I rode to Philly on Friday afternoon with some NY Obama volunteers. My first stop was the Philly HQ, which was bustling with activity.
Weekend of Women
On Friday evening there was an informal dinner with other New York Women for Obama. I met some wonderful women, including Leonore Blitz (speaking in the photo). Leonore is the one who came up with the idea for the women's event.
At one point during dinner we went around the room introducing ourselves and giving background about how and why we were involved with the campaign. The women had amazing stories -- working for RFK's campaign, serving as mayor of a NJ town, decades of work with the democratic party. Everyone talked about how much they loved the Obama campaign and the people associated with it.
Saturday morning we woke up really early to ride out to the Women for Obama rally in Germantown. The crowd of women (and some men) was impressive. The goal of the weekend was to have women come to Pennsylvania to unite with PA women and support our candidate. Women from 20 different states traveled to Pennsylvania to participate.
Senator Bob Casey's sister, Margi Casey McGrath introduced the speakers at the rally.
First up was Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL and a highly respected feminist activist and author. She spoke about her support for Obama and the question she (and many of us) are always asked: "Why aren't you supporting the first woman candidate? " Two of her responses stuck with me:
It's the difference between a good president and a great president.
When Obama first announced, Michelman sat down with him in his office to discuss women's issues. She wanted to find out if he was really what he seemed to be and find out if he "gets it." She came away from the meeting assured that "he gets it!" He understands the role and importance of women, and the struggles they face.
Actress Jessica Lange spoke passionately about her support for Obama. She also recalled President Bush's address to Congress in the run up to the Iraq war. She remembered carefully studying the reactions of our elected officials to his words. She watched Senator Clinton stand up and applaud three times. She watched some Senators like Ted Kennedy and Lincoln Chafee respond based on principle, and watched others "making political calculations" (like the junior Senator from New York).
The keynote speaker was Caroline Kennedy. When she speaks her warmth, compassion and authenticity come through. It was so wonderful to hear he talk about the reasons she supports Obama and about the issues she is most concerned about, like education.
Unfortunately, I didn't get good photos of either Augusta Clark, the dynamic former Philadelphia Councilwoman or Judge Glenda Hackett, who fired up the crowd before everyone headed out for a day of canvassing.
As we left the rally, we ran into some of Hillary's neighbors from Chappaqua.
As most of the women prepared to canvass in the suburbs, my friend and fellow NY volunteer/organizer Susan headed out to help another friend and NY volunteer, Jacob who runs the SouthWest Philly office. A train trip and trolly ride later, we arrived a the office.
We walked in just as a group of canvassers were getting their instructions for the day. Among the group of volunteers was our friend Jonta, a terrific volunteer/organizer from Queens, and her crew. She's been bringing groups to Philly for several weeks.
Susan and I headed out for our first canvass of the day. We knocked on about 80 doors, and met about two dozen Obama supporters, 3 Hillary supporters and a couple of undecideds. The people we met were VERY excited about Barack, and glad to see us. I should mention that Southwest Philly -- at least the parts we visited -- is almost exclusively African American.
We had trouble finding the final address on our list, so stopped in at Eddie's cafe for directions.
The manager of Eddie's was a guy names Duan, who used to be a registered Republican. Duan became a Democrat so he could vote for Obama in the primary. In fact, Duan told us that before the voter registration deadline he held a party for his Republican friends. He got a big stack of voter registration forms and they all changed their affiliation together.
Here is Duan with Susan.
Our first canvass completed, we returned to the office, tallied our results and headed off to the Obama rally-BBQ at a nearby park. On our way to the rally we heard someone on a loudspeaker saying something about Obama. As the truck with the loudspeaker neared, we saw that it was Jacob and another volunteer, doing visibility and outreach. That's Jacob leaning out of the truck.
As we neared the Obama rally, we heard music and smelled the the burgers and hotdogs. The event had the combined goals of visibility, community outreach and volunteer-signup drive.
There was a terrific steel drum band as well as a DJ.
Obama volunteers were busy signing people up to help with GOTV and giving away buttons and information. It was wonderful to see so many from the community there decked out in Obama gear and excited about the primary.
The mural on the park's Rec center wall reads:
I have seen that if you truly desire something better, it's not as hard as you think.
Susan and I headed out for one more canvass near the park. What we encountered was a slice of Southwest Philly life. The beautiful weather brought everyone out: boys circling around us on their bicycles, a father throwing a football with his son, older couples sitting on the stoop watching the world go by, teenage girls playing double-dutch on a porch, grandmothers holding infant grandchildren.
The children were all very curious about us and what we were doing. Every few houses we'd encouter another group who would ask us why we were there. The boys on bikes would yell to us that no one lived in a particular house, or that the residents weren't home.
As in our earlier canvass, people were excited about Obama. The couple of voters we talked to who were undecided were interested in hearing why we support him, and seemed glad that we had stopped by. By far the majority was planning to vote, and would be voting for Obama. In our second canvass we knocked on about 120 doors, talked to a few dozen Obama supporters and one Hillary supporter (who said she would gladly vote for Obama in the general).
Susan and I helped out a bit at the office before taking the trolly back downtown, getting our bags from the hotel and heading home to New York. It was an exhausting but fulfilling trip. I can't wait to get back there for the big GOTV push next week!
I saw the potential in Philly for us to close the gap on primary day but also saw the uphill battle to GOTV in a machine city and state that is backing Hillary Clinton.
Please, PLEASE do whatever you can to help the campaign in the next 9 days.
* If you are near Philly (or anywhere in PA) and can get there even for one day, go.
* If you are in NYC, we have 1-day to 5-day Philly trips planned.