Navigating This Political Season
We Mormons are everywhere - all over the internet, TV, (and in some cities - on billboards and the sides of buses) - and never have we received this much scrutiny... and so it is with cautious footing that we run this website. We say this because our hope is what we do here doesn't put up a wall between ourselves and other more conservative or Republican-leaning Mormons. We appreciate and love them - (and hopefully not in a patronizing, we-are-better-than-you, way.) After the dust of this election settles, we will still be at church on Sunday mornings worshiping with our fellow Latter-day Saints, regardless of who they voted for the previous Tuesday and regardless of who wins. But we don't want to miss this opportunity to represent the strong ideals and beliefs of those of us who will be casting our votes for President Obama.
We received this email from Stephen, who happened across our site, and we believe his comments help to shine light on much of our reasoning in putting together this website:
Thank you for putting up this website. I am not LDS, but I have known quite a number of people who were, as I'm from the Pacific Northwest and was an avid genealogist before the Internet changed the game. With but one exception (in the Army) all (Mormons) that I've met have all been kind, generous, and humble - stunning examples of people who live a good life, performed good deeds, and treated others with respect. They were emissaries, living examples of people who truly aspired to be more like Jesus Christ. The "countenance" described in a recent post is something that even I found easy to spot. I've been in Southern California for some time now, and rarely meet Mormon people here. My memories are faded, and they have been tarnished by what I have seen in Mitt Romney. He has not shown himself to be one who cares about people. His lack of concern for those in need--particularly those his own actions have put in need--really surprised me. I was left to wonder if I had drawn the wrong conclusions. I know everyone is different, and one man is never an example of an entire group, but the writings, and even the very existence of this webpage affirm my early impressions. Reading here has been like Romney tarnish remover.
Thanks again making this effort, and for reminding me of truly good people I had long forgotten.
And thank you Stephen for your kind email, and thanks for giving us permission to post it here. This political campaign still has some months to go, and we hope that we can continue to participate in the dialogue and discussion of the issues - and we hope that we can do it in a way that is respectful and inclusive of those who believe differently than us. But clearly, we are not perfect - and so we are trying to do better.
So once again, I am looking over the Mormon Ethic of Civility - an article posted on the Mormon newsroom feed back in 2009. This is the perfect navigating tool for Mormon Dems and Pubs when it comes to engaging in political discourse.
Also, I really enjoyed this piece by Walter Kirn, the author of Thumbsucker, my favorite (Non-Deseret Book) Mormon fiction after Levi Peterson's The Backslider. The kindness and inclusiveness of Kirn's Mormon roommates and friends is what we offer each other. I also found this piece on MormonDems.com entitled, "Stop the Madness!" We might use this as a reminder of how to bring unity between Democrats and Republicans (inside and outside of the Church.) And if we are still wondering what we can do to better represent ourselves as Mormon Democrats, we might watch this YouTube video featuring an amazing Utah Mormon Democrat; we all know about Harry Reid (and we aspire to be like him,) but Brian King, member of the Utah State Legislature, is a great example as well:
The Great White Vote
Post by Joseph M -
Mitt Romney and Joe Biden both took turns politicking in front of the NAACP's annual convention, and Romney's big booing was widely played on cable news networks and across the internet. But what you haven't heard is that Vice President Joe Biden was also booed - for telling the crowd he would be closing his speech. Yes, Biden received a much friendlier reception. Just watch a few minutes of each speech, and listen to sounds of the crowd; when Romney is speaking you can almost count out the 5% of African Americans that will be voting for him in November. Even the music greeting the two speakers is in complete contrast: Biden's intro sounds like the start of a party, while Romney's "God Bless America" intro sounds like it's being played by an organ at a funeral.
But putting all of that aside, I am must applaud Romney for attending the convention (while George W. turned down invitations repeatedly.) However, he made a misstep or two, starting with one of his opening lines: "I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of American African American families, you would vote for me for president."
