Posted by: pattiandben | November 5, 2008

Yes, We Did! Campaigning for Barack

I can’t describe the joy and elation that I have been through in these last 15 hours. We finally did it! We had the audacity of hope and today, Barack Obama will be our 44th President of the United States of America.

Wanted to collect my email updates from my time campaigning in the great battleground state of Colorado in one place, so here it is.

You can also see my photo blog at:

Thanks to all who made this possible…


P.S. My E-Day update was posted on a fellow campaign volunteer’s blog as well. Check it out (Nov 9 posting) at: He has a great account of his 5 1/2 weeks as a Deputy Field Organizer as well.

Posted by: pattiandben | November 10, 2008

Don’t Just Thank Me… We Only Have 16 Days Left!!


As many of you know, I am in the crucial battleground state of Colorado, campaigning for Barack Obama.

And many of you have thanked me for going to Colorado to help in this Great Fight. But, today I am begging you to do more than just thank me.  Even though the polls and the pundits say Obama is ahead, we cannot rest on our laurels now.

There are only 16 days left in this election and as Obama himself told us in a national staff call on Friday, “Eighteen days are an eternity. It’s not that long ago when McCain and I were tied”. He said now is not the time to cheer, “I want you to be afraid. We need to continue to go into this like we’re 10 points down…. we don’t want to wake up on November 5th and say we let history slip through our hands.”

So I beg you… please help us win this election. I know you can find the time to volunteer. I was upset at the outcome in 2004, but I actually never did anything to help change it. This time I don’t want to look back and say that I didn’t do enough. I hope you do the same.

California may be in the bag, but there are a ton of things you can do to help our battleground states. Posting articles on Facebook and forwarding political emails isn’t going to cut it. Here’s just a few ideas:

  • Make calls from your own home, and change those undecided voters to Obama supporters. It’s super easy. Go to and click on “Make Calls”. They’ll send you a call list from a battleground state with the registered voter’s info, and a short easy to follow script. If the person’s a McCain supporter, you just thank them and hang up. If they’re undecided, tell your story and follow the script. If they’re a supporter, ask them to help volunteer and to vote early.
  • Join a phone bank party… if you want company while you’re calling. Go to and click on “Find Event”
  • Go to your local field office. They have phone banks set up there and can use your help with many, many things. Here’s the main offices for Callifornia, but there are hundreds of local field offices that are right next door to you:
  • Sponsor travel for someone who can go to a swing state if you can’t. Donate your airline miles or fund a road trip for a volunteer. I posted my own travel request there
  • Donate Money!!
  • Find a local event. Go to and click on “Find Event”

For those who really want to help….

  • Just do it! Go to a battleground state! Take Nov 1st and 2nd off from work and help out in the last crucial days to Get Out the Vote. If you can get there, there’s free volunteer housing available. If you have ties to a swing state, go there. It’s a powerful thing to knock on doors in the neighborhood you grew up in or used to work in, and as a bonus visit your friends and family and get them to volunteer with you.
  • Drive for Change: If you’re in California, go to Nevada on the weekend. Last weekend they had 1,000 people “Drive for Change,” and they will need more as we get closer. If you’re in NY, you can Drive for Change to Pennsylvania or Virginia

Call me or email me if you you have any questions! I’ve been crazy busy of course… not eating dinner til 9pm on most nights. I just posted a few pix of my time here at this site. Will have daily postings if you want to see what I’m up to here.

I need to go to a fundraiser, so I can’t go into details on my time here, but so far, I’ve been tasked to mobilize the Asian American vote which has been very invigorating. Here are some highlights: Talked to a number of Korean newspapers who interviewed me and my friend Hayin Kim, campaigned with congressional candidate Hank Eng who could be come the first Asian American congressman in the mountain states. Ghost wrote op-ed articles for Yul Kwon (the Korean winner of the Survivor TV show) and Congressman Mike Honda for their support of Obama. Was on a national staff call with Obama, which was a rare appearance. Last time he came on to talk to staff was after the DNC.

I’ll try to send some periodic emails. If you want off this list, just lemme know.

Go ‘Bama!!


Posted by: pattiandben | November 10, 2008

My ‘Bama Blog & More – 10 More Days!

Hi Everyone!

Every day I tell myself I’m going to write that email to update everyone on exactly what I’m doing here campaigning for Barack Obama in the contentious battleground state of Colorado. And every day I am WAAYYYY too exhausted to do it when I get back to my brother’s place (thanks for letting me crash here, Al!). That’s because I’ve been getting ‘home’ past midnight for many days now. It’s hard to even think sometimes.

Unfortunately this isn’t quite going to be that ‘update email’ either, cause I gotta get some sleep!

