“I Voted.” Small sticker, precious step

Today I’m as powerful as Sheldon Adelson, Sean Hannity, Paul Ryan, John Roberts, David Axelrod or Elizabeth Warren.

My vote counts as much as each of theirs. And as I cast my vote today my heart lifted. I could feel it. For too many months I’ve been worrying and griping and moaning and arguing and living in fear of the unthinkable. An hour ago I took action. I feel empowered.

img_5163Our country has flaws. Disparity of rich and poor. Gross overconsumption of the planet’s resources. Poor education and a paucity of hope for too many. A system designed by those who already have the most to assure they get more. And our election system is far from perfect. Voter suppression. Hanging chads. Too much influence by the wealthiest. Gerrymandered districts that permit little challenge to incumbents.

But I just cast a vote that counts the same as Barack Obama’s. And it will be counted. The regular citizens who handed me the ballot and watched me slide it in the machine are the volunteer custodians of the dream the founders dreamed. My Uncle Bob died in World War II to protect the vote I cast today. John Lewis had his skull cracked to preserve the right of all of us to not just speak up about where we’re going as a country but to put our hands on the wheel.

There was a man standing at the corner of the street that leads to our local government center where Lisa and I voted. He was showing the world a life-size picture of Hillary Clinton behind bars. I firmly believe he’ll be disappointed a week from today. And as we drove past him I felt less of the despair I’ve been feeling for months, despair that the candidate he supports might actually, how could this possibly be true, win the election. I felt less depressed because I had just taken action. I had voted. To turn away that man’s vision and to bring my own closer to the light.

In a world full of despots I stood up and said to the preposterous, self-absorbed, ignorant, immature poseur who would be president: “I banish thee. Slink back under the foul rock you crawled out from. Begone.” Little old me, a guy of scant power, wealth or influence. But a guy with a vote.

In the car, Lisa and I did a Barack-Michelle fist bump. Is this a great country or what?

— Bruce Benidt

Mitt’s Character Moment

Michelle Obama said last week, “I have seen first-hand that being president doesn’t change who you are — it reveals who you are.”

So too does running for president and today was a revealing moment for those of us wondering about the character of Mitt Romney in his statements regarding the deaths of our ambassador and three others in Libya.  What I see is not very appealing: a man who 1) leaps before thinking 2) is willing to perpetuate an untruth for political advantage 3) will do most anything if he thinks it will get him a step closer to the presidency.

One of the pundits on TV noted that it was about this time four years ago when Lehman Brothers melted down and shortly thereafter John McCain “suspended” his campaign in order to deal with the economy.  In hindsight, this was seen as the moment when Senator McCain’s campaign went irrevocably off the rails.  I wonder if we’ll mark this moment as when Governor Romney’s campaign went the same way.

I wasn’t voting for him anyway, but this makes me more sure than ever that Governor Romney peaked when he did his groundbreaking work in making the world safe for another office supply company.

– Austin

Rosa Parks, and America, Meet Michelle Obama — You’re Gonna Like Her

Michelle Obama gave a master class on public speaking tonight at the Democratic National Convention. Although she worked from a script, she seemed to be talking, telling a story that mattered to her. She was reading from a prompter that allowed her to look straight into the camera — but she was doing more than reading. She’d made the speech hers. She reportedly wrote much of it, and she had practiced until she knew it and liked it, but hadn’t memorized it. So it still came from her heart.

A huge key to moving, inspirational comunication is to talk about things that matter to you, that you care about. Passionately. Skip the other crap. Talk about what matters. Show us who you are.

I do a lot of speech coaching, and I’ll have people looking at this one. Not only does Hillary Clinton have a high standard to match in Denver, with Michelle’s speech — so does Michelle’s husband.

Tom Brokaw said it would be awfully hard for Hillary supporters to turn their back on Michelle Obama after this speech, which talked about the courage of pioneers and the courage of everyday parents.

