Yes, we can?

It has been interesting for me to watch the Obama campaign.

There is no doubt that Senator Obama can give a great speech, but organizing is more than a speech. I know that some of his field operation uses organizing methods, but how much does he concretely talk about how to bring people together around their self-interests?

In other words, how does the chant “yes we can,? translate into “how can we??

Obama's roots are in organizing. When will we hear his stories of people organizing to solve housing problems, education issues, and to build parks and playgrounds? Will he remind us of the partnership that government had with the people during the Great Depression and how the people engaged in public work to build a better America?

Organizing is hard work. It is not easy to engage people in deep conversation to uncover their stories and passions. People will only act on their interests when they become motivated and when they acquire public skills and confidence. This takes time, trust and a deep commitment. Organizing is like running a marathon, not a sprint.

It will be interesting to see how Senator Obama deals with the tension between his celebrity status and his roots as an organizer.

You might also be interested in this post from July 8 Wondering what we mean by "organizing"?


I too have been wondering how Obama plans to integrate organizing principles into the White House and the presidency. But, after Governor Palin's speech tonight in which she devalued the role of community organizers, I know who won't be answering that question.

Also, I have to ask where did Obama's reputation as a celebrity come from? The only thing I can think of is his popularity amongst young people. If that's correct, it implies that young people only support him because of Hollywood smoke and mirrors, not because they are capable of making reliable, well founded judgement. Maybe I'm wrong...maybe Obama is being called a celebrity because over two million people have contributed to his campaign. Either way, how is Obama's popularity a bad thing?

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs