Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Why I Support Obama

Key West -- if you've been reading my blog you know I'm supporting Barack Obama for President. Some people have asked why so I've decided to share my reasoning with you.

Integrity + Intelligence + Inspiration = Obama

The first time I was old enough to vote in a presidential election John Kennedy was running against Richard Nixon. I was 22, married, expecting my first child and living in suburban New Jersey. My husband, a lawyer, belonged to the Young Republicans club. He expected me to help his cause by making phone calls urging people to vote for Nixon.

I never made those calls. And on election day I was thrilled to pull the lever, casting my vote for Kennedy. I’ve never responded well to being told what to do. I prefer to make up my own mind.

Like so many others, I was inspired by John Kennedy and excited about the possibilities for our country. Coming out of the sleepy, complacent fifties, he made me believe that change was possible. I believed in him the way my parents believed in Roosevelt. I remember the night Roosevelt died in April, 1945. I was seven years old and just recovering from chicken pox. When my parents heard the news on the radio, they fell into each other's arms, crying. I cried, too, although I didn't have a clue.

My generation wept the same way when we lost John Kennedy. Then Martin Luther King. Then Bobby Kennedy. We mourned what might have been. In the dark days that followed, those of us who were young and idealistic were forced to grow up fast. I watched the Vietnam war unfold on TV as I played on the floor with my two small children. I became a skeptic about politics and politicians. Yet there was never an election when I didn’t vote. For me, voting was both obligation and privilege.

I’ve never spoken publicly about my politics. But I’m speaking out now because at last we have a candidate who makes me believe again. A candidate who I see as America’s best hope, a candidate with the potential to be transforming, one who inspires not just my grandson’s generation, but my own, and my children’s. Friends who know Barack Obama personally, friends whose opinion I trust, tell me he’s the real deal, and I believe them. As Bill Richardson said when he endorsed Obama, “There’s something special about this guy...”

I have friends who disagree. They tell me it’s disloyal to support Obama when we have the chance to elect the first woman president in this country. They say I’m betraying the Women’s Movement and all that we fought for. I would be the first to stand up and thank the Women’s Movement for giving me the courage to change my life, and I am forever grateful to those who came before me.

There was a time when I supported Hillary (in her run for Senate) but that was before she voted to authorize war in Iraq, then supported Bush a second time in his confrontationist policy on Iran. This election is about choosing a leader whose judgment we respect. I can't respect or trust the judgment that led to those votes. And I'm deeply disturbed by the growing anger and resentment of some Hillary supporters. I’m starting to believe them when they say they’ll vote for McCain (or not vote at all) before they’ll vote for Obama. What does that say about their agenda?

My daughter experienced sexual harassment on the job as a young, commercial airline pilot. She'd planned on voting for Hillary in the Massachusetts primary. I respect her right to make her own decisions. But days before the election she was bombarded by fliers from Hillary's campaign, so negative and hateful she began to rethink her vote. Like many feminists she’s discovered it’s not always about gender (any more than it should be about race or religion). Feminism means we get to make our own decisions. We get to decide who we’re voting for based on our belief in who will make the best candidate, who will make the best president.

Whoever is elected in November is going to face a daunting challenge. No one person can clean up the mess it took 7 and ½ years to create. That's why I want the calm, thoughtful candidate I believe will surround himself with the best and the brightest. I believe the decisions Obama makes will be made based on what’s best for this country. And he's not bringing eight years of baggage into the White House.

I want a president who can make us proud as Americans. How great would it be after 7 and ½ years to have an articulate leader, an eloquent speaker, one who is not only willing to talk, but to listen? I believe Obama will be that kind of president. Plus, he has a sense of humor. He has two young daughters and a working wife. He's smart. And let's not forget the magic. Nothing wrong with having the ability to connect with people around the world --young, old, and in-between.

You know, every year at this time I’m asked to send “words of wisdom” to graduating seniors around the country. I tell them I think the single most important part of their education is to learn to think for themselves – to weigh the pros and cons then make up their own minds. I ask them to take responsibility for their own actions. I’d like to see all our candidates do the same.

In some ways an election is like life – a lot of muck comes your way. It’s hard sometimes to slog through it. It’s exhausting. It can be scary. You can feel like you’re drowning in it. You’ve got to work hard to pull yourself up and out of it, then to rise above it. We need a leader who can help us do that, then pull us together. That's why I'm supporting Barack Obama.

All I ask is that you make an informed decision. This election is too important for us, and for our kids and grandkids, to decide in any other way.