ABELLO: Look who’s talking now



Oscar Abello

He was a traveling man. You could tell by the baggage battalion that followed him onto the bus at 40th Street in West Philadelphia. Like most nights in Philadelphia, the bus contained mostly the bodies and souls of black folk. He was loud. The entire bus delighted in conversation with this former police officer turned children’s rights lobbyist – yes, not every lobbyist is pure evil.

The conversation started with a simple observation – he remarked that it was rather crowded.

The woman next to him explained that the crowd was mostly returning home from a 35,000 person outdoor rally on Independence Mall for Sen. Barack Obama. It was the largest rally of the campaign to date. This revelation transformed a space usually reserved for bowed heads and tight lips into one of civilized political dialogue.

With each passing day, the Obama campaign furthers this contextual revolution. Distinct from the suburban soccer mom squabbles or NASCAR dad debacles of campaigns past, Obama and the movement of people around him are erecting lawn signs on thousands-of-square-feet suburban houses and thousands of inner city row houses across Philadelphia.

They are white homes and black homes, rich homes and poor homes, liberal homes and conservative homes. They are united in the idea that they do not have to feel divided. They are stirred up by the idea that all of our problems are tied to each other – that they bind us together and only by acting together will they be resolved.

From inner city buses to suburban Suburbans – the morning after the Independence Mall rally, Obama and Sen. Bob Casey Jr. greeted roughly 10,000 supporters at the suburban Wynnewood train station – and out to rural areas, seeing is believing.

Far beyond Obama or his dynamic wife and children, what people see, and what convinces doubters, are all the others who they’d never think could come together around something that has to do with politics and government in America.

It is an entirely new context from which to emerge as “leader of the free world.”

Of course, it could be nothing more than a lie without something substantive to back up that language – something to manifest that ideal and turn it into working reality.

The substance of Obama’s campaign rhetoric is the people behind it. They make it real by their diversity, by stepping up to latent civic duty and by volunteer spirit. Not only do they feel like this campaign is theirs, but Obama makes clear that he feels the same way.

According to the campaign’s Web site and newspapers across the country, over 1.3 million people have donated money to Obama’s campaign for the presidency.

Ninety percent of the donations are less than $100 and about 40 percent are $25 or less. Nearly half come from people who have never donated to political campaigns before.

People are putting their mouths and feet where their money is. First-time givers are becoming first-time volunteers. Many had stayed on the sidelines for lack of genuine empathy from politicians, but this movement is convincing former cynics and former polemics.

These are the owners of this movement, and they happen to be the workers of this movement.

Actions have always spoken louder than words, and money speaks volumes too. For the first time in history, actions and money are speaking with the voice of people who have never been heard before – though many of them have cried loudly for generations, and it is worth noting that rich and poor now sing the same tune of change. The poor are not powerless. The man on the bus had it right.

“Obama’s going to go down there and change Washington,” he proclaimed. “Because he don’t owe none of them down there a dime. Us poor folk is paying for that campaign.”


Oscar Abello is a senior economics major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]