Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why it Mattered

  If you were still awake to hear President Obama's speech last night, you heard why the hard work of so many made such a difference  -- this was really about the future of our country in a deep and enduring way.   Here's some of my personal observances on what makes me believe this is for real:
  • Hackathons, code for America, open source government systems, We the People petition site,  -- this is change I can believe in.  The change in thinking as to how government and the computer world interact is amazing.  I look at the people I know who've spent time working in this government - folks like DannyWeitzner, Ed Felten, Marti Hurst, Beth Noveck and many more - all dedicated to a government with a technical underpinning of openness.
  •  - The SOPA rebellion was really amazing.  It was the first time we saw how the millions of people on the Web can beat the millions of dollars pouring into campaign coffers.  For the Obama administration to bite the hand that fed it (Hollywood) by refusing to support a law that was wrong for so many reasons, we saw real leadership.  That they did this before the Wikipedia blackout was amazing.  The administration's response was enabled through a response to a We The People petition -- amazing - we talked, they listened and responded.  Sure, there's more to do, but it was a real eye opener to watch a usually cynical process wake up and see what it is that makes our technical world function.
  •  - People will talk about how the Hurricane affected the election.  Their are many ways, but to those of us who know government, it was deeper than the Presidency. The difference between Bush's FEMA Director Brown, chosen for his political loyalty, and FEMA Director Fugate, chosen for his competence, shows why it matters not just what government does, but who does it.  Appointments of incredible people like Energy Secretary Chu, NIH Director Collins and so many others who are the top people in their fields has changed DC from a place of cynical loyalists to a meritocracy run by people who were picked because they could do the job.  I've been involved with the government in some from or another since mid-Clinton years, and I've met great people throughout, but the quality of the people at the top makes real change possible.
  •  - Last time I was in DC, everyone remarked on how the city has changed since I left in 2007.  It is a younger, more vibrant town.  This is because with Obama and his message of hope, a very different crowd of people came to live here.  The 30-somethings I've met who are working in the government are amazing, and they have revitalized the place.  These people are young and idealistic and dedicated to the success of America -- a group we haven't seem in the capital in many years.  They came in on the message of Hope, and they remain on the message of "forward"  - they work insane hours at often thankless jobs, but they've changed the culture - for the better - in so many ways  (and to them I say THANKS).
I'd also like to take a minute to comment on the campaign we just went through.  I spent a ridiculous number of hours the last week as a volunteer at the Obama for America office in Albany.  Run by some insanely great volunteer coordinators, who made the hours I put in look like nothing, the office had literally hundreds of people from all walks of life showing up to make calls.   And it was inspiring!  I watched white men working with black women, teenagers making calls next to retirees, Asians and Latinos reaching out to voters who spoke their native languages, people who were "all in" on their donation limits next to people who were just getting by.  These were the grass roots organization that Obama thanked in his speech and they were incredible.  When computers went down, phones didn't work, or anything else went wrong, people pitched in, found work arounds, and kept going.  We called people in PA (went Obama), Ohio (Obama) and towards the end Wisconsin and Nevada (Obama and Obama).  We reminded Ohioans to vote for Sherrod Brown (elected) as well as the President.  This one on one made things happen. 

I also watched the social media - twitter and blogosphere - where everyone agrees Obama had the "lead."  I think the payoff here is in the number of younger voters who came out to vote -- overwhelmingly for Obama.  The message he had resonated with the way they approach the world.  It made a difference!  Listening to my 25-year-old talk about how "they" won the election also makes it clear that this wasn't a cynical response to a slick ad campaign - this is real change that will be with us for a long time.

On behalf of the small group of us who made Computer Scientists for Obama happen, I want to again thank so many who helped us along the way.  Thanks also to Catherine, Rusty, Jim Green and the incredible folks at Technology for Obama who coordinated so much to make this victory real.  Thanks for all the twitter love for #cs4obama, this blog, and @t4oNYup -- it was inspiring to see what you folks were doing and to help in whatever small way we could.

This will be the final blog in the "election series" for Computer Scientists for Obama -- we will keep the blog alive so we can jump back in next time there's a SOPA bill, or other technical issue needing some airing.  But for now, back to the day jobs…

Jim Hendler, for Computer Scientists for Obama.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the inspiring post, Jim, and thanks for your hard work on and off The Network to help give a great leader four more years to move this country Forward!