of us from this point forward, if he gets into the White House.

First of all, he’s demanding that people wake up and pay attention to the world around them (remember that bumper sticker we’ve all probably seen, “if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention!). Never before have I heard people debate the issues surrounding a presidential campaign in such an involved and impassioned way. Obama inspires this, he challenges us to get off our arses and get involved. But that can only happen when you have a clue what you’re getting involved in.

Secondly, Obama demands that we laugh at ourselves. Sometimes even in public. Never before have we had a presidential candidate inspire so much attention from our mainstream public media outlets. He dances. He sings – in Spanish. He appears on comedy shows. His performances even demanded that McCain and Palin meet him on this turf (click here to view – or read – that famous moose rap again!). This has certainly added some levity to a very long campaign. But more importantly, it helps take that mystery out of the people we have running for office in order to run our country. Beyond seeing them in debates and giving scripted stump speeches, we see them, to a degree, as people. People who can laugh at themselves.

Finally, after inspiring us to get educated, and to laugh at ourselves, Obama demands that we take to the streets. That we participate in whatever level we want to – from our neighborhoods to our world community, with everything in between. Sure, tomorrow holds promise for record numbers of voters. But, even more importantly, it holds promise for an involvement – that begins tomorrow – from those who haven’t been heard before. And that, my friends (yeah, I’m not letting John take that line from me) is powerful.

So, let me fill you in on the reason behind the Obama car ornament. Sure, my relatives (well, at least some of them) are voting for Obama. But here’s why they hung him up to accompany them on their drive. My uncle writes:

My uncle writes:
“The Obama picture hanging from the rear view mirror has a history—doesn’t everything! When Jean (my Aunt) was recovering from breast cancer she became friends with a Mercy Sister—Sister Regina Gnoit—she also had breast cancer and was in recovery.

Regina was a person on the cutting edge of most movements. Every Sunday she would go to the Art Institute on Michigan Ave in Chicago and carry a picket sign—for anything and everything—against poverty, the Iraq War, Bush; Death Penalty ; etc. etc.

This past spring Sister Regina became very ill. She wrote personally to Barack. She got a very nice note back signed by Barack and Michelle Obama. Regina made many of the pictures for her friends. She tried her hardest to live to vote for Barack—she died about 6 weeks ago.

Thus the picture.

Regina was one of a kind.”

So tomorrow as you take to the streets to vote or canvas, as you get yourself to work, and see those around you holding signs, many for the first time, think about participation. Some folks, like Sister Regina standing on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, have been at this for a long time. Others will begin tomorrow. Perhaps inspired by Obama. Because behind the rhetoric and the hype, he represents something that more than ever before is now a possibility. Your voice.

What do you want to say?


As a postscript to this post, I just received the latest Obama video. It couldn’t be more appropriate for my message above. Check it out here. Then ladies, men, children… lace up your skates, and head out on the rink. Sure, it will be slippery. If you fall your butt might get a little wet on those spots the Zamboni just passed over. But there will be guard rails, and your teammates, to help you along.

Take your shot at the goal – vote Obama!

– Colleen, mother of three in Boulder, Colorado who thinks it would be the highest compliment ever to be described as “being at the front of most movements.”


Reason #17: ‘Cause He’s Inspiring Community Activists from Other Hemispheres

October 19, 2008

We all know the conservatives have been railing against the value of community organizing and activism and Obama’s experience in this camp. See “Reason #22,” ‘nuf said.

But Obama’s experiences and perspectives have been inspiring folks around the world in amazing ways.

On a trip to Brazil this past summer I was approached by a 77 year old community activist living from Bahia. When she realized I was from the United States, she gave me a special task: to get a poem she wrote for Barack Obama to him.

Can any of us imagine taking the time and thought to write an 8 page poem to Brazil’s president, Lula? Probably not.

And that’s the power Obama brings to this election. People from around the world – more than ever – are feeling the same hope that inspires us here.

So today I present not my words, but the poem of Dona Otilia. She’s speaks from her heart, and gives us a glimpse of the global power of Obama. Read on. And vote Obama… for Dona Otilia.

Since age 12 Dona Otilia  Nogueira has advocated for the rights of women, indigenous peoples, quilombolas (Afro-Brazilian slave descendents), family farmers, and other underrepresented and oppressed groups in Bahia. Her poem to Barack Obama is translated from Portuguese to English.

