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“‘,FTERWORD I BY RACHEL FARRIS The Obama Awakening onita Childs from Temple, Texas, never expected to find herself standing in the sun on the Democratic convention’s Delegate Service Day, when she donned a pair of canvas gloves and headed out into Denver’s Cherry Creek State Park to pick up trash. Before March 4, aside from the occasional vote for president, Childs had always expected someone else to pick up the trash from the political landscape. But a phone call from a community organizer on the day of the Texas primary that reminded Childs to caucus that night “changed my paradigm about politics:’ she said, smiling in the Denver sun that illuminated every day of the convention. “My them’s and they’s became us and we’s,” Childs reflected before heading off to help San Antonio state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte plant a Texas purple sage in honor of Lady Bird Johnson. Before the planting, Van de Putte reminded delegates of the “place at the table” that Lyndon Johnson had created with his civil rights legislation. The delegates laughed and joked with the senator, and a Colorado volunteer said that, were it not for Barack Obama, these civilians might otherwise not be standing there, working alongside a politician for the common good. There has been much talk about Obama’s potential to change the face of politics with his impassioned beliefs and intellectual vision. There’s also a trickledown effectthe changes in individual people that he has motivated. No longer is it just a handful of blue-haired activists who show up at county party meetings. Young people and old people alike are not just voting for the first time, but also paying attention for the first time. “This was zero to 100 for me, and I’m in it for the long haul,” Dripping Springs resident and national delegate James Akers said one morning as he recharged over a cup of coffee at the Texas delegation breakfast. “I mean, I’m hosting house parties for local Democrats,” Akers said, sounding almost incredulous at his own activism. “Before, they were lucky if I’d let someone throw up a yard sign. But I’m realizing these locals, like Bill Hutchison and Woodie Jones, can win. Do you know who Woodie Jones is?” Time and again, delegates in Denver pounced on opportunities to educate anyone they could on local, down-ballot races, a fierce urgency apparent in their voices. “I’m inspired by barna,” Akers said, “but I’m also motivated by my fears. He brought about more of an awareness of those fears.” The one constant among delegates this year was their passion about having made it to Denver. To be elected a delegate in this election cycle took full-fledged campaigns, complete with Web site, fundraising, and outreach to other caucus-goers. The delegates who were selected were often underdogs who beat out more established party playersproving that in 2008, the old rules of the game are off The huge influx of Texas voters continues to be something that pundits and politicians aren’t quite sure how to handle. “They bring about a completely different perspective,” state Rep. Eddie Lucio III said after making the trip to Denver. “They’re not the same old faces engrained with political messaging,” said the San Benito legislator. “We’re coming to a time where instant access makes for a more policy information-driven voter.” Voters aren’t just votingthey’re getting involved and staying involved. By the end of Obama’s campaignor by the beginning of his presidencysome of the new participants in the political process will likely cross over into the realm of running for office. Michael Flowers has spent the last seven years working as a youth counselor in Elgin while raising two sons and getting his MBA. He became an Obama supporter in 2006 when he watched Obama’s 2002 anti-war speech on YouTube. “Everything he said was right,” Flowers said. “I thought `This man has vision. A lot of intellectual people saw what he saw, but he was brave and bold enough to say it. That’s all I needed to know.” 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 19, 2008