It’s been a long time coming, a black woman captivating millions of Americans with the simple grace of what she believes in. Fanny Lou Hamer would be proud. Rosa Parks would be proud. Here was a black woman talking about the values America is built on, standing up and saying her parents and she and her husband have been trying to do things the right way — and that we shouldn’t give up dreaming that things can be better.

America got a little better tonight.

— Bruce Benidt investment options fine

Michelle Obama, RFK and America

Michelle Obama is still getting hammered for saying, as her husband started winning primaries, that this was the “first time in my adult life that I have been really proud of my country because it seems like hope is making a comeback.”

I’ve been reading The Last Campaign, by Thurston Clarke (excerpted also in last month’s Vanity Fair), about Robert Kennedy’s 82-day run for the White House in 1968. The book casts Kennedy as a revolutionary, the rare candidate who challenged his audiences and spoke uncomfortable truths. Clarke says no candidate has ever “criticized the American people so brazenly.”

Clarke writes: “Try to imagine a mainsteam politician saying, as Kennedy did in a New York Times essay, ‘Once we thought, with Jefferson, that we were the “best hope” of all mankind. But now we seem to rely only on our wealth and power,’ or, as he did on Meet The Press:I am dissatisfied with our society. I suppose I am dissatisfied with our country.’ You cannot because today’s thin-skinned electorate would never tolerate such criticism.” (Nor would the tiny-brained chihauhau yippers on cable TV ever let such a comment pass without a million replays and gallons of crocodile tears over why they’re talking about it over and over. My sentence, this last, not Clarke’s.)

RFK criticized all of us for complacency in not standing up against the Vietnam War — and admitted his own mistakes in being one of the architects of our early involvement, sending military “advisors.” He nailed us all (those of us who were alive and conscious then) for ignoring the poverty in our midst, ignoring the racism and inequality all around us. He had the guts, when asked by a medical-school student where the money was going to come from for the social programs such as neighborhood clinics Kennedy advocated, to point at the student and say, “From you,” and he jabbed his finger around the hall and shouted, “and you, and you, and you.” Then he more quietly explained that it isn’t right for only the affluent to have access to medical care, or to go to medical school, noting very few black or Hispanic faces in the audience.

In 1968 the country was going off the rails, it seemed to a lot of us. Urban riots, demonstrations and violent lawandorder crackdowns, a disastrous war, a polarized country. And Robert Kennedy looked at it all straight on and said what he thought was wrong — not with his opponents, but with the country, with his fellow citizens, with himself. And he said what he thought we all needed to do to set things right.

Criticizing America is patriotic. Shouting down those who criticize is idiotic. We need more courage from people like Michelle Obama.

Here’s a passage from Clarke’s book that hits home 40 years after RFK’s brief campaign:
“During his campaign for the Democratic nomination, Kennedy told Americans that they were individually responsible for what their government had done in their name in Vietnam and for what it had failed to do at home for minorities and the poor. He said they could not acquit themselves of this responsibility simply by voting for a new president and new policies. Instead, they would have to participate in the healing process. Because Kennedy had managed his late brother’s 1960 presidential campaign and served in his cabinet as attorney general, he understood that following a crude and divisive campaign with a high-minded presidency would be difficult, and healing a morally wounded nation after running an immoral campaign would be impossible. Because he understood this, his campaign is a template for how a candidate should run for the White House in a time of moral crisis.”

This is a time of moral crisis. How are Obama and McCain doing so far?

–Bruce Benidt small business management fine

Terrorist Fist Gab

Fox News was recently ruminating and fulminating about non-verbal communications, and asked the question all of America is surely asking: Why is Barack Hussein Obama doing a “terrorist fist jab” with his wife?

Huh? Terrorist fist jab? If that was a terrorist fist jab Barack and Michelle were doing at the Excel last week, America’s schools are even more infected with junior terrorist cells than the Star Tribune’s Katherine Kersten feared.

Obviously Fox didn’t make a serious accusation here, but it’s pretty bizarre to even mention a completely unsubstantiated terrorist-Obama connection.

– Loveland tax masters fine