But, tomorrow is a historic day… Barack is here, stumping for a massive Early Vote for Change rally… just 4 block’s from Al’s place. I’ll be staffing it, and sending photo pix all day long to my photo blog if you want to follow along:

50-thousand people are expected to come! (Note: A record 100,000+ people attended) I’ll be posting pix until election day. Promise to send a real update soon…. but here are some highlights:

  • Working with the fantabulous Hayin Kim on our Asian American voter mobilization strategy. Among the many things, we’re putting together a day full of events for Congressman Mike Honda’s stump trip out here on Tuesday. Even though we have zero funding, came here from the Bay Area with no contacts, and have only days to make it work, it’s all finally coming together! (details coming, hopefully!)
  • Hearing that 900 people showed up at a volunteer training here tonight to help with Getting Out the Vote! And that was only one of many trainings across the state.
  • Canvassing today at, H-Mart, the main Asian grocery store in Denver, and getting a tremendous response, with entire families cheering and chanting “Obama,” and people thanking and even giving us hugs. We gave out some 500-600 “Asian Americans for Obama” buttons alone in just 4 hours. Who knew there were so many of us here in Denver?!

Well, more to come….

Of course, please let me know if you’d like to be off this distribution list. Please know that I may not be able to respond to emails, but keep ’em coming. =)

Go ‘Bama!!

Posted by: pattiandben | November 5, 2008

Ack!! 4 More Days!! Campaign Update

WOW…. I can’t believe there’s only 4 more days to E-Day! Has it really gone that fast?!?

There have been so many ups and downs every day… and sometimes every hour. Thank you to everyone who’s had such wonderful words of support. It’s what has kept me going in all this craziness. So what exactly have I been up to the last two and a half weeks here in this great old battleground state of Colorado??


  • Working on fumes
  • Mobilizing the Asians! (and hosting Congressman Mike Honda from San Jose)
  • ‘Staffing’ the Joe Biden and Barack Obama rallies


I’ve been going on little sleep… usually getting home to my brother’s place around 11pm, 12am or even 1:30am. And lucky me, I get to crash on the couch that used to be at my parents house when I was in high school. Yeah, it’s nice and lumpy and saggy all these years later! I’m also eating like I was in college… which means eating like crap. There’s no food in the HQs so I’ve either gone to McDonalds cause it’s a block away, or snack on the cheese-its or triscuits that I bought my first week. Sometimes I have just enough energy to pack a sandwich for the next day, but that’s rare. Lunch has been at 5pm some days and dinner’s usually around 9 or 10pm.


I’ve been working out of the state’s main headquarters in Denver, assigned to the AAPI Constituency team. So what is that? I’m basically in charge of mobilizing the Asian American Pacific Islander vote, along with Hayin Kim, another Californian (I actually used to work with her boyfriend at LeapFrog). We are the two people solely responsible for bringing in the Asian American vote across Colorado. Crazy! It’s been pretty tough. Unlike the Bay Area or LA, there’s NO concentrated Asian neighborhoods. Not even one Chinatown or Korea town or Japan town. So how do you find the Asians?! At the one main Asian grocery store in Greater Denver… H-Mart. This is THE ‘mecca” for Asian Americans here… some people drive all the way from Colorado Springs (an hour away) just to shop here.  So we’ve been canvassing and recruiting volunteers to canvass H-Mart on the weekends… giving out “Asian Americans for Obama” pins, bumper stickers and signs, and encouraging them to vote Obama and to vote early. We gave out about 500-600 pins alone on Saturday at the H-Mart!

This was one of the mobilization strategies that I helped put together on my first day here. Part of a 7 prong strategy to target the AAPI vote, and I  think it’s actually been working. We’ve also placed ads, Letters to the Editor, etc to the local language papers (i.e. Korean and Chinese newspapers… thanks for your help Annie Pong and Florence Fung!), and set up phone banking targeted specifically to AAPIs.

The highlight has been securing a visit from Congressman Mike Honda (D-San Jose). Yep, he oversees Silicon Valley and is half Japanese, half Hispanic, and a true champion for Asian Americans. He’s a surrogate who’s been campaigning across the country for Obama. We got the word on Tuesday (10/21) that he would come here on his own dime and we had a week to figure out what to do with him! We spent it setting up events, putting together his talking points, scouting locations and rounding up people (i.e. Asian Americans and more) to actually come to our events! (See pix at:

Hayin and I set up a high powered luncheon at a dim sum place with local elected officials and minority business leaders. Congressman Honda spoke to Obama’s stance on minority small business, the importance of the AAPI vote, and how Obama has been and will continue to support Asian Americans. We asked everyone to pay for their own lunch (since we literally have zero funds… yeah, trying putting together events with no money!), but the Congressman surprised us by picking up the entire bill. He truly is a nice guy!

In the afternoon we took him to canvass several Asian business areas. The highlight of the night was a big AAPI Get Out the Vote rally at a local comedy club. Congressman Honda is not only nice, he’s also a funny guy! I admit I was scared that we wouldn’t have anyone show up, but we actually had a good turnout of about 60. Whew! And there were a lot of double shots of Makers going down… the full story on that will need to be in person. So ask me when I get back =P

Afterwards we tried to take the Congressman to a highly recommended Mexican restaurant because we heard he loves his beans and rice… the key word there is ‘tried.’ We got there at 9:05pm and they closed at 9:00pm. We begged and pleaded and even pulled the “This is Congressman Mike Honda. He’s the Vice-Chair of the Democratic Committee and has been campaigning all day. Congressman Grijalva (D-Arizona) recommended this place to him!” Yeah, that didn’t do anything. They told us they turned off the grill at 9 and shut the door on us. After getting denied at a second restaurant, we ended up at a divy Mexican-slash-late night jazz bar. The menu included a choice of a hamburger, sloppy burrito, taco or tostada. I probably don’t need to tell you the quality of the meal, but by that time anything of substance was good to us. But I did enjoy the moment. How often do you get to eat dive bar food and throw down some beers with just you and a congressman and a friend?!