Firstly, I listened to this line repeatedly: was his "American African American" line a verbal stumble or was Romney just trying to differentiate African Americans from Canadian African Americans? Secondly, I find it a bit preposterous that Romney would claim to know (in his heart of all places) what is really best for the African American community. He proved that he does have a handle on all the negative statistics that circle and stereotype African Americans when he said, "the unemployment rate, the duration of unemployment, average income, and median family wealth are all worse for the black community." But I am fairly certain that he doesn't have some magic trick to solve these issues - if previous Republican administrations didn't make significant inroads here, why should anyone expect that Romney would or can?
[caption id="attachment_1295" align="alignright" width="300"] George Romney hugs son Mitt, 14, and wife, Lenore, at a Detroit news conference on Feb. 10, 1962, after announcing he would seek the Republican nomination to be Michigan's governor.[/caption]
That said, the story of Mitt Romney's father, Michigan Governor George Romney, is an interesting one. He spoke out in favor of civil-rights and pushed for reforms to counter discrimination in housing. Due to this, he faced opposition from leaders in his own party and from angered whites in his state. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has stayed away from discussing race or even his father's civil-rights legacy. According to Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times, "Romney has campaigned over the past year in front of predominately white audiences," and he is "a far more conflict-averse candidate than his father." And apparently, discussing his father's legacy could cause conflict with the conservative base.
But clearly the black vote is not what Romney is after, considering that even the African American Mormon vote seems out of reach; (see this article in the New York Times.) Some theorize that Romney has even given up on winning the Latino vote, and that his outreach efforts to Latino Americans can be summed up by his bungled Spanish language campaign ads; even his new ad featuring his Spanish-speaking-missionary son Craig (the curly-headed one, in case you're keeping track) is only being played in limited markets - with just $57,000 total air time bought, (and as of this writing, the dang video won't even play on Romney's website!) Governor Romney is aware that his chances at winning over this group is limited, and as Eric R pointed out, his stance on Latino immigration is at odds with the official position of the LDS Church. So that just leaves the white vote - and this is where Romney really has his greatest opportunity.
In 2008, 43% of white voters cast their ballot for Obama, while 55% voted for McCain. We might expect similar numbers in 2012, although some (including Obama himself) express concern that the President may have lost his luster. With continued unemployment issues, his "gray hair", and "Republican obstructionists" to Obama's brand of change, these white voters may be shedding their white guilt and their enthusiasm for President's message of hope; this is also evident among the young white vote, and this could result in many of these youths not turning out to the polls. Additionally, white blue-collar men have decreased from 34% to 28% in their support for the president.
So with these trends among white voters continuing, can Romney expect a win in November? Some have noted that although whites are still the dominant race in America, Latinos are now at 16%, followed by African Americans at 13% and Asian Americans at 5%. By some estimates, the percentage of people of color in the USA will overtake whites by 2050 - (minority births have already overtaken white births in the US.) And this is where Obama's reelection will ultimately be found. The minority electorate has grown in the past four years, and voter suppression aside, Obama may not need those extra white votes. So even if Obama experiences some loss of love among white voters, will that necessarily equal more votes for Romney? Probably not. It probably means more people staying home on election day on both sides of the political spectrum.
A year ago, The National Journal did a whole bunch of calculations that looked at Obama's 2012 reelection chances in light of race and the nation's changing demographics. The article is long, cumbersome, and impossible to digest if you aren't being tested on it for your American Heritage final exam, but this here is a pretty good summary paragraph:
"So even if Obama’s support slips among whites, Republicans will face a tough uphill climb if they cannot capture more minority votes. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami-based GOP consultant, asserts that Republicans cannot win if they allow Obama to keep two-thirds of the Latino vote he attracted in 2008. The first step toward turning some of that support, he contends, is aggressively pursuing those voters with Spanish-language advertising. 'Some Republicans say, ‘We do not want to advertise in Spanish because it sends the wrong message,’' he says. 'We need to get to them, no matter what channel they are watching, or magazine they are reading.' And once Republicans have Hispanics’ attention, Curbelo insists, they must make the case that Obama abandoned his 2008 promise to emphasize comprehensive immigration reform. 'There is a gaping hole in the president’s campaign,' he argues."
