"Unity is the great need of the hour- the great need of the hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it's the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country. I'm not talking about a budget deficit. I'm not talking about a trade deficit. I'm not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans. I'm talking about a moral deficit. I'm talking about an empathy deficit. I'm talking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another."
When Senator Obama said these words at Ebenezer Church he was referring to our collective inability to see the world in a perspective that vastly differs from our own. His speech was intended to elucidate this "empathy deficit" as it pertains to the most basic differences; race, class, gender, sexual preference, religion. He spoke of crumbling schools and genocide, homeless veterans and homophobia. He spoke of the need to overcome the categories that attempt to define us while recognizing that we are in fact our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper.
With all of the conjecture surrounding party unity and Clinton disaffection, I often find myself thinking about this particular passage in terms of our political differences, particularly the differences that we're attempting to overcome in the aftermath of the Democratic primary season. I had this passage in mind yesterday when I somehow found myself facing off against Clinton turned McCain supporter during a taping of Hardball in downtown Denver.
Here's the Video (My response begins at about the 3 minute mark)
During our brief exchange I tried to show empathy. I thought about some of the Clinton supporters I've encountered in my own travels. I thought of the elderly woman who left her apartment with only a coat thrown over her pajamas to cast her ballot on February 5th. As she pushed her walker past me she noted my Obama sign and cautioned "I've waited my whole life for this".
I truly believe that the majority of Clinton supporters who have defected to McCain or joined PUMA share the same sentiment. They have waited their whole lives for this. When Senator Obama clinched the nomination many were convinced that if they waited just a little bit longer then maybe a scandal or a change of mind might allow for a different outcome. After months of passionately supporting and following Senator Clinton, they hesitated to adhere to her final request, convinced that it couldn't be final. I say this to remind Obama supporters that the men and women who support Senator Clinton are human, give them time and don't engage in unproductive discussions. We are up against one candidate moving forward and that one candidate is John McCain.
With that said, I'm not quite done addressing those Clinton supporters from yesterday. For those reading this who are conflicted about supporting Senator Obama I ask you to show me a little empathy as I attempt to express where I'm coming from.
First and foremost, none of the allegations stated on the show yesterday were true. They were the same as those made in, the discredited and debunked, Obama Nation. The truth was stated in a rebuttal issued by the Obama campaign that you can access here.
With that cleared up, I need you to know that my generation is counting on you; we are counting on you to come through for us in a big way this November. We are pleading with you to put aside your disappointment and anger to, in the words of the candidate some of you are considering supporting, "Put Country First".
I can't imagine four years of a McCain presidency. I can't imagine having a President who has told young woman like myself that if we desire equal pay we just need more education and training. Or a President who voted against authorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program for five years while serving in the Senate. I worry when I hear a candidate state that he believes that the economy is currently "fundamentally sound" and insists on pursuing the same economic policies that have devastated American families for the last eight years. I lose sleep at night at the thought of a President who insists on victory in Iraq without ever explaining what that victory would entail. Only proceeding to assure the American public that he knows how to win wars...
I know what you're thinking. You can't imagine having a President with such little experience. You can't imagine anyone but Senator Clinton being sworn in as President this January. That's the state of the election through your eyes. I now ask that you take a moment to consider the vision that Senator Obama offers. I know even that is a lot, yet I ask because I truly believe that so much is at stake in this election.
Senator Obama's vision of America, best articulated in his 2004 Convention address, is consistent with a vision that has been articulated throughout our country's history. Although by different leaders, with different words, the underlying sentiment has never wavered. Whether a pledge to liberty and justice, a dream that calls on us to reevaluate our judgment, a promise of prosperity and opportunity or a request to ask what we can do for our country, this vision remains a constant that serves to remind us of what this country was intended to be.
We have forgotten the days when a band of colonies came together to overthrow the British Empire. We have forgotten the days when two years of experience in the Federal Government gave us President Lincoln. We have forgotten the days when women marched so that America's daughters might live in a nation that was more just and the days when Robert Kennedy called on us to acknowledge that the "answer is the world's hope, it is to rely on youth". Senator Obama calls on us to remember all of this, and perhaps more importantly, to remember that we must continue what they started. We must insure that the vision of this great nation doesn't fall victim to doubt or smears or "cards" of any nature.
I can only ask, with the utmost respect, that you realize that although this is your vote, this is our country. Your support of Senator Clinton suggests that you want the same things for this country as I do. The actions of every American on November 4th will determine where we all go from here. Do we dare to reach for something better or do we submit to a party that has lost sight of everything that it one stood for. A party that seems to have forgotten what Ronald Reagon once said,
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like when the United States where men were free."
Although Senator Obama claims a substantial amount of youth support, the fact remains that we cannot do this without you. He is calling on us all to invest in our country. This isn't an empty call for change or the cautious musings of a "celebrity". This is the foresight of a leader who recognizes that the last eight years have left our country calling for help and pleading for change. We cannot afford to wait to answer this call any longer. Yesterday morning at the NY Delegation breakfast Senator Clinton made it clear that she understands what is at stake in this election. There was nothing tepid about where she stood. She is standing with Senator Obama and with millions of others to say that we must fight for freedom within this generation. We must break the bondage of a broken political system that has stunted our progress and caused us to turn on one another. The women I encountered yesterday, although rather harsh, are my fellow Americans. I'm not angry with them- if anything I'm sad. I want so badly to get past the smears that they leveraged and the venom that has come to frame our political discourse.
If they, or you, can't bring yourself to cast a ballot for Senator Obama because you don't like him or you can't identify with him, cast a ballot for us, the youth of America who have been given a reason to believe again. We have been given an opportunity to make a difference, not only in this election but in determining where the future of this country lies. The unborn sons and daughters of our nation deserve a better future than the future promised by a McCain administration. They deserve a country where they aren't categorized by their attributes, but are rather recognized for their ambitions. As Senator Obama has often said "government can't solve all of our problems, but it should be able to help." The rest is up to us. We must rise to this historic occasion as one people and we must leave this convention as one party.
If we can prove the skeptics wrong, then history will retell the tale of the 2008 convention and recall how the Democratic party came together against all expectations. Breaking through the spin and the stereotypes, we will set an example of how Americans can rally together when America needs them the most.
This article was originally published on Huffingtonpost