Alright… this got a lot longer than I thought. So my next email.. if I can get to it… will be on the Obama rally… stay tuned…


Posted by: pattiandben | November 5, 2008

3 More Days! Obama’s Swing State Visit & GOTV

Again, thanks to everyone for all their great, warm words of support. I’m sorry if I can’t write back to you personally just yet….gimme 4 more days… But how do I have time to write these long winded updates? Our daily county field office call is at 9:30pm and our statewide conference call is at 10:30pm… this is my time on the computer these last two nights.

Highlights of this email:

*  A look back at Obama’s historic visit on Sunday
*  What I’m doing now to Get Out The Vote!


Here’s a link to some great pix of Obama’s visit:

Here’s a link to my photo blog of the day’s events:

Man, it seems like eons ago when Obama was in town last… but it was only 5 days ago. He’s back here again tomorrow for his 3rd visit since the DNC, to Pueblo which is some two hours south of Denver. If he gets anywhere near the reception he had on Sunday, it will be another one for the books.

I know it’s a word that’s being used a lot, but the Obama rally here in Denver on Sunday truly was historic. This was THE BIGGEST rally Obama has ever seen. Over 100,000 strong came to see the next potential president of the United States speak. The rally started at 11:30am and at 7:30am (when I started working there) there were already several hundred people in line. More than a thousand volunteers came to help and every single one of them was needed.

What did I do? I ‘staffed’ the event, which sounds waaay more lofty than it was. Don’t get me wrong though, what I did really was extremely important. First, I froze my ass (it was about 20 degrees with wind chill). And I was ‘in charge’ of about a 4 foot slab of sidewalk….  to digress a bit, I have to say how amazed I am every single time I see how organized this campaign is. The people running this show are brilliant. It truly blows my mind away.

While people were waiting in line, we had every single person fill out a sheet of paper with their contact info, if they’ve already voted, who they voted for (Obama of course!). And most importantly, while they were filling it out, we tried to convince them to come volunteer during the most critical part of this election… during the last 4 days. We even asked folks to take off election day to help. They had to have this sheet of paper filled out in order to get in the gate. The result, of the 100,000 attendees, 20% signed up to volunteer. Amazing! I also made it my special job to scope out every Asian person I saw to give them a special “Asian Americans for Obama” pin and convince them to come to our Get Out the Vote rally. (It worked!)

It was a beautiful, perfect, sunny day. The atmosphere was jubilant, almost feeling like a big family reunion bbq in the park. The line snaked for I don’t know how many city blocks… 10?? But there weren’t any complaints and people moved in pretty quickly for such a massive event.

After most folks were let in, it was my turn to go stake some ground to see Barack. Luckily I work at the HQs and was able to snag two VIP tickets, one for me and one for my brother Al. This allowed us and 2,000 other lucky folks (mostly our hardest working volunteers) to stand in the area in front of the stage. We were pretty much underneath the huge flag flying on the left (see link for pix). Not knowing it, this was also the prime area to see Obama’s bus pull up and to see him step out of it… I was actually only two rows from the gate and 15 feet from him. Woo hoo! Before he hit the stage, he ducked into the tent next to us and spent some one on one time with the most deserving volunteer… an 86 year old man who lost his wife several months ago and has been volunteering day and night since then. You have to see the video of it… it literally made me cry.

Barack of course, was inspiring. He nailed the major points… the economy, his tax plan, health care, and making this a united nation, not a divided nation. He was also funny, joking that his tax plan will not raise taxes to those making less than $250k… and to about 99.9% of plumbers. I can’t believe I had the opportunity with Al to see Barack just days before the election. A once in a lifetime experience….


Everyone is now “out in the field”. Meaning the main HQs has been emptied out and we have all been assigned to field offices for our massive GOTV efforts (Get Out The Vote). I have set up a volunteer network to continue our AAPI (Asian American) canvassing at 3 Asian grocery stores on Saturday so I can work on GOTV.

I’m stationed in the Arapahoe county head field office in Aurora, which was a republican stronghold until 3 weeks ago when we changed the balance thru voter reg… we went from 7K more registered republicans to 5K more registered dems…. A 12K increase in new democratic voters, making this a democratic county for the first time in history. This is also the county with the greatest amount of Asian Americans. (You see why I was stationed here.)

The field office has so much more energy than the main HQs. There are volunteers constantly streaming in and out. And there’s FOOD! I am finally eating regularly… ok, more than regularly. Local volunteers bring in food throughout the day… from platters of veggies and bags of apples to a 7 quart Le Creuset filled with homemade split pea soup and crockpots of fried rice and burrito stuffing and more. Yay!

