We started in New Hampshire. In late September, eight of us piled into two cars and drove to Pelham, a small town where Barack Obama was known alternatively as a Muslim agitator, naive rookie or a smart guy with good ideas but no experience. We knew we liked Obama—he was against the war from the beginning, he didn’t take money from lobbyists and he was the best orator we’d seen since Dr. King.
But there wasn’t really a serious chance he would win. He was up against the greatest Democratic family since the Kennedys with little name recognition, few endorsements and many skeptics. Polls had him behind by more than 20 percentage points nationally and in key primary states. He wasn’t black enough; he wasn’t electable; he didn’t have enough time in Washington.
And then something happened. As we canvassed in New Hampshire and later in Iowa, we realized that the people we talked to — in the towns across the U.S. from Nashua to Des Moines, from Keene to Iowa Falls—were hungry from something different. They were hungry for change, not as a slogan, but as a guiding principle of leadership. They were hungry for a new kind of politics that added instead of divided, that brought people together instead of tearing them apart.
They were hungry for a leader with judgment and integrity. None of us believes that Sen. Clinton supported President Bush’s disregard for the international community and his rush to war in Iraq; we are troubled by her unwillingness to challenge it. On the most critical foreign policy decision of the post-9/11 era, Sen. Obama had not only the wisdom but the courage to speak out against the war as most of the Senate voted to authorize it.
Americans are hungry for an end to lobbyists and special interests dominating the political process in Washington. In one critical bill after another, lobbyists have been allowed by politicians to add earmarks and pork-barrel projects, and remove any attempts at reform.
That’s why Sen. Obama worked not only with liberal Sen. Russ Feingold, but also with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn to pass the most comprehensive ethics reform since Watergate.
Most of all, Americans are hungry for inspiration. For most of our lives, we’ve been told what we can’t do because we’re too divided. We’ve seen Whitewater and impeachment, Swift Boating and Willie Horton. We’ve been told that we’ll never get off our addiction to oil; we’ll never reform a public school system to allow all children to achieve; we’ll never elect a black president. In short, we’ll never have politicians we can believe in.
A funny thing happened on the way to the voting booth: Americans decided, “Yes, we can.” Yes, we can deliver the victory of an African-American in 96-percent white Iowa. Yes, we can rouse young people to come to the polls in record numbers. Yes, we can raise hundreds of millions of dollars without a cent from lobbyists or political action committees. Yes, we can build a grassroots movement based on the notion that we agree on much more than we disagree on—that we can come together, black and white, rich and poor, young and old, to create the change we want to see if only we are willing to work for it.
This weekend not eight, but hundreds of Yalies joined this movement. Yale students have knocked on thousands of New Haven doors. We have gotten out of bed earlier than we sometimes get home from Toad’s to talk about Obama at churches and bring campaign literature into New Haven neighborhoods. And tomorrow, we will vote in record numbers.
Against all odds, we stand at the precipice of a sweeping change in America. The votes of Yalies and New Havenites will join hundreds of thousands around the country calling for a fresh start, and a new page in American history. We urge you to vote, to be a part of that change and to believe in America’s promise once again.
The Yale for Obama