By Mika Kurose-Rothman
Special to Northwest Asian Weekly
What was it that kept myself and other Obama supporters looking for just one more votes as we knocked on doors in the hot Iowa summer? What propelled us to ignore our frozen feet as we hunted for votes in the bitter New Hampshire winter? Why did we ignore our homework and yard work and other mundane tasks so that we could make countless calls from a crowded back room in a Virginia campaign office?
Some call it ‘Obamania,’ but I call it a common bond. It is the notion that we, as one community, city, state, nation and world, are responsible for the well being of each other. Our enthusiasm was based on a simple idea: There is more that holds us together than keeps us apart.
My story is like the stories of so many others who have been touched by Barack Obama’s message of hope. After my summer internship in Iowa, I returned to school and organized the NYU chapter of Students for Barack Obama. Officially, we weren’t allowed to be a school-sponsored club, so we did what we could.
We held late night unofficial meetings in student center rooms, and then paid our own way to New Hampshire, Virginia, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania to volunteer for Get Out The Vote efforts.
We held weekly cell phone banks to call early primary states, with up to 15 of us sprawled on the floor in a hallway when we couldn’t find an empty room. Then, during our winter break, my friends and I returned to Des Moines for the final two weeks of the Get Out The Caucus efforts.
Aside from helping to elect a president, working for the Obama campaign allowed me to meet some extremely inspirational people.
For example, I met an older housewife from Iowa who had never been involved in politics and who believed that politics was a waste of time. After she heard Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, she decided to dedicate her time and energy to help him get elected.
She marched with a bunch of us young campaign interns who had lived and breathed politics since birth, carrying campaign signs and chanting “Obama ’08!” in the 2007 Iowa State Fair Parade. When I returned to Iowa for the caucuses in December, I saw her again and saw that involvement in politics had brought a fire to her life that would not be extinguished once the campaign season was over.
Obama’s election as president makes us realize that what we do here has an impact in many other places. On election night, the world was watching to see what we would do.
It came down to just a few simple questions: Could America really turn the page on years of political infighting and disregard for the larger international community? And could we elect a president whose life experiences have given him the ability to empathize with and show respect for goat herders in Kenya, white children in Kansas and Asian Americans in Hawaii?
On Nov. 4, as I watched President-elect Obama greet his supporters and a world audience from a stage in Chicago, my mind raced from Iowa to New Hampshire to New York, then back to the images on the screen in front of me.
No matter what else happens in my life, I am glad that I will be able to tell my grandchildren that when I had a chance to change my world, I jumped at the chance to ‘Barack the vote.’ ♦
Mika Kurose-Rothman and Mori Kurose-Rothman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.