I spent all of Thursday afternoon sorting through 50 boxes (about 20 pounds each) of informational door hangers for about 5 hours with Camilla… we split them by precinct and before sunrise on the 4th they’ll be put on the doors of each dem that has not voted and undecided voter. Yes, that’s how good our database it… it gets updated every single night and knocks out all the voters who are McCain supporters and who’ve already voted so we don’t waste our time contacting or bothering them. The door hangers remind them what ID to bring to the poll and where their polling location is. Apparently I’m a superstar at this job… it took us half a day to do this. The folks who sorted the first round of door hangers for tomorrow took 2 days to do it. Maybe I should target a job with this skill set when I get back?!?!

The evening was spent calling volunteers to confirm that they’ll actually be coming to fill their shift on Saturday. Everyone I contacted said yes… except 2 maybes… one was a guy who definitely sounded excitable… here’s the conversation:

“Yeah, I want to volunteer but don’t know if I can yet… can I call someone back?! Um… my wife is in labor right now!” … in the background you can hear his wife having a contraction! I congratulate him and tell him don’t worry about it. We completely understand. He still says, “I dunno, but I might be able to do it. Lemme get a pen to call to confirm….. wait. I can’t find one here. I’m in the hospital right now.” I tell him, “Don’t worry, I’ll call your cell phone back and leave a message with all the information.” Man, is that dedication or what?!?

Time for my half hour ride home….

Go ‘Bama!

I’ve been sitting on some impressive numbers that I need to share…. (in no particular order, cause my brain isn’t fired up enough to put these in a super logical order… if this is ever the time to get an extra hour of sleep because of daylight savings time, this is it!)

  • The heat is on…. as of yesterday morning, we had our 2008th out-of-state-volunteer come to Colorado. Over half of them hail from the Golden State of California. The others come from 37 states and 7 countries. One woman even drove all the way from Alaska. Another hails from Chicago after just having a baby which she named Baracka. I’ve been spending the last two days training the dozens of out of state volunteers on the many intricacies of voting here … mail in ballots (MIB) vs early voting vs voting at the polls and how to engage with voters while they’re canvassing (knocking on doors). We are STILL getting calls today from folks who want to fly or drive out here to help in person. A group today told me that most the their entire plane from SFO was filled with Obama volunteers coming to the state just for this last big push.
  • Our ground game is huge here… even two weeks ago, Obama volunteers outnumbered McCain volunteers 5 to 1. When I arrived, we had 27 field offices compared to 10 for McCain. Right now, in Arapahoe county alone where I am stationed, we have 28 staging locations, which opened up last week.
  • We have so many volunteers (including the 20K that we signed up at the Obama rally) that half of our volunteers are spending their time contacting and organizing the other half of our volunteers. And that’s what’s making all of it work… we are so organized!
  • Our volunteers knocked on 25K doors today here in Arapahoe county alone.
  • 55% of Coloradan have already early voted.
  • Across the country there are 1.9 million new registered voters, and there are 111K more registered dems than republicans. BUT, don’t think that means a definite win… newly registered voters are the least likely to make it to the polls… that’s why we have such a massive Get Out the Vote (GOTV) push in these battleground states. If they don’t make it to the polls, then we will have failed.
  • On our first day of volunteer election training last Friday we had 1,100 people show up at the downtown Denver location alone… compare that to the number of people who showed up to a McCain rally on the same day in Albuquerque – 800.
  • You heard this in the last email, but over 100K people came to Obama’s rally in Denver on Sunday… that is 12% of our total vote goal for the state.
  • At that rally we convinced 20% (20K people to sign up to volunteer during the last 4 days of the election)
  • At the afternoon Fort Collins rally, over 50K people came to see Obama. The line was 2 ½ miles long! And the town itself only has a population of 131K. It was the largest political event in Fort Collins since a Rush Limbaugh event in the 1980’s that had 8K people.
  • Big time names (OK, this is not a stat, but interesting nonetheless). We’ve had a parade of stars come in the last week alone to stump for Obama: Kevin Costner, Robert Redford, Russel Simmons, Jack Johnson, Zach Braff, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, and Congressman Mike Honda, of course =). Barack and Michelle were here today as well.

I’ve said it before, but I can’t emphasize it enough… DON’T listen to the polls and feel like we can sit back and can cruise into the finish line. We only have 2 days left and we must make sure every vote gets in. Our advantage is high voter turnout. Here in Arapahoe county we actually only have a 2 point advantage… But you can still help us…

Call from your home state if you can;t make it out… you can help us out here in the battleground states by calling voters to help them find their polling place or confirming their volunteer shift. By having you call from home that frees us up over here to actually go door to door to talk to people in person, help them fill out their mail in ballots and take them to the copy store to make a coopy of their ID or drive them to the polls.

Here’s a few ways how you can help and easy links to do it

Take Action: Make Calls to Get Out The Vote

This election is far from over, and we need you to call swing states until the polls close.
Call from a Phone Bank Near You: Join us at a phonebank and bring your friends, we’re making a difference together.
Call from an Office Near You: Your local Obama for America office needs your help with phonebanking and daily data entry.
Call From Home: Use Neighbor to Neighbor to make phone calls to swing state voters from home.

Drive for Change: It’s Not Too Late

Drive for Change: Join us on trips to help our battleground state neighbors register voters and get out the vote.