At this point, President Obama is reaching out to these groups and plugging this "gaping hole", as we saw recently with his announcement that the US will no longer seek to deport undocumented immigrants who came to America as children. So as we march onward to November, we may find that ultimately, the white vote might not be so great after all.
How to Become Anxiously Engaged in Obama’s Campaign
With Barack Obama and Mitt Romney so close in many national polls and Mitt Romney outspending the President in both May and June, it is imperative that we do more than just “like” Barack Obama on Facebook. We all have busy lives, and we all have pressing demands on our checkbooks that limit us from making more financial contributions to causes that we believe in; but for all of us who believe that President Obama is the best candidate, we must volunteer our time as well. Even just one hour each week, or a few minutes whenever you have time, could be the tipping point for helping our President win another four years in office.
Join Dashboard! Go to www.dashboard.barackobama.com and sign up. Dashboard is the official, brand-new, online campaign organizing tool for President Obama, the likes of which has never been seen before. It is a one-stop shop for all your election needs: you can connect with fellow pro-Obama people near you, get in touch with your local Obama for America office, access resources and videos about President Obama’s accomplishments, make calls on behalf of the campaign, see the calendar for events in your area, and report your efforts at the end of each day to better help the campaign crunch numbers and analyze data.
You can also join groups on Dashboard to get more updates and information about events specific to different issues. Consider joining the Mormons for Obama group found here!
If you live in a red state, it is possible that your Obama for America office is a single-staff office, meaning that the only person paid by the Obama campaign to work there is the state director. The rest of the staff is unpaid. On the west coast for example, single-staff states include Utah, Idaho, Alaska, and Hawaii. If this is the case, your Obama for America office probably shares office space with your state’s Democratic Party. Other states have their own office for Obama for America. These offices act as exciting campaign hubs for Obama supporters, and the volunteers would love to have you stop by!
Contact your local Obama for America team! When you sign up for Dashboard, it should put you automatically onto your local team and send an email with your name to whoever is the field organizer. For example, I am the field organizer for the Utah County, Utah team, so I get an email every time someone joins Dashboard who lives in my geographic area. I personally try to contact everyone on my team to let them know of opportunities they could take advantage of- but every team is different, so do some exploring and contact your field organizer if you don’t hear from them.
Depending on where you live, the closest official Obama for America events might be out of driving distance. Be still your soul! It is easy to host your own event and invite people from your area to join you. You could host a screening to watch The Road We’ve Traveled, the 17 minute documentary about President Obama’s first four years in office. You could invite someone from your community to come speak about why your community should support President Obama and have a discussion. Your local Obama for America office can give you specific tips, resources, and guidelines for how to make the event a success.
Get involved with your neighborhood team! Your local Obama for America office will help you find out which volunteers in your area have already formed one. Neighborhood teams are the nucleus of the grassroots organizing structure- the idea is that by promoting President Obama’s achievements on the community level, you will have much more influence. Check out this short video for more explanation on what a neighborhood team looks like.
Attend events, host events, and participate online! Any amount of effort you can spare goes a long, long way. On Dashboard, you can click on Make Calls, then choose which state and for what issue you'd like to call. There are multiple scripts (Women for Obama, Environmentalists, Economy, etc) you can use to call people and discuss President Obama's strengths on that issue to try to sway undecided voters. You can make calls anytime during day time and evening hours right from your own home on your own time. At the end of the day, you can Report Your Activity so that the campaign can better analyze their data and hours submitted by volunteers. If you can also get involved with events, that is even better.
As you get more involved with efforts to re-elect our President, I believe you will feel the satisfaction that you participated in something you believe in. On the night of November 6th, as the poll numbers are coming in and the nation sits on the brink of one presidency or another, you will know you contributed and did your part. If you think that President Obama is the better candidate, I urge you to take these small and simple steps to help re-elect him.
118 DAYS TILL ELECTION 2012
"Mormons Who Love Obama"
As I mentioned previously, I think that this website got a mention on Salon.com - but I can't be certain, because the writer used the term, "Mormons Who Love Obama" when linking to our site. So this might have been in reference to us, or it may be the third book in the soon-to-be famous Swedish crime series... (the other two being called, Mormons Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and Mormons Who Played with Fire.)
