The volunteers who gave us our country back.
Guests started to arrive in force at the Silicon Valley for Obama victory party at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View at around 7:30 pm. The election had already been called. He had won. And everyone was ecstatic. They walked in looking more stunned than happy. Who could believe it?
The shindig attracted some high-tech politicos and local elected officials, but mostly it was about the campaign volunteers. Silicon Valley for Obama, chaired by former State Controller Steve Westley, had been enormously successful. Thousands of people had volunteered, way more than were needed around these parts, so some were sent to campaign in Nevada and beyond; others had manned phone banks calling all over the country—in fact many of the folks at the party had spent election day doing just that. There were hundreds of them, people of all ages and races and styles, all looking like they could laugh or cry.
A hot R&B band played in the lobby, there were bars set up all over the place, and there was some pretty darn good free buffet food. And for an hour or so people just milled around grinning and hugging each other. When John McCain’s face showed up on the big screen in the main ballroom, a surprisingly big cheer erupted from the crowd, which stood silently to listen to his gracious concession speech.
Twenty minutes later, when Barack Obama appeared, the room exploded. And as he began to speak, it became silent again. From the back of the ballroom, the crowd in the hall seemed to blend into the crowd on the screen. And as the president-elect spoke, it was easy to feel part of the event.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said, “but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.” And when he said “we,” I felt he was talking about the people standing all around me.
Every campaign victory speech includes a section where the candidate thanks his or her staff and volunteers, and when Obama arrived at that part of his speech it was clearly appreciated. This was probably the only venue in California where Obama’s mention of Campaign Manager David Plouffe drew a thunderous cheer.
“Above all,” he said, “I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to—it belongs to you.”
“What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek—it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.”
As President-elect Obama said these words, I looked around me at the “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” people surrounding me, and I felt grateful. I felt honored to be able to share this moment with a bunch of people who, each for his or her own reason, helped make it happen.