Obama gave a wonderful speech thanking his young Chicago staff, and telling them how inspired they make him. It comes across as extremely sincere, more for all the pausing and "errs" and thought he puts in than the crying, but, that too.
There's a bit of "what could have been" for me, watching it; I probably could have been in the room for it, if I'd made different choices. I worked for Obama's web team at Blue State Digital in 2008, on the campaign's donation system, event planning platform, and many other things. Working at Blue State's boiler room in Boston, my connection to the official Obama campaign was a little indirect, but only a little. I moved to DC soon after, and in the years since have met a great number of people who worked on the 2008 campaign in Chicago and around the country. I also know folks who worked for the DNC leading up to 2010, and more recently friends who've gone to work for Obama and other Democrats around the country for 2012.
Though no one ever explicitly asked me to go to Chicago this year, some certainly implied I could. If I'd wanted to and asked around, I know I could have gone. It probably would have been a lot of fun, with, as it turned out, a euphoric ending. Certainly in 2008, it was an incredible thrill to celebrate with a team that worked directly towards its conclusion.
I suspect the reason that my friends' invitations stayed implicit was that anyone who knows me well knows that I'm really into my work at the Sunlight Foundation. My Kool-Aid consumption is obvious. Democracy-building stuff like what I get to do at Sunlight -- high impact, legitimately non-partisan, and infrequently for show -- is heavily addicting in its own way. It's not that I'd shun working for a Democrat so as to keep some sort of party-agnostic credentials; lots of people work together in DC that have easily discernible and opposing affiliations. I've just found something else worth pouring myself into for a while.
It was the right call. All the best things I've done at the Sunlight Foundation have been in 2012. I'm actually making things change now in a way that I never felt in 2010 or 2011. And I knew it was the right call; I was never even tempted. But watching this video reminds me that it was a call I made, even if it didn't take a lot of thought. There was another path there, and it's entirely possible that by taking it I could have made a big difference on the campaign, and put myself in a position to make even bigger ones in cycles to come. I could have gotten into that game. A lot of the dreams I had as a kid, and still have, are very compatible with those kinds of choices.
Fortunately, so are the ones I made. I will allow myself some jealousy, though, for the staffers who get to feel a euphoria and sense of contribution this week many times greater than what I felt in 2008 -- and in a cycle where the Obama campaign's strategy and staff may be seen (by the more attentive historian) as a decisive force equal to that of changing demographics. Congratulations to the team in Chicago and around the US, and to President Obama.