Other easy things to do at your local office:

  • Walk in and offer to volunteer. I guarantee they’ll find something for you to do.
  • Make or bring some food to your local field office to help feed folks like me who are there from 9am-midnight. It will help keep our energy up for these last 72 hours.
  • Offer free services like massages, car washes, or walk the dogs of crazy volunteers like me. We will LOVE you for it!!


There’s already been a ton of you who have been helping. THANK YOU TO…

  • Ann Forst, Ian Townsager, Yelda Mesbah, Patti Rich and Akilah Jeffery for convincing their friends to Drive for Change with them to Tahoe
  • Veronica Dakota for flying out on October 20th to volunteer in rural northwest Missouri
  • Olivia Chin, Regan Dolezal, and Karen Mountain for flying to Colorado for the last 4 days of GOTV
  • Kaye Wash for “firing up” dozens of volunteers at Camp Obama
  • Kellie Okai for donating all that she could to the campaign AND volunteering at her neighborhood field office
  • Melanie Kaufman for making calls during her lunch hour.
  • Denise Dunning and Adam Kleinberg for making calls after work.
  • Matt Diamond for setting up a phone bank at his home
  • Annie Pong for helping me translate an Obama ad into Chinese to publish in the Chinese newspapers here.
  • All who voted early to make it easier (shorter lines) for those who are voting on election day.
  • Al Lew for giving me a couch to crash on and a car to drive, cooking and saving a dinner plate for me for when I get home at midnight so I can have something to eat, and doing my laundry since I haven’t even had time to do that!
  • Benjamin Wilkinson for being the supportive husband that he is and making it possible for me to be here doing this good work.

And of course, there’s many, many more I know I forgot in my state of no sleep and much work. Barack was on a conference call tonight with some 20K team leads and urged us not to “let history slip through our hands.” Let’s not let the world down… Only 72 more hours to make history…..

Go ‘Bama!


OK, I started my latest update yesterday when there really was only one more day until the election. But things went crazy and I never got a chance to finish it. I guess now it’s already past the eve of the election… polls open in just 4 1/2 hours! It isn’t truly sinking in that my time here is pretty much over. I only have a handful of hours, minutes really, to make just a little bit more of a difference.

Did you know that Arapahoe county where I am stationed at has been called the “biggest swing county in the nation’? The pols have been saying what happens here will determine the presidency. i.e. If we win Arapahoe, Obama will win the election. We are all very, very nervous to see how tomorrow plays out, especially since Obama only has a 2 point lead in this historically Republican stronghold. That’s why we have all been working each minute to get every last vote. We’ll know by this time tomorrow (hopefully) if our efforts pay off…..

Mostly spent today on a really mundane but extremely important massive organizing effort to get some 500 credentials and credential packets to some 150 targeted precincts. The people who receive these credential will be our poll watchers and polling place leads. They will basically track which of our supporters are voting tomorrow. By late afternoon we will know who hasn’t been to their polling place and will actually send volunteers out to their homes to find them and bring them to the polls. Hundreds of volunteers will also be calling them at the same time. It’s pretty mind blowing that we will be able to accomplish this…..

Here’s what I meant to send out yesterday:

Here’s a timeline of my Monday before I go into how amazing canvassing can be… it truly does make a difference!!

7:45am      Wake up

9:00am      Deliver box of ‘chum’ (Asian Americans for Obama buttons, signs and bumperstickers, ‘I already voted for Obama stickers’, etc.) to DJ Aida who will be canvassing with Asian Avenue Magazine editor Erin Yoshimira and her husband Gil at Sakura Square, the one little Japanese block in Denver. It’s our one last push to get the Asian vote

9:30am     Drive to the Aurora field office (Arapahoe county HQs)
10:00am   Train out of state volunteers as they drive in from the airport. Make calls to recruit volunteers in between trainings.
1:30pm     Drive to our Kingston staging location in North Aurora to pick up our canvassing packets
2:00pm     Canvass in the Kingston area (and help make 2 votes count! … see below)
6:30pm     Drive back to staging location to report results and eat
7:00pm     Drive back to Aurora HQs
7:15pm     Help field organizers put together their walk packets for tomorrow
8:30pm     Drive to Littleton staging location to lend an extra hand
9:00pm     Help Littleton put together their walk packets… three separate printers break down in the process so we don’t get far in the next 3 hours =(
10:00pm   Hop on Arapahoe county staff conference call
11:00pm   Hop on Colorado staff conference call
1:30am     Drive back to Aurora HQs
2:00am     Organize credentials for election day poll checkers and polling place leads
3:30am     Finally pack it up and leave
4:00am     Finally get home and sleep so I can do it all over again tomorrow!

It is a bee hive of activity everywhere. Out of state volunteers are still coming into our office. We had one woman call from California in the later part of last night insisting that she come out to help us, and that she was going to jump in her car and

Spent the morning calling potential volunteers… are short for Monday and Tuesday and won’t be able to reach our goals for doors knocked if we don’t get more help. Had a good success rate… A husband and wife said they’d be down at our offices in half an hour to do whatever needs to be done, a few others said they’d help make calls or canvass either in the evening or sometime on Monday and another said she’d help drive voters to the polls. Nice!

