Chip Clapp

An Activist Re-inspired

Filed By Chip Clapp | October 30, 2008 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Florida, John Anderson, presidential election

It seems like these days, anyone on the street will debate you about the logic of choosing this candidate over that one. Everyone is now an expert on policy and is willing to endlessly expound on the virtues of one over the other. At the same time that these people are debating and giving their laundry list for supporting a candidate, many people ignore that there are other reasons than just fact for supporting a candidate. There is the way the candidates make us feel that often goes ignored or at least unexplained.

The media sometimes calls Barack Obama charismatic and inspiring, but to those that don't have those feelings about him, those characteristics may be difficult to see. Being one of those who can enjoy endless policy debates, I'm going to just say that I agree with most of Senator Obama's policies and instead take a moment to tell you what I feel.

I attended the early voting rally last night in Sunrise, Florida at the Bank Atlantic Center (the arena where the Florida Panthers play). It was an amazing event. 20,000 people can make a deafening roar that sends chills up your spine (in a good way).

While I was waiting on line, I had the honor of waiting with retired Congressman John B. Anderson, a former Republican who changed parties during his tenure. He is an amazing man who voted on the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, 1965 and 1968. He was sworn in the same day as John F. Kennedy and although I didn't want to be disrespectful, I couldn't help but ask him, "What was Kennedy like?" He replied by telling me about the inauguration.

He said, "Having just been sworn in, they sat us behind him and to the side a bit, so I had a great view. Like so many people there, I was awestruck. I knew I was standing in the presence of history. That's part of why I support Barack Obama." He went on to talk about his tepid support for most other presidential candidates in the past and explained how this time, it's different, and so reminiscent of Kennedy. Hearing him, and knowing what a part of history he is, was humbling and really made his support hit home. I supported Senator Obama as the Democratic candidate, but this was my first experience of really being inspired.

I had another moment later in the evening. I was standing on the floor of the arena, maybe 10 yards from where Senator Obama would be speaking and I was scanning the crowd. I immediately noticed that there is no demographic to his support. It really does come from all types of people. Then I looked to my right and I saw a little girl- about a year and a half, maybe two years old- sitting on her father's shoulders, holding on to his chin for dear life, trying to see what was going on in the stadium. I knew she wouldn't remember the event when she got older, but she was just about the same age I was when Reagan was running.

I remember his era well- the fear of the Cold War, my parents talking in hushed tones about the economy and bills and how hard it was to raise multiple kids in that economy and whether they needed second jobs, complaining that there wasn't enough time for third jobs to support us and how that same economic insecurity carried in to George HW Bush's presidency. It made me think of how similar times are now. I remember the hope that Clinton brought for change and I remember actually seeing it happen first-hand as jobs were created and wages increased to a livable level.

Seeing that little girl made me think that instead of growing up with fear and insecurity, she could actually grow up with hope. It brought tears to my eyes and made me proud to be part of the effort that would bring hope to that little girl and others like her. I think about the children in my life: my cousins' children, my friends' children, who look up to me for guidance and support and after last night I want to tell each of them, "Yes, we can," and I will say it with all my heart.

That is my inspiration.

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I had the same "re-inspiration" during this election, Chip. This truly is a once in a lifetime election.