Regardless, Troy Williams does make some interesting points in his article, Romney Boosts Liberal Mormons. Indeed, the presidential campaign season and Romney's position as the Republican nominee (and a Mormon) has brought the Church into the spotlight like never before. And indeed, progressive, liberal, feminist, LGBT, and intellectual Mormons are seizing the opportunity to be heard. They have been voicing their opinions all along... and now (in this Mormon Moment) people are finally willing to listen... people like Williams and the (seemingly) hundreds of people who commented on his article. Take the "progressive" blog By Common Consent for instance; they began in 2004 - back when most people (myself) still didn't have internet in their homes. And now Mormons all across the spectrum of belief and practice are taking to the internet to make that one last comment that their Relief Society instructor didn't have time for last Sunday because she ran out of time with too much material left to cover.
[caption id="attachment_1227" align="alignright" width="300"] Mormons march during a gay pride parade in Salt Lake City on June 3. (Credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart)[/caption]
But I disagree with Williams on a point or two. I believe he is lumping too many people together. I realize that we like easy categorization (ie., there is wheat and there are tares), but I'm not sure that voting for Obama puts you in one group or the other. For instance, I can't imagine that this website would give President Packer much pause. Having served as an apostle for so many years, he's fully aware that Democrats are within the rank and file of the Church as well as its leadership, and we don't necessarily fit into his supposed axis of evil. And that said, I think that Williams (and many many others) have quoted Packer out of context, missing the whole point of his talk - (which was not directed at the general membership of the church; see this blog for a review.) So while I am very happy to have our website linked in the article, I am not sure we fit the bill. If Williams was really looking for examples of Mormons gone amok, he might have linked to John Larsen over at Mormon Expression; Larsen's site is even much more off the handcart than Mormon Stories, John Dehlin's collection of podcast interviews with everyone from Dr. William Bradshaw (I loved your Biology class at BYU) to Benji (the guy who thought he could dance.) Larsen's website has a brisk air of the provocative and self-importance; for example, the Larsens are the ones who hosted the write-a-letter-to-remove-your-name-from-the-records-party in SLC last weekend.
So ultimately, I don't believe that MormonsForObama.org sets about to "(expose) the internal stresses and fractures that have long existed within the (Mormon) faith." Mostly, we decided to put this website together because we didn't want others (or Romney's campaign) to define who we are as Mormons. But apparently in doing so I have now been defined. I've become a progressive Mormon (or an intellectual or a feminist?) However, I don't think that I neatly represent any of those terms. I am just a Latter-day Saint who is voting to reelect President Obama in November because I believe that he will be the best leader for our nation.
Living in the Field
I have been told I live in the field. I’m not talking about the mission field that is white already to harvest - Utah is actually rather cloudy and brown right now from all the fires, not to mention the raining ash. (Last days, anyone?) I’m talking about a unique field in which I’m a progressive liberal Mormon living in the heartland of conservative, Mormon majority, Republican Utah. I’m a sophomore Political Science major at BYU who works full time at the MTC, and every day I am reminded that I’m different (and not just because almost everything I own is plastered with Obama stickers and logos).
I wasn’t always so vocal about my political opinions here in Provo. During my first few months at BYU, I distanced myself from identifying with any party; I knew I was liberal, but I was hesitant to endorse a platform about which I felt under-informed. I feared the inevitable moment when some far more educated person would tear my opinions to shreds with their superior evidence and research. But the more I found myself making pro-Democratic comments in my small Honors American Heritage class (many thanks to my professor, Greg Taggart, for always giving me the floor to make the opposing point) and the more I studied the issues, the more I realized I needed to come out of the closet and simply embrace my affiliation with the Democratic Party.
Since then, I’ve become much more comfortable with identifying as a Democrat - not just because I can’t in good conscience endorse the alternative, but because I believe so strongly in the vision and commitments of the Democratic platform. While it’s annoying to frequently hear anti-liberal, pro-Fox News comments, and while I am in the political minority of students at BYU, living in Provo has forced me to be able to articulate exactly what I believe and why I believe. I’ll always be grateful for that.
