Thursday, May 28, 2009

Coolest Phone Call Ever

So I just got off the phone with the president.

No, not the president of my soccer league. The actual president. He thanked me for all my hard work last fall. Well, me and my 10,000 closest friends (or 20,000, or however many thousands were on the call, I actually don't know).

The whole call was on health care. There are community meetings June 6 all around the country. Sign-up to attend a meeting is here:

This was a conference call by a group called Organizing For America for diehard volunteers. I'm not sure how my name got on this list. Maybe someone in the Colorado campaign office put my name on it. Somehow, I'm on it. And I get email invitations every so often to be on conference calls like this one. First time with the president though.

So here's the thing. Even though I know he doesn't even know me, or that I was on the call, even though I know I was only one of thousands on the call, when he said "thank you" for all the hard work, I got tears. It's not possible that he was thanking me individually. But it felt like that - maybe because I know that he knows how hard we each worked in our little corner of the country. And we did work so hard!

The same thing happened to me the day after the election. I happened to be in the room when he and Joe Biden called all the staff around the country to thank them for their hard work, and the staff let me listen in. But that time, tearing up at the "thank you" - my gosh we were all so exhausted from working round-the-clock non-stop for months, our emotions were on our sleeves, tearing up made sense. (I'm sure my current anemia is partly because I paid little attention to my health while working for the campaign.) But today, I teared up again. I think there's just something very powerful about the words "thank you" for what is a thankless job.

Oh, here's a fun part about today's conference call. We were getting information from the warm-up speakers and the Prez - who was up next - got disconnected, so we were waiting for him to get connected again. And then a voice come on the air and said - I think these were her exact words - "Pardon the interruption. This is the Air Force One operator. We have the president on the line." !! (And we all thought, oh, that's fine, no problem, please - interrupt.) Then someone - I think Reggie Love? assistant to president - says, "We got him right here. One second." Fun.

Back to health care. Apparently we'll be using the June 6 meetings (sign up here: to organize events like "Yes We Cans" food drives or health walk-a-thons, to be held all around the country on June 27. (I reported on a Texas "Yes We Cans" food drive here.) All admirable goals. But also, it's back to pounding the pavement. Like last fall (I'm presuming), we'll be given solid information about the health care plan as well as answers to questions that people have, and then be given addresses and/or phone numbers to talk with our neighbors about the specifics.

I'm thinking I might let my fingers do the walking. My region is pretty much set in stone - in favor of the reform plan for the most part. So I might try to make phone calls to other areas of the country.

What I like about Obama's plan is that it keeps the world of insurance while making other options available. It's quintessential Obama. Work with what you've got, but fix the problems too.

In the conference call, various speakers said a bunch of things that made a lot of sense. One volunteer in North Carolina said that it'll be easy to get people to pitch in. Her experience? "People are just waiting to be asked." She herself was signing up attendees for the June 6 meetings once they knew about the meetings themselves.

David Plouffe (former campaign manager for Obama) said it warmed his heart to be on the phone with us. "You were our campaign," he said. He spoke of how businesses and families are "just being crushed" on health care and that Washington "has talked about this for far too long." He said that real change comes from the country to Washington (rarely the other way around) and that he knew it would be tough but that they needed everyone to find the time to work on this in our communities - to "take ownership in this." He pointed out, too, that this is an issue that touches everyone's lives. To spread the net wide. "This shouldn't be a lonely affair," he said.

And then on came the president. He too talked about how businesses and families are getting hammered each day on health care; about how one particular person he had met (representative of so many people out there) was dealing with her illness while simultaneously fighting every day against an insurance company that wase trying to cut off her health care; about how we need to preserve what works but fix what's broken; and how this is an American issue about needing Washington to make a move. he spoke, like he often does, of change coming from the bottom up - that when people are in their communities talking and persuading and giving each other facts, it makes a difference.

The whole phone call was energizing and great. My commitment is to learn the nuances and do outreach via phone calls as the summer evolves (and as my health improves). It's important to get the details, to ensure that the solution is workable. I turn to my sister the doctor often to verify information. But the lack of adequate health care in this country for so many people is horrifying. It's time to make a move.

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