I ask your apologies
For my enormous boldness
To be from another continent
To live in another nation
But with the greatest humility
Hearing all of the reports
I took up my pen
And wrote in prose and verse
To pay homage to a man
Who arose among millions
With good proposals and actions
Determination and love
Tenacity and modesty
To win against discrimination

I am proud of the black race
With a large love and admiration
And also of the Indians
I am a descendent of these two
And for this I have suffered much
I had no way to study
In a country with much discrimination
Living the need to fill
To cultivate the land
And by this land I was sustained
But I had faith in God and courage
To confront prejudice
So I see the world in another manner
All that passes is not a mirage

I live in a country without terror
The worst thing here are the drugs
Here there are no volcanos
Some small earthquakes
We don’t have cyclones or tidal waves
In the south of the country some small
Hurricanes are growing
The robber here walks free
Which is terrible
Because the world is this way
We have high levels of criminality
We have a lot of work to do in this area
For people to learn
Because we don’t lack conflict

We have an excellent government
Our dear Lula
Who ascended the ramp of the Planalto
Remembering the least favored
He is a great man
In this way he diminished hunger
And is going to diminish violence
He is improving education
Investing in culture
Inspiring sports
For this I am happy
I am living in a paradise
The pride of my country

I’ve seen many reports
Coming from North America
I know that inequality is great
And prejudice is strong
But you are brought from God
You have conquered the masses
We are certain of your victory
I know that you’re going to help your race
They have as much suffering as we do
With the disposition to conquer
To have a Black man in power
Is the glory of the future
Better days are going to come
And we’re going to thank God

Obama, you are a child of God
I see the world helping your nation
Against the viruses contaminating the world
You are dedicated to fighting
I know that you are going to do away with problems
With your valiant determination
To fight against pollution and terror
Emitting gasses without limit
Contaminating the world
Without our rulers feeling them
They don’t stop polluting
From one side terror reigns
And from the other, pollution pressures
If it doesn’t stop, the earth is going to explode

Global warming is the fruit
Of much pollution
We need to reforest the world
To have less hydraulic pollution
To stop burning and fires
The earth has its limit
Listen to what I’m going to write
Rulers aren’t worried
They only think in nuclear energy
Without light they live without seeing pollution
Or feign that they don’t understand
They live without a plan
Only living to earn money
With the world destroyed, where will they spend it?

But since you are going to light up the world
I am writing this to you
I know that you are going to shine on the two continents
That you are going to help our Lula succeed
Lula will shine in the South
And you will shine in the North
United, you will be strong
Holding the hand of God
To stop this hurtful war
For a world with so much but still lacks bread
Where children cry tears of hunger
In the hope of a little food
Seeing their parents lose their lives
Losing relatives, friends, and homes.

When I see you on the television
I am filled with hope
I can’t know you personally
Because the distance is great
I am poor and have no way to reach you
But through a friend
Who is very dear to me
I know that this will arrive in your hands
And that you’ll understand
How much we admire you
And also our worry
About this brutal and wrong system
Where all live suffocating
From so much pollution.

Barack Obama go forward
Life has chosen you with love
It has given you this great mission
With angels on high
Holding your hands
Preparing your country
As a leader of the world
And the world is going to vibrate
With your brilliant ideas
You’ll dialogue in the United Nations
Your proposals will have consistency
With strength that isn’t dictatorial
You are like a bird spreading good ideas
Through your dialogue and composure

God and the people are with you
Go forth and don’t look back
Fly on the horizon
Because you are capable
And the world needs you
Saints and angels will help you
We are very worried
About terror and pollution
That suffocates the whole world
Though here we have less of this
We are worried for our brothers
The worst here are the capital cities
The rest of the country lives in peace

I live in Itacare, Bahia
A small town encircled by forest
With more than 50 waterways and rivers
Many waterfalls and cascades
The sixth corridor of the planet
With abundant fauna
The beaches are famous
Covered with forest and clear water
With little pollution
The greatest biodiversity of the world
I invite you to visit
This splendid beauty
Created by mother nature
I know that you will like it here.

I am not dictating anything
But merely expressing my worry
I am an old country woman
Who lacks a good education
But I see that you have a future
You are going to weigh anchor of the boat of Victory
Don’t worry about the darkness of night
The day is going to shine like a ray of light on the horizon
Illuminating your path
Always in the arms of the people
Fly on an ocean that is calm and serene
Give your cry of peace and love
For you have protection
Who is holding your hand
Is certainly Jesus of Nazareth

Obama, God inspired you
As he has inspired my children
My people, country, and forests
For the truth won’t lose its brilliance
Through your humble and profound gestures
A smile that conquers the world
I wish you all the best
You are a young hero
I know that you will say no to war
You will bring peace to your land
For people believe in you
Like the iris waits for light
We wait for Jesus
To see you in power

The angels on high
Are uniting to fight
For the people of Iraq
Who are crying out
With a terrible terror
With so much blood lost
Death everywhere
We feel it in our souls
And we can’t complain
Because our country is another
May God protect your daughters
And illuminate your people
That, united, you will change the world
And help your family.

Obama, I take leave
Pardon me for my audacity
I am inspired here in the forest
And don’t participate in your daily life
I am inspired by flowers in bloom
By the sweet taste of literature
By hearing the songs of birds
And seeing the purity of flowers
The magnitude of President Lula
Are fonts of inspiration
Steps toward peace and love
Hear my greetings
Accept an embrace and your brothers and sisters
And the reverence we owe to God on high.

Dona Otilia Maria Nogueira
Vila Marambaia
Itacare, Bahia, Brasil

– Colleen, a mother of three in Boulder who is quite active, but not such a good poet