I’m proud to say, and I say it at every opportunity I get, that the BYU College Democrats is the largest College Democrats chapter in Utah. I love the shocked expression people acquire when they hear that, because it emphasizes that Mormons are not a unified voting bloc, and that the youth and young adults of the LDS Church will become increasingly more diverse in their political views than ever before. We’ve seen already the groundswell of support for the LGBT community within the Church, and much of that support comes from young adults who did not grow up with the same biases and culture that older members of the Church may have.
Of all the challenges of being a liberal in Provo, the deepest and most hurtful will always be the questions of my faith. I don’t write about this to ask for your pity or to encourage you to be more loving to everyone. I write about this simply because it is the hardest thing for me about being a liberal in Provo. It’s not easy to be told that you have less faith, that the path you are on will likely lead you to become apostate, if not at least to leave the Church, and that then your future children will grow up outside of the gospel all because of your selfish choices. When I was quoted for an article about Pro-Obama Mormons back in May, the comments users added online questioning my standing in the Church were the most troublesome. When the ruling on the Affordable Care Act was announced, (I was eagerly listening to C-Span live with headphones on my computer at work,) I wanted to leap for joy and celebrate. But as my other coworkers at the MTC began to trickle in (this was 8:00 AM in Utah, being two hours behind D.C.), I could see their crestfallen faces. It was the only time I’ve been really glad that they all know I’m a Democrat - I did my best to hide my glee, and they shut the door so I could only hear muted expressions of their frustration and anger.
It’s this mutual agreement to leave each other space to celebrate our views that I appreciate the most, and at the same time it’s a cause of concern, given that it’s only July now and there’s still several months before the election. Because I am the field organizer for Obama’s campaign in Utah County, the Co-President of the BYU College Democrats, a volunteer for several local political campaigns, and because I hope to be more involved with Mormons for Obama efforts, I can sense that my political activity will lead to some kind of conflict sooner or later.
But despite all the tensions I’ve already experienced and expect to experience as a progressive Mormon, I know I can never go back. I’ll always feel a connection to that wonderful hymn-singing, nourish-and-strengthen-our-bodies praying, no-TV-on-Sunday, family-home-evening culture I was blessed to be raised in, but I will continue to study and seek after more knowledge about my questions without clinging to the conservatism that was also part of that culture. And with all its quirks and all my questions, I know my own journey of finding my way through this concentrated conservative field as a liberal Mormon will not be a walk in the park.
But we are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er, and that won’t just be November 2012. I look forward to the challenges in the hopes that I can convince even just one soul to understand why I believe what I do. Who knows, maybe I can plant some seeds in this field.
I voted for Obama and all I got was...
(This post by Laura was originally published on 2.9.2012. In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling, we are reposting it today.)
I was at the National Hispanic Medical Society conference in Washington DC when the House agreed to the Senate's amendment of the Affordable Care Act, on March 23, 2010. The energy and excitement was electrifying! My feelings that day are the same today--the Affordable Care Act is monumental and critical for our country. Indeed, it is one of the primary reasons why I support Obama wholeheartedly.
My favorite facts about the Affordable Care Act:
- Expands health care to 32 MILLION Americans
- Insurance companies are prevented from dropping sick people
- Insurance companies cannot deny children coverage if they have a pre-existing condition
- No lifetime caps on coverage
- Cost: $940bn over 10 years; but it would reduce deficit by $143bn by tackling fraud, abuse, and waste
- Expands women's health preventative coverage, including services such as well-woman visits, mammograms, domestic violence screening, screening for STIs, and access to birth control without charge
Of the Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama said "A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, 'Huh. It works. It makes sense.'"
One of the most controversial aspects of the Affordable Care Act is this concept of the "individual mandate" or requiring people to have insurance. The individual mandate is really important because it reduces the overall costs of health care for everyone. But don't take my word for it. Heck, (not h-e-ll, we are mormons after all) don't take Barack Obama's word for it!