The last several days I’ve been training out of state volunteers to prep them for canvassing (i.e. knocking on doors). Today, I actually went out and canvassed for the first time. So nice to get out of the office and out into the sunshine. It was a brilliant 80 degrees today (20+ degrees hotter than normal for here… and they say global warming is a myth.)

I buddied up with Camilla, and we drove to our West Aurora staging location where we picked up our walk packets. Walk packets include a map and basic info all the houses you’ll hit, the ‘script’ that you’ll use and extra literature. The data machine in this campaign is phenomenal. We have spent months knocking on doors and making calls and every night this data is uploaded. We know which houses have Obama supporters, McCain supporter and undecideds; who’s already voted, who needs a mail in ballot and which ones are new voters who need to include proof of ID with their ballots. Because we are in the final throes of this campaign, we are targeting only supporters and undecideds who have not yet voted so we can help them vote correctly so their vote actually counts, and those we have been unable to contact thus far. So, we’re not just wasting our time with knocking on every single door on every single block. Time is too precious!

The walking sheets are split up by even and odd numbered houses on each street. That way Camilla and I can hit twice as many houses, working across the street from each other. They tell us how old the voter is, their name, sex, whether they are a ‘supporter’ or need to be ‘persuaded,’ and their address.  Our goal basically is to ask whether the voter supports Obama and if they’ve voted. If no, we help them figure out how they need to vote (mail in ballot or at the polls) and what they need to do or where to go to get it done. We can even offer them a ride to the polls if they need it. And, of course, ask if they’ll come help us by volunteering a few hours to help us clinch this.
So that’s how it works. So how did it go?!

The first block was not what I thought it would be… I was ready to talk face-to-face to voters, but pretty much no one was home… until the last two I had for the block. The first lady said she wasn’t going to vote for anyone. No problem. I just moved to the next one. I was excited to actually see a light on and someone in the kitchen. I got to the doorstep, put my best face on and was ready to give it my all. But before I could say a word, this late 20-something skinny guy with a scraggly beard opens the door and says, “Sorry, I would rather vote for Hitler.” Yeah, what do you say to that?! I just said, “OK” and turned and walked away.

And this wasn’t some total ghetto neo-Nazi neighborhood. It was a beautiful tree-lined street with autumn leaves kissing the streets and single family homes. I even saw three homes with solar panels on the roof. So I thought this has got to be somewhat of a progressive neighborhood. Well, it looks like, luckily, that house was the one ‘bad seed’ of the bunch.

When Camilla and I walked up to the last home on the packet together, we could hear a big buzz coming from inside and smell dinner in the oven. We stepped up towards the open door and several people started whooping and yelling, “Woo hoo!! Obamaaaa!! We are ALL voting for Obama on Tuesday. ALL FIVE OF US!” They were so excited and thanked us profusely for volunteering. What a nice way to end a walking packet!

The next packet held the reasons why canvassing is so important, and how just going out there and hitting the pavement can make a difference one vote at a time. One of my first houses was for a 64 year old Hispanic man who asked me if I could speak Spanish. Oh boy, how do I get everything across with my extremely limited traveler’s Spanish?! Here’s how it went:

Me: “Por presidente, por Obama o por McCain?”
Him: “Obama”
Me: “La Vota? Si? No?”

He motioned for me to hold on and went into his kitchen and brought back his already filled out and sealed mail in ballot (MIB). Wow. This is great I thought. But then I noticed that not only was it sealed, it also had stamps on it. Oh-uh… In Colorado, MIBs must be received at the County Clerk’s office by 7pm on election day, not postmarked (side note: you can’t run it in at your polling place either). And it was already Sunday. Thank goodness I’ve mailed my share of postcards in Central America… I said, “Oh! No correo!” which I hoped meant either “no mail” or “no post office.” I pulled out a list of MIB drop-off locations and said, “Ballot para aqui” and basically got it across that you can’t mail it and must take it to a designated drop-off location. Whew! This is what it’s all about… I felt like I actually “saved” a vote from not being counted!

A couple doors later I came to a house that was completely Obama-fied… yard signs, window signs, and stickers everywhere. Felt great to know exactly what I was walking into at this house. Yes, this man is a complete supporter but he was actually planning to go to the wrong polling place until I came. The election day lines last time around were up to 4-5 hours long so he was really thankful for being saved from waiting in line at the wrong place.

A few doors later was a 27 year old Hispanic woman with two kids and two dogs who spoke some English. She was planning to go vote at the polls on Tuesday but told me she got a voice mail telling her that she could go vote on Monday. She ran and got her phone to play the message for me and that’s how I learned she actually had a mail in ballot. If she goes to the polls on Tuesday instead of turning in her ballot, it will be counted as a provisional ballot. i.e. It won’t be counted unless there’s a challenge or a tie in the voting.  We can’t have that! So, I basically helped her to fill it out, put it together, let her know that she needed to include a copy of her ID and where to turn it in. Another vote ‘saved’!

Imagine, I am just one person. But think of all of the tens of thousands of volunteers here in Colorado (probably even hundreds of thousands of volunteers). And the thousands helping us from their home states. And the millions across the country, and around the world. Each of us have been doing the same work recruiting volunteers and getting a couple extra votes here and a couple extra votes there. It’s amazing how one man has united us, brought us all together, seemingly with ease, as one community to make a change. We have been on the verge for so very, very long. I believe tomorrow, we won’t have to wait any longer.

