Sunday, March 23, 2008

Yes We Can!

This past Friday I was privileged to have the opportunity to see both Barack Obama and Bill Richardson speak to a crowd of 12,000 people at the Portland Memorial Coliseum. This was the first time that I have had the chance to see a major politician speak and it was a truly amazing experience.

I say I was privileged to see Obama, because many people wanted to go to this event that were not able to. Portland has a large metro area of over 2 million people and with only 12,000 free tickets being given out, I was extremely lucky to have noticed the announcement of the event right when it came out, and claimed a free ticket. Reportedly tickets sold out in 2 hours. I also say I am privileged, because it was an amazingly invigorating experience to see Obama live and feel the collective energy of 12,000 people who all really believed that they are seeing the next President of the United States and believe in the hope for this country that he has come to represent.

Though the event was at 9:30 I woke up at 5:30 and took public transportation to get there at 6:30 to ensure that I could get a seat. Even though I had a ticket, seating was first come first serve and more tickets were given away then there were seats. Despite the fact that there were thousands of people waiting outside and 10 lines waiting to get in I somehow miraculously managed to find my friend Lisa, who had forgotten her cell phone, and I had no way of contacting. It was great to find her and have someone to attend this event with. All the pictures posted I have borrowed from her... so thanks Lisa for taking great photos!!!

As for the event itself, we first got to hear Bill Richardson officially endorse Obama. I was extremely excited that Bill Richardson happened to chose the day Obama was visiting Portland to do this. I really respect Bill Richardson, and before I was a strong Obama supporter, I supported Bill Richardson. I also happen to think he would make a fantastic Vice Presidential candidate for Obama, and enjoyed seeing the rapport between the two of them. Bill Richardson has great experience in both foreign policy and energy policy and think he would be a great person to have on the Obama ticket should Obama win the nomination.

After some strong crowd chants of "Yes We Can" and "We want Change" and a rousing round of applause, Obama delivered a very solid, inspiring speech. I think I was struck most by his ability to make you feel included in the political process. He really made me feel like the words "yes we can" are all about the "we". That his campaign is not just about him, or his ego, but about the American people and his hope that we as a country can move beyond the past eight years and make positive progress and change.

I was also interested in analyzing his speech for its policy content. There has been a charge that Obama puts too much emphasis on oration and inspiration and not enough on policy. I did not find that to be the case. I thought his speech had a great balance of a message of hope, and specific policies of how to get there. He spoke a great deal about the War in Iraq and really connected how the war has impacted every other facet of American politics over the past five years. The vast impact it has on our budget and economy. I appreciated his feeling that we need to change our role in the world and begin to regain the reputation with our allies that we once had. He also went into his specific policy plans for healthcare, the economic crisis, global warming/the environment, and education. I really liked that he supports a $4,000 tuition credit for college students... but his message was that he expects those students to give back through community service and such programs. What struck me through these comments was that his message is similar to John F. Kennedy's "ask not what your country can do for you... but what you can do for your country". Obama's message was more about what we as a country can do for each other.

I was also struck by the overwhelming positive nature of his speech. There was very little negativity in it. And Obama actually spoke about the type of politics he wants to be involved in. Not the politics of "I'm better than him" but the politics of hope and change and positivity. I really appreciate that and it really does feel like a different kind of political message than any other I've experience recently. His campaign really has an authentic grassroots feel to it. He emphasized again and again the importance of each person, and taking small contributions from "the American people" rather than from lobbyists and corporations. I really believe he has the ability to bring more people into the political process and make more people care about politics. I have seen many friends of mine who previously had no interest in politics, become excited about his candidacy... and for a generation of people that is highly mistrustful and cynical about politics I see this as positive change in and of itself.

Overall I was simply impressed. For the first time in my life I am truly excited about a major political candidate for president. I am filled with a sense of hope for our country. I really hope that my fellow Democrats in the state of Oregon vote for Obama in the May Primary, and that if he has the opportunity to campaign in November that my friends of all parties... Greens, Independents and Republicans included take a serious look at the type of change Obama is offering.

Si se puede! Yes We Can!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Back in the Pacific Northwest

It's hard to believe it but I've been back in Portland for two weeks now, and by the end of the week it will have been a month since I left France. While I doubt I will be updating my blog as much as when I was in France I'd still like to document some of my travels, recipes and experiences. The last few weeks have however been full of primarily dull activities such as unpacking and repacking boxes, sending out resumes, and going to interviews.

This Sunday however, I finally had a chance to get out of the house and go hiking again. Seeing that Sunday was the one day in the next 10 day forecast to be partially sunny, I convinced my friend Jacqui and her friend Brent to go on a hike to the Clackamas River with me.

The Clackamas River trail follows alongside the Clackamas River and is only about an hours drive southeast of Portland. It was a 7 mile hike, with the destination being pup creek falls. I really enjoyed getting out and seeing the product of Portlands rainy weather: verdant green forests with lots of moss and beautiful streams and waterfalls.

There were many waterfalls along the trail that we had to cross over.

The highlight of the trip was reaching our destination of Pup Creek falls. We definitely came at the right time of year. I think spring snowmelt is feeding this waterfall and gave it really nice volume. I've seen pictures of it from other times of the year and it isn't nearly as impressive

On our way back their were more streams and we re-examined an area that had been hit by wildfires a few years back. All in all it was a very nice trip to re-introduce me to the beauty of Oregon.