I have been surprised that Obama's remarks in San Francisco last weekend have generated so much controversy this week, based on one blogger's opinion of what happened at that event. Why? Because I was there. What I heard was what Obama is saying in this video.
I wrote here and at my blog that I attended a fundraiser for Obama last weekend, and recounted my impressions of the event. I stand by my account.
Mayhill Fowler created a tempest in a teapot this week by quoting a fraction of Obama's 40 minutes of remarks and answers to questions. The press, Senator Clinton, and Senator McCain have jumped on this with relish, characterizing Obama, the fundraiser, and those in attendance as "elitist" and "out of touch with the rest of America."
First, let me say that there was nothing in Obama's remarks that shocked me when I stood there listening to him or now. I grew up in one of those small towns in Ohio he was referring to. I saw my blue collar parents work hard to make ends meet in the '70's, and have to use food stamps for a time when my parents were both laid off from their jobs during the recession. When my federal financial aid for college was cut in the 1980's, my parents mortgaged their house to help pay my tuition. I saw my mom forced to retire early from a job she held for 25 years in the 1990's, because the plant moved operations to Mexico after NAFTA was approved. The loss of her job and the friends she had there changed her normally sunny, optimistic personality into one of deep despair. Only recently, by turning to a new-found faith, has some of the former sense of self-worth returned. When I heard Obama speak last Sunday in San Francisco, I was thinking of my mom and dad.
I was thinking of my parents when Senator Obama was asked about how he was going to win in Pennsylvania. He answered with honesty about what he sees and hears there. I nodded in agreement. I nodded not because of pity for people who have less than me, but because I know.
I know how hard people work, how hard it was for my parents to support our family while I was growing up. I was able to live my dream of going to college and law school because of government-supported programs of grants and loans, working two jobs, and a few private scholarships. I nodded my head because my parents still live there, and it amazes me that they have not become bitter.
I nodded my head because I was only able to afford to attend a $1000-a-head fundraiser and help my parents out now because they never gave up back then. They never gave up on a government that abandoned them a long time ago. They worked hard not for themselves, but for their children to succeed.
So please, newspeople, don't talk about the people in that room like you know us, or like you know why we support Obama. Don't talk about what Obama said or didn't say because you weren't there. You didn't see the sadness in his eyes, the sadness of knowing what it's like to grow up second-class in this country. The sadness of knowing that this didn't have to happen in the greatest, most resourceful country on earth. The sadness of knowing that our individual success stories are far outnumbered and overshadowed by the ones of people who didn't make it.
Watch the video here again. This time, look at the faces in the crowd in Terre Haute. Do they look angry? Do they look upset with his words?
No. Because like me, they know.