Campus supporters of Sen. Barack Obama headed out into the city Saturday to clean streets as part of an effort to demonstrate the grassroots, civic-minded nature of the Illinois senator’s presidential campaign.
The students’ street-sweeping effort — which was duplicated by students in Philadelphia — was the brainchild of Justin Kosslyn ’09 and David Manners-Weber ’10, who asked in a Jan. 23 column in the News, “What if a portion of the grassroots campaign was dedicated to visible public service efforts?”
As part of the first “Sweeps”, about 15 supporters sporing Obama badges and clothing handed out flyers and other campaign literature to residents along Edgewood Avenue and Kensington Street as they picked up litter.
The initial column in the News was circulated among Obama supporters at other universities, until Princeton University graduate student Arvind Murugan contacted Kosslyn and Manners-Weber, as well as interested students in the Philadelphia area, in the hopes of kickstarting the program, Manners-Weber said.
Manners-Weber said he was happy with the turnout, given that “Sweeps” was held on a relatively grim and snowy Saturday afternoon. Kosslyn agreed, saying enough people attended to make the event worthwhile.
“There was a critical mass of people, and at the end of the day, I think we had a little bit to show for our work,” he said.
The event was intended to do more than simply shine a good light on the Obama campaign by making its supporters appear civic-minded, he added.
“The aim of Why Obama Works is to unite politics and service, so by definition, it goes beyond politics,” Kosslyn said of Sweeps’ parent organization that focuses on community service. “Some people came for political reasons, some came for community-service reasons and others came for a mix of reasons … It shows how Obama inspires small groups of people to take action in their community, and that’s part of what Obama is about.”
The New Haven “Sweep” consisted mainly of Obama supporters, Manners-Weber said, but there was at least one backer of Sen. Hillary Clinton LAW ’73.
Manners-Weber said his group organized the effort in two weeks, during which time it created its own Web site — whyobamaworks.com — which provides protocols for setting up “Sweeps” across the country. Students at New York University plan to organize a “Sweep” in the near future, according to the group’s Web site.
“This wasn’t a ‘top-down’ order. Justin and I were the ones that came up with the concept,” Manners-Weber said, although he said the Philadelphia group had been in contact with officials from the Obama campaign.
Bradford Galiette ’08, the head of Yale for McCain, said he admires the Obama campaign’s efforts.
“The Obama campaign has had a number of outreach efforts,” he said. “I think it’s great that they can integrate it with community service as well.”
He said Yale for McCain is considering “outreach efforts and working with the community” later in the year.
Galiette is a former Director of Finance for the News.
Samuel Schoenburg ’11, who attended the event and campaigned for Obama during the summer and winter breaks, said the event reflected the grassroots efforts of Obama backers across the country.
“It was a great first event,” he said. “[Events like this one] really raise the profile of Obama, whose message isn’t simply ‘let’s give a good speech and go home.’ It’s about change we can see, and grassroots organizations around the country are enacting that change, inspired by Obama.”
The next primaries will be held tomorrow in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont.