Why I’m Voting For Obama

They say all politics is local and this election year, that couldn’t be more true for me. Like many folks I first heard of Obama in the summer of 2004 when he gave an amazing speech here in Boston. I remember how he opened the speech:

Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father — my grandfather — was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

Obama1But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, America, that shone as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before.

While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor my grandfather signed up for duty; joined Patton’s army, marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised a baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the G.I. Bill, bought a house through F.H.A., and later moved west all the way to Hawaii in search of opportunity. And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter. A common dream, born of two continents.

My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or ”blessed,” believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined — They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.

When I heard that, I thought, geez, replace "Kenya" with "Pakistan" and "Kansas" with "Oregon" and that’s me. A guy with a funny name who was lucky enough to be born in a country where something this crazy is possible.

If you haven’t seen Obama give a speech, it really is amazing.  He makes Reagan, the "Great Communicator" sound like a stuttering fool.  I’ve personally never seen a better speaker than Obama.  In fact, some folks released a music video today (see below) that is a song made from Obama’s stump speech titled "Yes We Can."  I think MLK gave the last speech I’ve heard that was worthy of song.  It’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it already.

Then in 2006, I was downloading podcasts to my iPod and stumbled across Obama’s incredibly articulate argument for legislation he cosponsored to increase CAFE (corporate average fuel efficiency) standards.  That’s something I’ve been a fan of for over a decade and thankfully it was signed into law recently.  I was really impressed not only with his leadership, but also that he was savvy enough to have a podcast when most politicians in Washington barely use email.

The funny thing is that if you asked most people, they would say that Obama is the candidate most likely to "be a uniter and not a divider" and I think that is primarily because of his charisma (after all he was recently ranked as having the most liberal voting record of all 100 senators last year).

So I’m voting for Obama.