Barack Obama – The Power of One

By Teddy Fikre

There is something powerful occurring in the Ethiopian-American community. People who were never inspired to take part in the political process are realizing that they have a duty as citizens to partake in the political process and be a part of the change that is taking place. While they will always love the land of their birth, they realize that they are deeply ingrained in United States and are vested in the direction of this great country. Never before has a politician inspired so many people from so many backgrounds and countries to unite for one common purposes.

Senator Obama speaks about the power of one–the power that a sole individual has to change their community and eventually change the world. Throughout history, we have witnessed time and again how one person has been able to change the trajectory of a nation and of the world. What we are witnessing now is the same dynamic, and Ethiopians for Obama have taken on this mantle and decided that the way to seek change is to organize and participate in the political process.

What started off with Maeza Siraj over a year ago when she created Ethiopians for Obama on has blossomed into thousands of Ethiopian-Americans working in multiple states to be a part of a historical moment. Ethiopians for Obama has some of the most amazing and talented Ethiopians working together for a common purpose. This is not a top-down organization where anointed leaders send out directives. It is a decentralized group that believes in the leadership of each member instead of depending on the leadership of any one individual.

They follow closely the unbelievable model inspired by Senator Obama when he was a community organizer and has emulated for his campaign. Obama believes in the inherent power of people, that each person has the ability to do amazing things if the opportunity is presented. Thus, Ethiopians for Obama is a collection of talented Ethiopian-Americans from California, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Washington DC, Minnesota and states in every corner of the United States who communicate regularly and implement ideas that can further galvanized the Ethiopian-American community around the Obama message of hope and change. Moreover, Ethiopians for Obama is a diverse group that work together based on interests that are common to all and do not dwell in the differences that have divided for too long. The aim is unity of purpose for the benefit of all—a unity that bridges the chasms of ethnicity, religion, and nationality.

Ethiopians for Obama has conducted a targeted phone-banking effort in the states of Indiana and Pennsylvania . By relying on the vast volunteer base and a simple tool such as the white pages, they were able to collect hundreds of phone numbers based on common last names of Ethiopian-Americans who live in those states and makes calls on behalf of Senator Obama. One is at a loss to explain the joy that the receiving party felt when they heard their fellow Ethiopians calling to ask them to participate in the political process. There was an overwhelming level of support for Senator Obama from those who were called and a lot of folks who otherwise did not consider voting were motivated to vote as a result of the calls they received. This is how change happens, the power of one to inspire another.

Ethiopians for Obama has also traveled to multiple states to volunteer directly for the Obama campaign. Dynamic leaders such as Emebet Bekele, Yohannes Assafa, Lulit Mesfin, Mike Endale, Bizu Hodge and Jim Tufa to name a few, are constantly reaching out to their fellow Ethiopians to encourage them to be involved in the political process while they continue to do the hard work of making phone calls and traveling to different states. They realize that debating and hoping for change is not enough; while there are countless Ethiopians who have and continue to be involved politically and work selflessly to ensure our collective interests, their effort is only as successful as the people who are behind any initiative.

Ethiopians for Obama is growing by the day. The first road-trip to Ohio organized by Ethiopians for Obama was attended by three supporters and the second trip to Philadelphia was attended by six supporters. The most recent trip to North Carolina was attended by nine while those who could not make the trip stayed behind and made hundreds of phone calls over the weekend to Ethiopian-Americans in Indiana . On May 6th, Ethiopians for Obama held a victory party in Washington, DC; over 45 people showed up to support Senator Obama on a historic night. The power of one—this is how change happens, one person inspires a friend, that friend inspires a sister, that sister inspires a mother, that mother inspires a husband. Before you know it, what started as one over a year ago will grow into thousands of Ethiopian-Americans who are determined to be the change we all have been waiting for.

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