If you haven’t… go vote! If you have… go help others vote!

See you in the new era of hope….


Posted by: pattiandben | October 12, 2008

Photos from Plan D

Been a while since the last post; in denial that we’re not on the road anymore. Writing in this blog reminds us of steamy internet cafes, odorific street markets and persistent back pain from hauling packs that weigh at least two thirds of Patti’s body weight. We’ll take it, though. Day to day has been tough—wah wah wah —but we are pushing through.

So now we live in the past with our photo collection; dreaming of a time—hopefully sooner than later—when we can spend an afternoon checking off items to pack and hearing the zipper sound one last time before departure. Mosquito coils and netting near the top, always.

Safety, love and success to Mrs. Patti Lew Wilkinson as she embarks on
a campaign to Colorado to help secure a big win for the blue team in
this year’s election.

Steelers have the week off.

Enjoy these photos and your Sunday, even if the Steelers are not playing. I know it’s going to be hard.

Plan D // Images

Posted by: pattiandben | August 3, 2008

People We Can Do Without

Back in New York. U.S. soil! Shocked and thankful that we evaded any snafus with luggage being lost, losing each other, crime (and the like) in all of our connections, points of transit, and major stops. Very fortunate to look back and say that, from our perspective, traveling around the world was really pretty easy.

Though, my feet would probably beg to differ. Actually was forced into an emergency pedicure when we got to Brooklyn last week, as my sandal-ridden peds could not handle the weight of my pack for the 11 block romp (and fifth floor climb) to Kenna’s apartment from the subway. Needless to say, my hobbit-like feet looked like a dried lake bed by the time the “foot technician” decided to take them on. She burned through three sets of plastic gloves and an entire pumice stone on my feet alone. She got a nice tip.

This woman was one of the nicest people we’ve encountered, in addition to the countless number of others who guided us, introduced themselves to us, kept us company, shared meals with us, and generally were just nice human beings. Could write an entry about each of them, but we thought it would be more fun to pick on those who we simply never need to see or hear from again…these are the people we can do without.*

1) People who do not return a simple greeting: You know the type. You make eye contact with this person while walking down a street or hallway on any given day, or maybe it is a store owner who you expect to offer the first greeting and they in turn choose to be silent. You say, “Good morning,” or “Hello,” or something that shows normal interaction between two people. They, in turn, say nothing. Is it that hard to say “hello”, even if someone is making the effort to say it in your native tongue? Will it hurt that much? In our journey, I found that Thailand is actually the greatest place to greet someone else. Not only do you greet them with voice, but also with the “wai” gesture, which is essentially placing your hands together, like in prayer, and bowing down to whomever it is you are speaking to. Different people receive different gestures, be it for elders, monks, friends, etc. I think anyone who does not return greetings should take a lesson from the Thai culture, or simply stay home.

2) People who ride in first-class and complain: Not that we rode in first-class, but we were seated near the front of the plane on a number of occasions. On one of these flights, we happened to be off boarding when we overheard a very upset first-class passenger comment to the flight attendant that they received their Sri Lankan customs arrival cards “too late” into the flight. This actually came out of his mouth, “Now we have to fill these cards out standing up?! This is not right.” The wife then commented with a similar tone that the now visibly uncomfortable flight crew had, “…really messed up.” No, maam, you are really messed up. Please sit down, return your arrival card and go back to your place of origin. You don’t deserve to visit places anymore. And you have to sit in coach next to a screaming baby and a man who does not deodorize. And, no meal service or talking. Enjoy your flight!

3) People who choose their cell phone ring tones in public: Just stop it. We don’t need to hear your internal debate or struggle with boredom in public places.

4) 22 year college-grad boys who think it is cool to smash bottles by pools, at three in the morning, and then defend their actions with abusive language the next morning. Unfortunately, these were fellow countrymen staying in a small town in Central Vietnam. Though we understand their excitement to visit foreign lands and enjoy a few cocktails, we (and all who have the misfortune of coming into contact with you) would rather you stay in your college towns and destroy your own houses and public spaces. And please don’t yell at the hotel manager when he asks you to stop breaking beer bottles by his pool. You all look like idiots. No, you are idiots.

5) Adults who cut in line: Probably one of the first things we develop as rational children: when you get in line, you are informally assigned that spot and you will wait patiently until you reach the front; be it for food, passport control, ticketing, urinals, vaccines, etc. Why is it that some grown adults think it is okay to cut in line and then have the audacity to look at you and the others they just shafted and nervously smile as if they cannot control their ability to be shamelessly rude. Is this a sickness? Will getting to your cramped plane seat one minute faster improve your day? Sure, no one likes to get to a line after it is 100 people deep, but deal with it. We were standing in our last boarding line in Iceland, headed to New York, and a gentleman showed up late in the game. I watched him ponder a cut-in, then make eye contact with pretty much everyone in line. He pouted, shook his head and headed for the tail end. He could have cut, taking advantage of someone who is not paying attention, but he didn’t. I got a lot of enjoyment out of watching him pout and be a man (or boy) about it. Had he cut, there would have been a brawl.

