Monday, November 10, 2008

Thanks President-Elect Barack Obama!

President-Elect Barack Obama has a new website to tap into all the engaged voters who participated in the process and helped make November 4, 2008 one of my favorite days ever.

I took the opportunity to contribute to the Tell Us Your Story section. (Like I have EVER missed an opportunity to tell my story!). I thought I would copy it here, too:

I am a single mother with Multiple Sclerosis.

For almost my entire 44 years, I have always been an accidental activist. When I was 8-years old, my older brother went on vacation for the summer and I took over his paper route. One day, my long hair fell out of my baseball cap while I was collecting for the paper and a customer outed me as a girl to the powers that be at the Hartford Courant. They fired me because girls were not allowed to have paper routes in 1972. I fought back and was allowed to continue until my brother returned.

Due to my father’s work and his untreated alcoholism, we moved around a lot when I was growing up, (I’m grateful to report that he and I have both been clean and sober for many years now—one day at a time.) When I was 10, we moved to the Midwest to what my parents didn't realize was a very racist community. It was one of those welcome-wagon kind of towns where the last new neighbor brought a pie over to the home of the newcomer. So, when a new family moved in next door, my mother baked her requisite pie and brought it over. I was excited because the family had children around my age. I wasn't quite sure what was going on when the other kids in the neighborhood started calling me a "Ni&&er Lover." My parents tried as best they could to explain this kind of hatred and bigotry but basically they left it to me to deal with the other kids. I walked to school with my new neighbors every day until we moved again. My only other memories of that particular town include a corn eating contest and a cross burning at the side of the road.

When I was 15, I worked as a farm laborer in the summer for a cigar tobacco company. The boys made 25 cents more per hour for picking in the fields. I was bored in the sheds (the girls' domain) and asked to go in the fields. I was told that girls could not pick tobacco. By the time I finished quoting the Constitution and threatening to contact the National Organization for Women, my female friend and I were picking alongside the men and making the higher hourly wage. I wouldn’t want to give anyone the impression that I was particularly strong or equipped to do the work of strong men, but that doesn’t mean that SOME WOMEN weren’t able to do it. I didn’t let my poor health habits or physical weakness stand in the way of fighting for my feminist principles.

So, when I was diagnosed with MS in September 2007, it was not out of character for me to take action. I started writing and researching and felt a lot of hope when I learned about embryonic stem cell research and the hope it held for people with MS and other neurological diseases, diabetes, and spinal cord injuries. I felt extremely fortunate to have been diagnosed at this time and place in history. It was a new century! Science had advanced in leaps and bounds. A cure was on the way! Imagine my surprise when I learned that the Bush Administration and McCain/Palin radically opposed using embryonic stem cells for medical research because it would “endanger human life.” What about my life? What about the life of a child with diabetes? What about the life of a person with a spinal cord injury?

I have a friend who conceived her beloved son through invetro-fertilization. Last year, her husband, who is considerably older than her, had a heart attack and they decided they didn't want to have future children that he probably wouldn’t see grow up. The fertility clinic still has frozen embryos in storage. Under the Bush administration, my friend can let them languish in the freezer until the clinic kicks them out; they could throw them in the garbage; or possibly donate them to be implanted in a stranger. My friend would not have been able to say, "There are millions of children already in the world who need homes. Those potential donation recipients should adopt those children. Rather than have my DNA implanted in someone else and grow into a child that could take the place of one of these abandoned children, I'd rather donate those cells to help cure my friend from MS."

I support almost all of Barack Obama’s policies (I’m kind of disappointed about his stance on gay marriage but I’m convinced that he will listen, learn, and be willing to change his mind on that one). I admire Barack Obama’s ability to build bridges and to listen. I believe that what our country needs and craves and voted for is a leader who can bring together people with different views and help them find common ground. I believe these skills will improve our abysmal reputation in the world. For the first time in a very long time, I am proud to be an American.

Embryonic stem cell research, though, is the single issue that drove me to New Hampshire to campaign on behalf of Barack Obama. It’s what convinced me to knock on strangers’ doors and listen when they expressed concern about his readiness for the Oval Office. It’s what clamped my lips shut when someone expressed opinions different from my own (not an easy thing for me). I followed his example and tried to listen and rationally present other ideas. I really felt like I made a difference when a young mother took a voter registration card and a man who said that he was voting for McCain at the start of our conversation changed his mind by the end and said, “Well, thanks you guys. I think I need to look at Obama a little harder. I didn’t know that about his economic plan.”

It was the issue of stem cell research that drove me to host a party to call people in swing states on behalf of Barack Obama. It also brought me to others’ Obama calling parties; convinced me to donate money (that I’m not exactly rolling in); to put bumper stickers on my car and on my desk; to raise money; to write; to blog; and to social network in support of Barack Obama. In other words, like many people across the nation, I joined the movement. I do not have control over the world, but I do have one voice, and one vote. We all do and I tried to spread that message. I got all of my younger friends and my friends’ children to register and to vote…some for the first time. I walked the walk instead of just talking the talk.

I am thrilled that my candidate, Barack Obama, has been elected President of the United States. I supported him before the primary so this isn’t a case of feeling like the lesser of two evils won. Some of my friends were surprised that I was not supporting Hillary Clinton because she was a woman. I would love to support a woman but she was not the right person for the job. My vote for Barack Obama was not because he is an African American. It’s because he is the best person for the job. I am grateful and proud that MLK’s dream has come true and that a Black child can grow up and be president but that is not what I am most proud of. I am proud that we all kept hope alive. I am proud of Barack Obama but I am also proud of US. I can’t but WE can. He is a great man but, more importantly, he inspires others to find their greatness. He built a network and there are scores of people who now feel engaged in the political process. In my humble opinion, Barack Obama is already one of the best presidents for accomplishing that goal.

1 comment: