Friday, January 05, 2007

Celebrating the new senator from Ohio

Hundreds of Sherrod Brown campaign volunteers boarded buses to DC in the early hours of January 3rd. Lots of long hours spent at events and parades, on phone banks and hoofing a canvass from house to house -- all with this impossible goal -- to elect an avowedly progressive Democrat as Senator of Ohio. The buses left from Lorain, Bedford, Mansfield and Columbus. I met lots of folks from Mansfield, which is where Sherrod grew up. Emily Brown, Sherrod's mom, rode on one of the volunteer buses from Mansfield! She wanted to ride down with the people --nothing fancy for her!

The folks I met on the bus and at the Sherrod Brown events were proud of their work and excited by all the possibilities that change can bring. There were young kids, older kids, college students, family groups, gay and straight couples as well as some odd birds like yours truly -- earnestly talking about all the important issues of the day. We talked Iraq and we talked economy. We talked about health care and how many Americans are worked to stress-related death.

Thursday evening found us all gathered outside the ballroom, waiting for the doors to open. Sherrod and Connie arrived and shortly thereafter, Ted Kennedy rode down the escalater and strode into the crowd! Everybody swarmed around him, digital cameras flashing from every angle. Here's the best of my shots. Unfortunately, the batteries were low and I had left replacements up on the 9th floor -- drat! Anyway, Ted couldn't stay as he had to go to his son's party but he was there to give his support to Sherrod, who is on Ted's senate committee. Health, Education, Labor and Pensions -- HELP -- and boy do they need it. That's a great committee catch for Sherrod and so are his other ones.

The doors opened and there was Sherrod to welcome us all into the ballroom for a celebratory dinner -- and it was huge. Rows and rows of round tables seating ten per. I was at table 60 about two thirds back from the podium.

Speeches were made and cheers were given up for Sherrod's campaign staff, his family, and for us -- the volunteers. Ongoing slideshows featured pictures from campaign events. I saw the first one I attended, before joining the campaign. It was in front of the Science Center in Cleveland when Sherrod talked about making Ohio a leader in renewable energy resouces. I heard other people call out upon seeing their photo on the large screens -- it was a moving tribute to everybody's efforts.

The creative team that came up with Sherrod's television commercials were also honored and very deservedly too. We were treated to a chronological showing of his major ads, which made for a very nice historical summary of the campaign's progress.

The term "progressive" has come to supplant "liberal" and I think I am gaining an understanding of why that is. Sherrod's campaign focused on what will benefit all of society, not just the wealthy few. The ads appealed to the sensibilities of all Americans and not just to fringe groups. People have grown tired of endless war and foreign conflicts. The new progressives in the house and the senate have huge challenges ahead, but for this brief moment in time, they have the backing of the voters. Change is being sought, change toward real progress. The Republicans have made piles of messes to be cleaned up.

The dinner was tasty, the companionship was merry and earnest at the same time. Aterwards, several bus tours left for a drive around the monuments. I got to the sign up sheets too late. There was a Ford Theatre tour availble for Thursday morning, but I really wanted to go to the Folger Library. Meanwhile the ball room was humming as huge vortexes of progressives gathered around Connie and Sherrod. They certainly are a dynmic duo! Sherrod promised that he and Connie would stay and thank every last person in the room before retiring, and indeed -- they did!

Thursday morning I made my dash to the Folger gift shop and picked up some very useful items for my students. Got back to the hotel in time to fill up my luncheon plate before C-Span hit the big screens with the beginning of the new Senate term and the swearing in ceremonies. Sherrod was in the first group and we gave him a rousing cheer from our ballroom. I'm sure he heard it in his heart. We finished our lunch as the sentators continued their swearings in, four by four, many with holy books prominantly displayed for the television cameras. Thank dog Sherrod's hands were empty. Maybe that's a Lutheran trait, not wanting to publicly parade one's personal philosophy. If only all relgions were so humble and private.

I'm glad I went on this trip. I still can't quite believe that a candidate I could support actually won a major election! I ran into Yellow Dog Sammy on the trip. He rode the other Bedford bus, but we found each other by accident during the lunch stop! I told him that for most of my life I didn't vote on principle, but that I felt I had to begin voting as an act of self defense. It was great meeting him -- he had outstanding coverage and analysis of the fall Ohio elections at his old blog Ohio 2006. We are waiting for the new one to commence.

I met two war resisters and will write more about them tomorrow, along with some thoughts on religious displays as part of public rituals. On the bus ride home, I read my new books and thought about some exciting new lesson plans. I happened to look up at one point somewhere in Pennsylvania and noticed familiar tall and majestic shapes on the horizon. Wind mills! Just like the one in front of the Science Center where I made up my mind to volunteer for Sherrod's campaign. A sign of progress! Let us have more. Please.

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