"If you don't want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn't have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility. Either get the insurance or help pay for your care."
Mitt Romney, defending the 2006 Massachusetts Health Reform in a debate with Rick Santorum, Jacksonville, Florida, 1/26/12
YES! More cowbell. At a time when partisan politics have harshly criticized the 2010 US health care reform, I long to hear Mitt Romney defend the Massachusetts Health Reform! I believe there are far more important reasons for health reform (like, uhh, helping people), but it is soooo refreshing to hear it defended in 'Republican speak'.
I'm not the only one who feels good about this. Of Romney's words, Prof. John McDonough from Harvard School of Public Health said, "Romney has given in this entire presidential campaign last evening what I believe is the most effective and persuasive rationale and defense of the individual mandate."
A recent study reports that Taxachusetts (as my in-laws so lovingly call it) is doing very well after the 2006 health initiative. Access to health care remains high, emergency room visits are down, and there has been some improvements in health outcomes.
"I gotta fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!"
President Barack Obama, you gained my (second) vote on March 23, 2010. And I personally thank you for on behalf of all 32 million Americans who will now have access to health care!
Post by Doctor LauraClubFancy, your health care correspondent-
Read more here:
10 Reasons Why I Love Chief Justice John Roberts:
2. Unlike Elder Bednar, Roberts knows how to smile with his eyes.
3. In 1998, he petitioned the Supreme Court in behalf of several rerun television series - and these were amazing T.V. shows such as Hart to Hart, T.J. Hooker, and Who's the Boss?
4. Roberts has been the focus of a lot of crazy conservative criticism: he was called "the worst part of the Bush legacy," and someone hacked his Wikipedia page to declare him "the 17th Chief Traitor." Additionally, Glenn (nobody misses you) Beck is selling T-shirts calling him a coward. But despite all this, Roberts has kept good humor about him. In explaining that he would be out of the country in Malta for two weeks teaching a class, he said, "Malta, as you know, is an impregnable island fortress. It seemed like a good idea."
5. He is way more attractive than Ginsberg... and... well, Ginsberg.
6. His ruling proved a little too confusing for those at FOX News and CNN - (he didn't accept the individual mandate based on the commerce argument, but accepted it as a tax) - and these esteemed news organizations reported that the individual mandate was ruled unconstitutional before realizing they'd got it wrong. FOX (see below) condescended to look to SCOTUSblog.com to get their information, since their own correspondents couldn't process what they were reading. I love it.
7. Now that Healthcare Reform is a reality, Rush Limbaugh will leave the country! (He said he'd go to Costa Rica... which, uh... has socialized medicine.)
8. Justice Roberts has given Romney the phrase that pays: the healthcare law is a tax! Except this maybe a hard argument for Romney - because if Obama is raising taxes on Americans by enacting healthcare reform, then what did Romney do back in Massachusetts with virtually the same plan?
9. Roberts' swing vote decision restores some faith in the Supreme Court; maybe every decision isn't decided by political affiliation or expedience?
10. His decision validated President Obama's first term in office and cleared the way for the expansion of healthcare - a hope and dream of mine for a long time now.
Post by Joseph M-
The 110 page ruling by the Supreme Court largely upholds the Affordable Health Care Act, including the individual mandate. And Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote based on the understanding that penalizing people for not having health care is a tax.This is a victory for President Obama and a victory for all of us, including our fellow (conservative-leaning) Americans who somehow don't know a good thing when they see it.
This will signal a shift in the election 2012. Many people will begin to look at Obama and the healthcare law differently now that this is decision has been handed down. Republicans will paint it as a tax, but the President will be able to claim a victory - and the implied insult of calling it Obamacare will fade and diminish, and this supposed pejorative will ultimately give President Obama the credit he deserves.
