Monday, July 30, 2007

My mom met Obama

My mom met Obama for the first time last Thursday (one of the benefits of being in New Hampshire for a month) and shares my enthusiasm for him.  Here's her report:
Yesterday was Obama's day at Lake Sunapee and he is a very impressive person.  He looks as if he is at least 25, but luckily seems to be very wise -- almost deja vu in remembering seeing John Kennedy hold forth at my university when he was seeking the nomination in 1961.  He has charisma plus and a gift for speaking to crowds that seems personal.
I attended the public presentation in Sunapee Harbor where about 300 people waited in the pouring rain for more than an hour beyond the announced time.  Seemingly, no one had more than two day's notice and I don't think that it was well publicized -- the Gordon's didn't even know until I called an hour ahead of the event.  By the way, seemingly no buttons or bumper stickers offered, just free ice cream (advance teams take notice).  However, everyone agreed that it was well worth the wait and the weather.  He was exceptionally well informed as was evidenced not only by his prepared remarks which were well crafted for the type of audience and location, but also by his responses to the impromptu questions.  The main themes were health care for all equivalent to what he gets as a US senator; quality education, especially for low economic areas, attention to teaching foreign languages, and much higher pay for teachers with elements for merit pay and working in tough schools; re-vamping of Social Security to ensure a basic safety net for the upcoming baby boomers; and of course, a phased withdrawal from Iraq.  He was confident that all of these initiatives could be paid for through greater efficiencies, especially with energy (fuel efficient cars) and cessation of the war.  He stayed for an hour and a half with at least an hour mingling with the audience and talking with people on a one-on-one basis.  The "Secret Service" was not so secret as they all were the same size with crew cuts, cords coming out their ears, black coats and talking to their watches.  I hope that there were more in the crowd that blended into the New Hampshire woodsy types.  They must go nuts with all the people pressing around the candidates and amazingly, there was no effort to search people or their bags.  The paper said that Obama was the first candidate to get Secret Service protection because he was the first to draw huge crowds. 
Then, in the early evening, I attended the expensive reception for Obama [she thinks $500 is expensive -- she hasn't been to NYC!] that was held at the lake home of Susan Mayer, a 77-year-old who is a very spirited supporter. I think that her son and daughter-in-law, who are from Illinois and long time Obama supporters, co-hosted the event.  There were about 150 people there and Obama gave essentially the same speech, but spent more time fielding questions, and again, spent about a half hour talking to people one by one.  I managed to use my elbows to get through the crowd and told him that I lived in Kenya and was "Whitney Tilson's mom" and he did recognize the name.  I then said that, although the domestic problems needed attention, I thought that the most important part of his presidency was going to be reconciling the US with the Muslim world and regaining the global respect that Bush has squandered.  He said he agreed and said that he thought his own background would hold him in good stead for that effort.  It was a very quick response, but I don't think that it was a canned "yes" to the  assertion because I saw and heard him engaging with other people and on several occasions, he either gently took issue, offered more information or agreed by elaborating on the person's idea.  He would be a wonderful teacher and, I think, help Americans to understand issues and make difficult decisions.
So, I wrote him another check for $500 and wildly hope that he may succeed.  As people keep questioning his "experience," my response now is that I am glad he does not have the kind of experience that those Republicans in charge brought with them to Washington.  It would be wonderful to have someone who could think clearly without the excess baggage of cynicism and willingness to do and say anything that the focus-group-mongers dictate in order to be elected.  It also might help with repairing relations with the rest of the world if he was certifiably not part of the Iraq war mafia and was not committed to doing anything to keep the oil flowing.
In sum, I think he would be a great president and am very grateful to Whit for "introducing" us to him many months ago.  I will be meeting a guy who is helping to organize Americans who live overseas in support of Obama.  I have my fingers crossed.


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