The same tool that proved effective during the president's campaign continues to keep supporters politically engaged during his crucial first 100 days. This weekend, citizens gathered in living rooms across America to do "the work of remaking America," as the man himself would put it.
Here in Seattle, citizens came to dozens of meetings with eager voices. At the home of Himanee Gupta-Carlson, a Tacoma Community College teacher who held two similar meetings during the campaign, attendees gathered on couches, around food, and the outpouring of concerns began with the introductions. The consensus? We must act now. Locally.
That’s precisely the approach the president has been advocating, seeing as how the federal government's power to change local situations is limited. The second bailout package won’t have much affect for anyone, save construction workers, until a year from now.
Nonetheless, the tone in Gupta-Carlson’s living room on Saturday was hopeful. It was as though everyone was relieved to finally have a place to talk about the societal problems that have been ignored for so long.
Citizens talked of the need to support local efforts for green energy, to support local businesses, and to support one another. A physician raised the need for health care reform and many nodded in agreement, reflecting a testament to the pervasiveness of the problem. According to a 2005 Harvard study, medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy.
But discussions of complicated national issues soon gave way to personal stories.
A teacher wondered aloud if her contract would continue into the next school year.
A businesswoman reported that although her business took in over $200,000 per year, she was unable to get the loan she normally depends upon.
A community organizer reminded the group of the importance of staying connected.
In the end, attendees agreed to share their skills, such as resume editing and career advising, with whoever needed help.
Gupta-Carlson said that she is anxious to see progress, but having studied political science, is accepting of the nature of the political process. If nothing else, the meeting could inspire others to engage more, as her first meeting did back in July. She had never been politically active before. Since then, she has hosted and attended several political events and written a letter to a congressperson.
“I know that dialogue is really really important. So the fact that we’re just talking is really really a huge step forward,” she said.