By Sean Cox of Portland, Oregon. Sean describes himself as a Social Change Agent.

I was at the Countdown event here in Portland last Friday night and I'll admit - I am fired up. It was pretty amazing to be in line with thousands of people who all share a common interest in making the world better and an eagerness to get involved. I was astonished by the efficiency of the stantionless switch backs - no pushing, no shoving, thousands of people working together, moving in a common direction.

I was blown away by Barack in person. But candidates can talk a good talk, and telling me what I want to hear is a good way to get me fired up, but is it real? Is it just spin?

The thing that pushed it over the edge for me - I had the genuine sense that Barack Obama doesn't want to run for President, he is compelled to, he has to run for President. The same way Yo Yo Ma has to play the cello, Steve Jobs has to innovate, Tiger has to swing his club. Obama struck me as someone who has to lead if he sees a problem.

I came home, set up a page on and started thinking about what I could do to make a difference.

At about 3pm on Monday I made a $10 donation through my web page and was going to have it as a recurring donation. Then I'd challenge my family and friends to join me - but the recurring donation field wasn't enabled. I work in nonprofit fundraising - plus I did okay in math - so I know that one $10 donation is less than 12 $10 donations...and since the goal of fundraising is to get more...having a recurring donation option is a must do.

So I sent an email to the campaign - fat chance that will be read right, but I felt like I needed to do my part?

Boy was I wrong!

My phone rang at 9am the next day. I don't typically get phone calls from the 312 area code so I was a little perplexed at who would be calling me. Turns out it was a staffer at the Barack Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago.

A phone call, from a Presidential Campaign. I saved the number and now I chuckle a bit that my screen saver is a picture of me shaking Obama's hand at the event and that I've got his number on cell.

The staffer thanked me for my donation (it was $10!!), let me know that I could go to the main web page and make the recurring donation from there and that he was going to pass my suggest up the chain to get the feature enabled on the other pages. He gave me a couple of suggestions on what types of appeals have worked the best and a couple of lessons they have learned on the campaign trail. It was amazing. Not so much the advice, but that the campaign had prioritized connecting with supporters.

A phone call. When I sent a note to the Edwards campaign that I thought that all of the messages from John's mom, wife, kids, came off a little disingenuous because I know that they are written by a staffer...I didn't even get a confirmation that my email had been received.

To me - this action tells me more about Obama than any of the passionate words he shared while he was in Portland. It tells me that he really does care about what Americans have to say, and that he really does think that we can help make this country a better place.It tells me that Barack is walking the talk. He is surrounding him with people who share his commitment to valuing the American people.

Otherwise - why would Josh from the campaign have been tasked with calling a guy in Oregon who just made a suggestion, and a $10 donation. I'm fired up, I'm ready to go.


  • puleeeze (unverified)

    Anyone who self describes as a "social change agent" deserves all the ridicule that can be heaped upon him.

    What are you, nine years old?

    I guess Obama has the political bimbo imbecile vote all locked up.

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    Please disregard above nonsense and immaturity (who is the 9 year old?). Cynicism is a deadly disease, and I'm happy you don't have it.

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    Wasn't it Sophocles who said that "when the argument is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser"?

    Most adults understand this concept intuitively. However, few nine year olds do...

  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    Wait a minute,Kevin, you used that same quote on me weeks ago, only it was Socrates.

    Keep your Greeks straight. (Please feel free to insert your own joke about non-straight Greek philospohers here).

    Also, maybe try working in some new material.

    I like Obama, too. I'd gladly vote for either him or Edwards.

    But let's see: You sent a glowingly positive e-mail to Obama (along with cash moneys) and you got a happy response. You sent a negative e-mail to Edwards and heard nothing. SHOCKING! Simply SHOCKING!

    And I'd have to agree that the self-proclaimed Social Change Agent is a little silly and smacks of self importance. Kind of like every FBI agent being a "special agent."

    Well isn't that ...special.

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    It was Sophocles (I think) and it's as valid now as it was two weeks ago or will be two weeks from now. Pretending that it's not for the sake of variety just isn't my thing.

    With all due respect, I never comment here with the goal of amusing or entertaining anyone. If I were interested in doing that then I suppose changing material would be relevant since audiences expecting to be entertained are notoriously fickle.

    Have a nice day, Pat.

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    I think "Social Change Agent" is perhaps a title that should be earned. If anyone wants to know more about work to help kids affected by AIDS, and those who took the lead to do it, they should Google "Sean Cox" and "For Us Northwest" I am proud to have worked with an organization that supported FUN -- I think Sean has earned the title.

    Besides, it sounds better than "puleeeze." Catchier.

  • Adrian Rosolie (unverified)

    No need for people to get snippy, now.

    I'd second Pat's point. Try sending a donation and happy email to the Edwards campaign and see if they call you, and if not then maybe you'll have an equal comparison. I highly doubt Obama or anyone else writes their mass emails either.

  • wheels (unverified)

    Sean, if the folks above knew who you are and what you've done, I'm sure they'd take back their misguided criticism.

