Can-do country

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

When Barack Obama took the stage Nov. 4 in Chicago's Grant Park - surrounded by hundreds of thousands of joyous supporters, and watched by millions more nationwide - the crux of his acceptance speech was clear:

"I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for 221 years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand," he said.

Obama's lofty platform will struggle amid a quagmire of problems foreign and domestic, but millions of grassroots activists who electrified the Democratic campaign haven't stopped working as the nation's first black president prepares to take his oath at noon Tuesday, Jan. 20, on Capitol Hill.

Normally campaigns are formatted only to win. This one, say experts and those involved, is different.

"Obama, more than any major party candidate in my lifetime, is trying to retain that organization," said Paul Beck, a political-science professor at Ohio State University. "And there already have been a lot of instances where he or his people are trying to pull together those who weren't part of the Obama campaign."

The president-elect's international support group knocked on more doors and raised more money than any in history. This year, it will struggle to do something no campaign team has done before: remain intact after Election Day, and thrive through an ambitious president's first four years.

Volunteer longevity depends largely on how one performs as president, Beck said, but the former Illinois senator has refused to rest on the laurels earned in his decisive victory against Republican John McCain.

"There's been a shift of real optimism for Obama," Beck added. "This speaks to the public's yearning for someone to take charge and Obama's ability as a political leader."

Obama's campaign slogan Yes We Can quickly became Yes We Did as polls closed. Now, many who feel renewed trust in the political process are saying, simply, Yes We Will.

Since Election Day, supporters have hosted house meetings to discuss his platform and entered into an online Citizen's Briefing Book their thoughts on issues like health care and homeland security., once the epicenter of election canvassing efforts, has transformed into a clearinghouse for civic activities geared toward the can-do, give-back attitude touted by Obama and running mate Joe Biden.

Both men have supported a national service project starting as early as middle school, and supporters already are taking the lead.

This week, groups will pass out literature on the Near East Side, plan community service projects at the London Public Library and gather to watch the presidential fete at bars across Central Ohio.

Colleen Sharkey is an Obama supporter and a parent advocate at the Godman Guild, a non-profit, non-partisan settlement house in Weinland Park. She says that campaign energy continues running through her neighborhood, where Obama signs still hang proudly.

"We've experienced quite a bit of excitement," she said while planning a private inauguration party for families to brainstorm ideas for bettering their community. "We are a grassroots organizing agency, and we want to ask people what they want from the future and how to get involved over the next four years."

For official inauguration info, click to

Presidential Parties

If Election Day was any indication, Inauguration Day will include quite a bit of celebrating. Here are just a few of the local events to check out:

Drexel Theatre, Bexley

9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20


The theater will broadcast the inauguration action on the big screen. Special menu items will be available. The event is free, though tickets are required and seating is limited.

Martini Park, Easton

11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20


Inauguration Watch, sponsored by the Franklin County Democratic Party, will include a big screen to view the ceremony, with themed cocktails and Obama gear available. The party is open to the public; cost is $50 person, which includes food and drinks.

Rumba Cafe, North Campus

6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20


The Hoo Doo Soul Band will perform a special happy-hour set to celebrate the new president; $6 cover.

Carabar, Olde Towne East

9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20


Local bands The Slide Machine, Muscle Puzzle, Churches Burn and Bestfriends will perform a show titled "Obama Has a Posse." The event is free.