lessons from America

A flavour of the Obama rally

I’ve uploaded some of my photos to flickr, so you can get a sense of the size of the rally.  Here are some video clips I took.

1) The view of the rally from the steps of the Capitol building, one hour before Obama’s speech. 

2) Audience chants of ‘yes we can’ during Obama’s speech.

3) Uplifting segment of Obama’s speech about unity and the ‘united states’ of america.

4) Closing lines of Obama’s speech and the applause afterwards


October 28, 2008 Posted by | On the Campaign Trail | , , | 3 Comments

The view from Pennyslvania

No, Meghan can’t see Russia, or even Canada, from her window.  But she’s on the ground in Pennsylvania – in Steelton and elsewhere – blogging about the sights and sounds of the election campaign’s final days there.  And, video camera always at the ready, she is talking to the people that she meets on the streets nd in restaurants and capturing their thoughts on the election.  Definitely worth taking a few minutes to look at her site and prodigious output these past few days.

October 27, 2008 Posted by | On the Campaign Trail | 1 Comment

Preparing for an Obama rally

This is no ordinary election campaign, that is for certain.  In case I needed any reminders about this, I’ve experienced it first hand these past 36 hours.  And it is the level and intensity of support for Obama that I am talking about.  Today another record fell: that of largest campaign rally.  100,000 people (including me) turned up in and around Denver Civic Park to hear Obama speak.  But just as symbolic and humbling was the fact that over 800 people turned up on a Saturday evening to sign up as volunteers for the rally and take part in a 90min training and briefing session. 

I’d heard from Amalie about the opportunity to become an event volunteer and decided to join her and a couple of other swing semester folk in attendiing the session.  Everyone was taken aback, impressed and inspired by the size and diversity of people who come to be volunteers.   


There were various pep talks, putting our efforts in the context of the wider race(s) to be won, and also information on early voting and other related advice that we were meant to pass on to others at the rally.   We were then split off into two – one half who would be doing the staffing inside the venue and at the entrance; the other half (which I was in) would be encouraging people to sign up for volunteering over the final week of the campaign and also to early vote.  We were then split off into small teams of 20-30 people, each of whom were headed by a ‘precinct captain’, an Obama staffer.  My team leader was called John Manners and he was the guy who would we would find on the Sunday morning to give us our final instructions and the sign-up forms to hand out.


October 27, 2008 Posted by | On the Campaign Trail | , , , | Leave a comment

On the bus

I wasted no time in getting stuck into campaigning.  On Saturday morning I accompanied Amalie and Julia, the organisers of Swing Semester, to Boulder, to join in New Era Colorado’s famous ‘bus project’ – a group of young people going out canvassing, travelling to a targeted area in an old-style bus.

There were about twenty-odd of us in total, mainly 18-30 year olds and a couple of older folk as well. 



On the bus we got a short briefing about the politics of the area we were going to (Longmount) and the state of the races there.

Then, the clipboards and papers were handed out, for us to familiarise ourselves with how to fill out the canvass sheets, read the literature we were handing out and other briefing documents.

When we got to our destination, there were further briefings; include this reminder (complete with singing accompaniment to lighten the mood) of how to behave and get the most out of canvassing

And so work….  My patch was within a wealthy neighbourhood, some streets if which backed onto a gold course.  Not the most fertile canvassing territory.  There were more houses which had the McCain yard signs than the Obama ones.


I did 2.5 hours of walking the streets, trying to find the right houses, delivering literature, knocking on doors, sometimes finding someone in and on occasion even willing to have a conversation with on the elections.  I think my final figures were 29 houses visited and 11 ‘contacts’ (actual communication).  Then  it was back to the bus for the journey back to Boulder … and plates of sushi at a local restaurant.

October 27, 2008 Posted by | On the Campaign Trail | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hitting the campaign trail

I have ‘lucked out’ in many respects with this trip.  And one of those is that my time in Denver happily coincides (by complete chance) with an Obama campaign rally.  In 7 hours time I will have started my shift as a volunteer at the ‘Early Voting for Change’ rally in downtown Denver.  The man himself – Barack Obama – is going to be speaking, so this event is going to be huge.   So excited.

It is another early morning for me though.  Today I was picked up at 1030am to go to Boulder, Colorado, and join the fantastic Bus Project in going canvassing in Longmont.  Beautful weather and beautiful scenery.  The door-knocking was mainly for local races and ballot initiatives / state constitutional amendments.  The lack of people in on a lovely Saturday afternoon, coupled with the high rates of peole who early voted (ie already posted their ballots or voted in person at one of a number of special locations), meant it was quite frustrating.  The wealthy neighbourhood, backing onto a golf course, and the number of McCain-Palin signs, were also good pointers to not getting the most receptive audience.  More on my experiences, plus photos, in a later blog.

Likewise, you’ll get an insight into the volunteer training session I went to tonight.  i thought it was going to be a relatively small thing.  But over 800 people turned up, just to learn what needed to be done for the rally. It is an awesome organising programme that the Obama campaign has.  Fascinating seeing a little window into the whole process.

But for now sleep is a necessity; especially as expected I got off the plane and went out on the town (via someone’s house for dinner), and only made it home at 2am.  That’s one way to deal with jetlag I guess.

October 26, 2008 Posted by | On the Campaign Trail, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Follow me on the campaign trail

I was never going to be able to stay away from America in the final days of the election campaign.  I had to be here.  It’s also a trip that has been long in my mind – 4 years really, since I was in Chicago and DC for the last election.  That was just a pure holiday.  This is a little of that, but so much more.

Just two months since being in Denver for the Democratic Convention, I am now back here in this lovely city; staying with my buddies Hunter and Tyler.  That’s only for a few short days though, as this time I am doing a whirlwind tour.  I’m off on Monday evening to Minneapolis; Thursday to Cincinnati (and hopefully some other places both in Ohio and over the border in Kentucky); election night in Chicago; and finally to DC.   I’ll be seeing and taking part in a variety of Obama campaigning and general GOTV activities; hooking up with a colleague and the Fairvote folk for some electoral reform work in Cincinnati; and on election night and after looking into how votes count/ed (or not).  You can follow my journey / epic mission on this blog.

Also – and here’s a new development –  for part of my trip I have volunteered to be trailed by a freelance documentary maker, who is making a short on why non-Americans like me are taking so much interested and getting so actively involved in these elections.  Meghan is going to be accompanying me for the 5 days I am based in Cincinnati, as well as election night in Chicago.  You can follow her following me via her blog  It’s quite an odd experience being the subject, and seeing posts like “Meet Malcolm”.  But I’m really looking forward to it.

Now though it’s time to hit the campaign trail.  Despite only arriving in Denver last night and going out on the town til late, I am up earlier than usual on a Saturday.  I am about to join a group of Obama campaigners and volunteers doing canvassing in a swing district outside of Boulder, Co.   

October 25, 2008 Posted by | On the Campaign Trail | Leave a comment