Today was a spectacularly beautiful day in Philadelphia, and I spent most of it indoors, sitting on a hard wooden bench. A couple of weeks ago, I got an invitation to attend the ACORN Presidential Candidate Forum at the Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philly as a member of the press…the blogging press, that is.
Now, since I started this whole blogging thing a couple of years ago, there have been a few perks that have come my way. I’ve gotten a couple of books, some free food, an occasional photography tutorial and a whole slew of really terrific friends. But this was the first time that I was invited to sit among “real” news and journalism folks. And I have to admit, I felt pretty outclassed. Sitting at the end of my row was Larry Eichel, an Inquirer reporter who’s writing I’ve always admired. Back in November, I wrote a paper based on some of his coverage of last fall’s election for my Journalism class. It just didn’t seem right to be attempting to cover the same event that he was working.
As far as the bloggers went, most of those who I was sitting around were producing posts as they listened to the speakers. While I did my best (and you can find out what exactly my best is over on the Metroblog), I realized that I’m the kind of person who needs to spend a little time digesting something before I can write about it. Also, I was reminded again that I’m so much more interested in the stories of individual people than I am of messages being given by politicians.
I enjoyed being in the presence of Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards, but I was so much more taken by the stories that the members of ACORN told in the minutes while we waited for the big names. I wanted to know more about the woman who would go to work sick, who had to send her daughter to school with colds and coughs, who is now fighting for paid sick time because of those experiences. I wanted to hear the details from the woman who lost the house she grew up in because of a predatory home loan that she took out, thinking it would save her dwelling. I would have loved to have learned more from the 20-year-old woman who’s mother was imprisoned and then deported for being an illegal alien, after 20 years of working hard in this country.
I majored in politics in college. I spent years studying campaigns, elections, local politics, international politics, feminist politics, protest rhetoric and the politics of the death penalty. I spent nearly ten years of my life thinking that I would be a politician. And today I remembered why I walked away from it after all those years of intense attention. I like real stories from ordinary people so much more.
* Many times throughout the day, whenever there was a break or a pause, the ACORN organizers would initiate chants. This is the one they broke into most often, and it has been resonating in my head ever since. It’s not a bad message to be hearing internally, on repeat.