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Hope and Change

District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Chris Daly, special to Fog City Journal

January 7, 2008

"I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you gotta give 'em hope!"
- Harvey Milk

A wave of change is sweeping across this country, and you can't miss it. It hasn't just dominated every news cycle for the last 5 days. It's the talk of the town-- at cafes and bars, at work and school, on the street and at the dinner table. It's everywhere.

We are choosing hope over fear. We're choosing unity over division, and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America. You said the time has come to tell the lobbyists who think their money and their influence speak louder than our voices that they don't own this government -- we do. And we are here to take it back.

Barack Obama's watershed victory in Iowa has catapulted him into the Democratic lead in New Hampshire and, perhaps, across the country. In the last week, the stale air of inevitability has been blown away. A powerful grassroots movement for change has flipped conventional wisdom on its head.

Senator Barack Obama, leading a grassroots movement that's sweeping the nation,
at a November fundraiser in San Francsco.

Even those who aren't sold on Obama as Presidential candidate acknowledge that his campaign has ignited something new. In Iowa, the youth vote tripled - most of it going with Obama. Now, as hundreds of thousands who've never before participated get energized, even the most cynical and jaded start to see where there is hope. Not only is a better world possible, with this infectious movement for change, it is on the way.

Years from now, you'll look back and you'll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope. For many months, we've been teased, even derided for talking about hope. But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.

Thirty years ago our very own Harvey Milk talked a lot about hope. He knew that while legislative victories were important, the true calling of a public servant was to inspire and give people hope. Even with only a couple of ordinances passed in his tragically shortened 11-month tenure, Harvey Milk may be the politician most responsible for lasting change in San Francisco history.

Over the last 7 years, building on Harvey's legacy, we've pushed the progressive agenda of change in workers' rights, housing, health care, transportation, and the environment. We've delivered the nation's highest minimum wage, universal health care, and paid sick days. We've made development work for communities by requiring significant amounts of affordable housing and other public benefits. With the big improvements made in people's lives, you'd think we'd generate enormous excitement and an outpouring of political energy. Not so. And it's not just because of the spin of political opponents and the corporate press. San Franciscans can feel a chasm between our City and the rest of the country. This dampens the hope generated by local victories.

With a national movement for change, hope is back in San Francisco. Now we have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than San Francisco while having our work valued and our philosophy advanced. As we continue here with our agenda of change, we can do so knowing that it is part of something bigger than us. Without that, all our future work-building affordable housing to preserve our City's diversity, creating jobs for those looking for work, rebuilding our public hospital, improving City services, and protecting our environment-will be missing something.

You did this -- you did this because you believed so deeply in the most American of ideas -- that in the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it. I know this. I know this because while I may be standing here tonight, I'll never forget that my journey began on the streets of Chicago doing what so many of you have done for this campaign and all the campaigns here in Iowa, organizing and working and fighting to make people's lives just a little bit better.

In recent weeks I have heard from progressives who like the positions of Kucinich and from those moved by the rhetoric of Edwards. But it is no accident that the country's progressive political movement is with Obama, and that it is a movement that is strong.

As a community organizer who figured out that I could make more of a change in people's lives through electoral politics, I believe that Barack Obama is running for President for the right reasons.

The most important one, by far, is that he believes in us.

Chris Daly will be attending the rally for Barack Obama on Wednesday, January 9th, at 12 noon, on the steps of City Hall.





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