President Obama's official response on the ruling on C-SPAN2
Lauara Club Fancy wrote about the White House garden, and now we should all go to our favorite independent book store to get a copy of the book that details the garden further. (My favorite Seattle indy bookstores are: Elliott Bay Books and Third Place Books)
Michelle Obama's new book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, is both a book full of pictures of the White House garden and a book of great recipes that match this ongoing theme. The reviews are plentiful and complimentary, and there are a number of video reports as well, including one on C-SPAN2 / Booktv.org . Even Sasha and Malia weighed in, calling it "a good book." And Alex Klein reveals "12 juicy bits" about the book in his Daily Beast review. Now back to the pictures: they are impressive and colorful, and I cannot look at them without wishing that I could go outside and weed a garden. (I do not have garden...just a handful of house plants in my apartment to remind me of Costa Rica)
The book is apolitical and should please the "typical" Mormon who strives to build up our food storage by gardening, canning fruit, making homemade jams and (of course, Jell-O).
Finally, I want to thank my own amazing mother who grew up on a hard-working family farm on the other side of the mountains from Seattle. She raised me to appreciate farm life - while living in the suburbs and taking me on big city adventures during my childhood. So of course, she spoiled me with my very own copy of Michelle Obama's book, and in return I plan to make a few of the recipes for her...and hopefully warm her up to the Obamas one delicious recipe at a time.
An Equal Opportunity Garden
As I anxiously look forward to the delivery of our first summer CSA box this week, I can’t help but think about how inspirational Michelle Obama has been promoting healthy food and living. One aspect of her dedication to health that I’d like to highlight in this post has been the White House Kitchen Garden.
In addition to it just being really cool that there the White House now grows its own food and donates most of it to charity, Michelle Obama uses it as an outreach opportunity to inner city elementary school kids. She worked with local elementary school kids to plant the food garden in March 2009. Urban-living children are invited to the White House each year to plant and harvest the vegetables as a way to learn and get excited about fresh, healthy, local food.
Just a little bit about the garden. The White House Kitchen Garden is 1,500 square feet, and produced over a ton of food in the first two years. The garden is completely organic. It includes special vegetables planted from seeds from Thomas Jefferson’s Montecello. The last time there was a food garden on the White House grounds was the Victory Garden, which was established by Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II. It started a trend and by the end of the war more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40% of the produce consumed in America. You can watch more about the White House Kitchen Garden here you can also tour the garden.
During last year’s planting season, Michelle Obama went through the different vegetables that they were planting that day like swiss chard, leeks, and beets, and said, “uh-oh, the President doesn’t like beets. But it’s okay. We’re an equal opportunity garden.” Many of the kids had never eaten swiss chard or leeks before. Her reply was, “So that’s going to be the fun part, is trying some new things.”
In 2008, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food, wrote a letter to President Elect, which was published in the New York Times, called Farmer In Chief.
In his letter, Pollan discusses that whoever the future president is, the focus should be on reforming food in the US. It’s a great article. He recommended all sort of things to the future president, like food stamp debit cards should double in value when swiped at a farmer’s market, creating a federal definition of “Food”, and that WIC should be expanded to include food vouchers to farmer’s markets.
Included in his recommendations was the suggestion to begin a White House food garden. “I don’t need to tell you that ripping out even a section of the White House lawn will be controversial: Americans love their lawns, and the South Lawn is one of the most beautiful in the country. But imagine all the energy, water and petrochemicals it takes to make it that way. (Even for the purposes of this memo, the White House would not disclose its lawn-care regimen.) Yet as deeply as Americans feel about their lawns, the agrarian ideal runs deeper still, and making this particular plot of American land productive, especially if the First Family gets out there and pulls weeds now and again, will provide an image even more stirring than that of a pretty lawn: the image of stewardship of the land, of self-reliance and of making the most of local sunlight to feed one’s family and community.”
Wow. Stewardship, self-reliance, with a focus on family and community is what Michelle Obama is bringing to the White House through this garden and her incredible example.
From Michelle Obama in her speech at the Democratic National Convention:
"And in my own life, in my own small way, I've tried to give back to this country that has given me so much. That's why I left a job at a law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young people to volunteer in their communities. Because I believe that each of us--no matter what our age or background or walk of life--each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation."
I’m a Mormon for Michelle Obama.