Friday, May 16, 2008

My Letter to the Superdelegates

Back in February, when the contest for the Democratic candidat for President was still in question, I received an email from Barack Obama's Campain Manager, David Plouffe (or at least his people) asking for a personal statement relating why I chose to support Obama for President. The idea was to compile the best of these and offer them as part of the conversation seeking the support of superdelegates. Granted, by now this has now become mostly irrelevant, but it's an truthful account of how I feel and have felt about the Democratic Party. Anyway, I wrote it in the form of a letter. Let me know what you think...

Esteemed Superdelegates:

I am Fernando Quijano III, born in Jersey City, New Jersey on July 4, 1969. I've been a Democrat for as long as I can remember. My mother taught me from an early age that I needed to be grateful to the party that helped us survive. You see, my mother raised three children on welfare. As one of those children, I learned that the Democratic Party was responsible for creating and protecting the programs that helped to keep families like mine safe from poverty and homelessness. While Republicans tried to sell us "Trickle Down" Economics, the Democrats gave us hope.

My family needed hope. The reason we relied on Social Services was because my mother was a drug addict. She acquired a heroin habit from a man she met when she was only a teenager, and she struggled with it all her life. That struggle made it difficult for her to maintain a job. Government programs made sure that, even during the hardest times, we had a place to live and food to eat. Not only that, but a decent education. I'm also a product of the public school system—one that, for all its flaws, served me well.

Thanks to government programs, I was able to go to colleges. I say colleges because I've been to three over the past twenty years, and I'm still not quite done. I tell folks I'm on a 20-to-Life college plan. Regardless, none of those years would have been possible without help from the federal government. I always imagined the Democrats as the guardians of families like mine who need just a little help to make a good life possible—until recently.

I began to lose faith in politics during that miscarriage of justice posing as an election in 2000. I continued to lose faith as I watched Congress in deadlock while the Executive Branch usurped more and more unchecked power. There have been times when congressmen and senators have reached across the aisle to compromise for the sake of their citizenry, but those times have been few and far between. Just as frustrating was the wheeling and dealing of both parties with lobbyists and corporations, not to mention rampant spending and today's buzzword, earmarks.

It was as if the people I had trusted the most had forgotten all about me. Not me necessarily, because I'm doing well enough now. I mean others like me, others that I know are raising families or growing up under impoverished and sometimes dangerous conditions. I can honestly say that as late as a year ago, my plans were to abandon the Democratic Party altogether and hope that a third party might come along to change things—at least stir them up. After all, Lincoln saved the Union as a third part candidate, didn't he?

And then I learned about Barack Obama. I had heard him speak once at the 2004 Democratic Convention. He was touted as a fresh voice, the future face of the Democratic Party. Little did I realize then that he would be the catalyst that would reignite my hope that government can in fact work for the people. Not just me. After the Iowa Caucuses, what began as a buzz soon became a roar—the roar of an increasingly apathetic electorate regaining its voice. Even friends who had lost hope in politics and politicians long, long ago were discovering possibilities they never imagined.

I admit, if Barack had not decided to run I would have likely voted for Hillary Clinton. I admire Senator Clinton, and I was happy to see that she made some valiant efforts to join Democrats and Republicans in getting things done. However, even if she were electable, I would have always doubted whether she would be willing or capable of cleaning up the stagnation that has all but enveloped Washington. In my heart, I know Barack can and will.

In the end, my family was ravished by drug abuse. My mother died of AIDS in 1991. My uncle, the closest I ever had to a father, died of AIDS a few years later. My little brother, sixteen when my mother died, eventually fell to drug abuse himself. He died of AIDS the day after Christmas in 2006. But thanks to various opportunities supported, if not pioneered by Democrats, I have a sister who made it out okay. She's a successful retail manager. I'm not doing too badly myself. I'm a successful retail manager in my own right, and an aspiring writer hoping to publish one of my novels someday soon. I'm also happily married with two children (I'll take the credit for that!), both of whom attended public schools like their father.

Perhaps most importantly, I understand Barack Obama's message of personal responsibility. I'm truly grateful for the opportunities I've been given, and I've given back by volunteering my time to community programs and organizations. I plan on continuing to give back by teaching once I finally finish that degree. People want to do more for their country when they feel their country is doing for them. That is what has driven the United States of America since it's inception. If you support Obama's candidacy, we can make sure that hope, benevolence and a sense of responsibility for each other continue to move our nation forward rather than allow fear, greed and apathy to continue to hold us back.

Fernando Quijano III

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