One Year Later: Mr. Cho Goes to Washington
The morning of January 20th, 2008 was the first day I ever spent in Washington D.C. I'll never forget the endless throngs of people celebrating, bundled up and basking in an historic moment in our country's history. As I look back on that incredible day, I cannot help but think about how far our country has come, what it took to get here and just what is possible in America. From my first day on the campaign to the final vote cast on Election Day, the feeling that I was a part of something special was never lost on me. I remember getting the phone call from Mitch Stewart, our Iowa Caucus Director, offering me a job on the campaign and closing with the words "it's going to be a great ride." What an understatement.
For nearly two years I didn't just have a front row seat to history, I was a stagehand, one of many that gave what they could for a candidate unlike any other before him. Day after day I witnessed ugliness and ignorance at one door, and was greeted by enthusiasm and excitement at another. I met amazing individuals along the way who gave this movement its momentum, its power. Regular activists teamed up with those who were never engaged in the process before working together towards a common goal. From Vietnam veterans to school teachers, venture capitalists to soybean farmers, the campaign invited everyone to participate, to have the opportunity to give what talents they had toward a cause so important. I knew a woman who would schedule her dialysis treatment around our phone bank shifts. A young man that could not speak clearly but could write beautifully sent postcards to his neighbors about voting for change. A man who once stormed the beaches of Normandy made phone calls with his granddaughter every Thursday night asking people to vote. An elderly woman who grew up watching her brothers knocked to the ground by fire hoses spent her afternoons after church registering people to vote. A laid off factory worker who canvassed his neighborhood in hopes that other families would not suffer the way his had. So many wonderful people connected to each other through a movement and a desire to change the country.
When I saw the masses that came to witness the Inauguration, it's easy to forget the campaign that made this possible began not long ago and was anything but a sure thing. I thought about the small gatherings all over Iowa where neighbors got to meet Candidate Obama in living rooms and high school gymnasiums and the tens of thousands who now come just hoping to catch a glimpse of President Obama.
State by state hundreds of young campaign staff like myself crisscrossed this expansive and beautiful country, visiting rural farmhouses and urban city squares to have a conversation with as many people as we could. We packed up our cars, loaded up with our every earthly possession and hit the road. There is no better way to see America than from the driver's seat of a car. I made stops in places such as a roadside diner in McLean Texas, a senior center in Glendale, Arizona, a church in Indianapolis a pier in Portland, Maine I heard stories of struggle and faith, loss and courage. Strong and decent people who were hopeful of a better future for their families. I had great discussions with people who were not supporting my candidate as often as I did with people who were my best volunteers. I met people who opened up their minds, their hearts and even their homes to this campaign.
So many people made real sacrifices to be a part of this. I left behind the only place I've ever called home, my job, my friends and family. And because of this the staff became like family, forever bound by the tribulations and triumph of the movement we were a part of. When no one else believed, we did. These people are some of the most beautiful, talented and inspiring people I have ever met. From long shot to Commander-in-Chief, we were there from beginning to end, every victory and defeat, relying on each other to get through the next day and pushing each other to be better. Before meeting one another, we had little more in common than a vision of what is possible and we worked together, lived together, cried together and won together.
And as I stood among the crowd on that January morning in our nation's capital, I looked all around me, never wanting to forget every detail of this moment. The sound of millions cheering, the cloud of my breathe in the January cold, and the warm tears in my eyes. Every kind of person there ever was stood there together and took pride in a uniquely American story. Just as the President raised his right hand to take the oath of office, an old African-American woman grabbed my hand, held it tight until the words "...so help me God" echoed across the world. I remember thinking how I've never felt this way before and how I never wanted to forget this feeling again.
Several months have passed since that historic day, and things in Washington seem very different now than it did then. There's an old saying in politics, "you campaign in poetry and govern in prose." The fire and excitement of the campaign trail, if successful, gives way to the procedure and priorities of governance. As long and hard as the campaign was, the hard part still lies ahead in bringing about the change so many of us need. But what I keep in my heart is an unyielding faith that anything is possible fueled by the stories and faces of Americans I met over the 21 months I spent on this campaign. The election of President Barack Obama was not the end of a movement, but the beginning of a new era of possibilities. Just as my own parents held great hope for me, I too look forward to the opportunities that my own children and the next generation will have to be whomever they want, love whomever they want and achieve what ever they want. And that is something.