6) People who recline their airplane seats way too quickly: C’mon folks. I want to invent a new system that allows for these seats to be more controlled upon recline. Currently, I would guess the majority of riders just press the button and put their full body weight into the recline motion. If you’re behind this type and your tray table is out, there is high likelihood you’ll be trapped in your seat, as there is no time to escape the rogue recline. And if you have a drink on your tray, then I hope you brought extra napkins, or can at least reach for the flight attendant button to get more, once you’re pressed into your seat. The worst part is, the action has already happened and nine times out of ten, the guilty party has head phones on, so accusations and civil in-flight justice are already at a disadvantage. I think each seat back should have a retract button that allows for the rapid-recline victims to retaliate, pushing the instigators back to the “full and upright” position, well before they are forced to by FAA landing rules.

7) Captain Jack: Long story short, this is the guy who proceeds to single you out in a crowd and tell you his entire life story in 20 minutes, simply because you are the only other American in the group. Last time I will ever wear my “NYC” shirt in a foreign country. Yes, I understood he had spent his entire lifesaving’s and trust fund at age 45, and that he lost his “dream girl” who he had only been with for 4 months, and that he had a drug problem, and that he loved sailing, and that his family was worried about him, and that he overdid it at a Full Moon Party in Thailand the week prior, and that he used to live in Mexico, and that he had been in a Warren Miller movie in 1980, and that he used to live in Lake Tahoe and loves it there, and that…and that…and that. You get the picture. I actually had to lie and claim “severe indigestion” to get away from him after the onslaught. Best part is, this came on the first of two nights of a SLOW BOAT journey that crawled down the Mekong River. Envision me ducking my head into my lap every time I saw him approach our seats.

8) The mother who thinks it’s okay to try and catch baby sharks with a fishing net, in front of her children: In the Maldives, a sovereign island republic with some of the world’s most pristine marine life, the government only allows for one “resort” per island. When you are on an island, you remain there for the entire duration of the stay, pretty much. That said, it becomes kind of a castaway feel with people from all different cultures blended together on one, really small sand bar. One such “person” felt it was okay to try and trap baby reef sharks, who live naturally along the rim of the island. Upstanding castaways who caught her in the act tried FIVE times to stop her, and she ignored them each time over the course of an hour. It took a senior level manager from the dive shop to finally set her straight, though, I am not sure an idiot of this caliber can ever be set straight. It may be too late in their idiot life cycle. This is a condensed run down of the encounter:

Management Hero: “Excuse me…do I go into your yard and try to trap your dogs?”

Idiot Tourist: “Are you someone who has the authority to speak to me this way?”

Management Hero: “Actually, yes. What is your name and room number? You cannot and will not do this on this island. I’ll see to it that you are punished.”

Idiot Tourist: “Oh, well, lets try to settle this here. I don’t want any problems.”

Management Hero: “Too late. And hell of an example to set in front of your children.” (Shocked little offspring of the Idiot Tourist look on)

Major kudos to the manager and to the other guests who tried their best to get this person to stop being an idiot.

9) People on river boats who drink too much and fall off the side of the boat…forcing the boat to stop, turn around and pick them up…two days in a row. Lastly, and I’ll keep it brief, the title says it all. It’s bad enough that others, including mild mannered locals, have to listen to these two tourists get drunk all day, but to have to save their lives, on Tuesday AND Wednesday, putting everyone at risk on a very swollen and swift river current, is simply absurd. Rodney Dangerfield said it best, “…now I know why tigers eat their young.”

Were it not for the all the great people we met, the “people we can do without” would never have stood at such extreme contrast. Thank you, people we can do without, for giving us the inspiration to record your humility and stupidity.

*”People We Can Do Without” theme is adapted from George Carlin’s original comedy sketch, which has continued to amuse audiences for decades. The examples here were based on our original experiences on our trip and also by those substantiated by tourist friends we encountered along the way.

Posted by: pattiandben | July 8, 2008

Quick Update and Scenes from Our Next Episode


We’ve been traveling “like Gypsies”, as my amazing Grandpa Karl used to say. From Asia to Sri Lanka to the beautiful Republic of the Maldives then over to Athens and the Greek Island of Santorini-now headed to Barcelona. Incredible sites, sounds and stories as we cruise through summer. We are writing from an Internet cafe in the Port of Santorini and our time is nearly up on the Euro meter. Here is a quick glance at what will be coming in the next entry:

  • Basic Math in Currency Conversion-happily using division and then not so happily using multiplication-an American travel perspective on how the Thai Baht rules and how the Euro will crush us.
  • People We Can Do Without: Ripping a theme from George Carlin’s bag of tricks, we wanted to highlight some of the jerks we’ve come across in our travels. Important to note that the superstars have outweighed all the jerks. We’ll highlight both.
  • Instrument Procurement Update…and the plan for the ultimate long-winded prize!
  • Why Everyone Should Visit the Maldives…while it is still above sea level, barely.
  • Manta Rays and You
  • Moto Helmets that Finally Fit my Head…and I don’t even need to ask for a bigger size!

We have some down-travel time in Spain and will write more later this week. Hoping to get some perspective out of Patti Lew!!! She has been very busy with her journal.


Older Posts »