    As for your excitement, more power to you. There was a time when I was inspired by a politician too, and he was nice enough to share with us these words before he died:

    The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

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    The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

    Hear, hear!

  • Sean Cox (unverified)

    Puleezz (or whatever you call yourself)....

    I'm not 9, I'm 31, I founded an organization for kids affected by HIV when I was 20...presented at the International AIDS conference when I was 24 - where I represented the US and met with President Clinton and the directors of UNICEF & UN's Global AIDS effort. Right now I live over at New Columbia and am leading the fundraising efforts for an organization that is trying to make Oregon a place where all children thrive.

    I decided long ago that sitting on the sidelines and complaining about the world wasn't going to change it.

  • Sean Cox (unverified)

    By the way....I didn't intend the comment about the Edwards campaign as a jab. I'm certain that none of the candidates are up at night scribing their email's. Getting notes from John Edward's mom about making him apple pie for his birthday - just struck me as a gimmick.

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    If you'd been paying attention, you'd know it was pecan pie. And it might have been a gimmick, and it might have been written by a staff member, but I don't doubt for a moment that John Edwards' mom made him pecan pie when he was a kid.

  • Bill McDonald (unverified)

    Obama's campaign organization is already running better on many levels than John Kerry's in 2004 in my opinion, and if it hadn't been for dirty and illegal vote caging, Ohio, Kerry would have won. Social Change Agent? A little awkward, but so what? Meanwhile the phrase "Political Imbecile Bimbo Vote" has no flow. As a professional comedy writer, I'd suggest tightening it up by removing either "imbecile" or "bimbo". I'd also switch up Obama's phrase "Countdown to Change." It reminds me too much of my bank account.

  • James X. (unverified)

    Kevin, meet Google. (It was Socrates.)

  • Matthew Sutton (unverified)

    I can second Sean's point. The Obama campaign listens to, encourages and often acts upon ideas from ordinary people like us.

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    Wow. Who would have thunk that the discussion here would revolve around the one-line bio, rather than the substance of the post.


    We get lots of guest columns from folks who prefer to be identified as "a Democratic activist", or "someone trying to change the world" or other such things. I'd prefer a bit more detail, but often folks don't want to mix blogging and work - which I understand.

    Can we turn to the substance now? Personally, I thought this was a great column - not because it glows about Obama - but because it tells you a bit about what an effective grassroots-oriented campaign can accomplish.

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    Thanks, James. I used to have two quotes, one by Socrates and one by Sophecles, that I used to use as tagline quotes several years ago and because the two author's names are so similar I often confused who said what.

    That said... the idea expressed is what's important, not who said it. I could just post a comment saying that "Socrates said..." and unless you know which of Socrates ideas I'm referring to then I really haven't expressed anything of substance. N'est pas?

  • (Show?) tells you a bit about what an effective grassroots-oriented campaign can accomplish.

    Exactly. Despite this presidential cycle shattering all spending records, the little things -- the personal touches -- still make a huge impact.

    When my wife and I talked to Obama briefly at the reception, he remembered us from Florida. Maybe it was the result of good staff work, but it was still pretty cool. Sean, I'm glad you had such a positive experience with the campaign and appreciate your grass-roots efforts to get more folks involved. Good luck!

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    Sean, i was there and got to listen to Obama up close, and to shake his hand as he looked me in the eye. i, too, believe he is genuine. and i believe he's running because he had to -- he's the right person, and this is the right time (just like 4 years ago, Howard Dean was the right person to demonstrate what a grassroots, non-Beltway campaign could do; he didn't win that race, but his victory was pretty clear in Nov 2006).

    if you want to join those of us in Pdx who are out campaigning for Obama on a regular basis, go to and sign up for our local newsletter. (For redundancy sake, make sure to add to add "Oregon Wants Obama" to your groups in There's a ton we can do around the area to get out word about Obama and promote his progressive message.

  • Harry (unverified)

    I already knew what a change agent is (gives me coins when I say "No, I don't wanna supersize it"), so I am glad to now know what a Social Change Agent is. And I second Bill proposed changes.... flow is important. And TLAs are always better than FLAs.

    But back to the post... Obama will energize and capture more people with professional staff who are responsive, and it sounds like he did just that. If his team can get just a few supporters to blog positively about Obama, then the 'word-of-mouth' (okay, in Web2.0 speak: stickiness of your viral marketing) will pay dividends in the long run.

  • gold (unverified)

    Sean, do you realize that being boyishly star struck is more about you than Obama? Seriously, your picture with Obama as your wallpaper, a delusional feeling of connection because you have the campaign headquarters number on your cell – that is only about you, my friend.

    This is the problem with big politics: commoners like you think of "their" candidate as an infallible celebrity (ie. Merkley/landlord story response by Jeff Alworth). I assure you, Obama and every other candidate is a regular person who needs to be forced to do the right thing by a cynical public. Let’s stop giving politicians hand jobs and start demanding a hand job of our own.

  • Adrian Rosolie (unverified)

    Gold, I think a man by the name of Larry Craig tried that constituent outreach approach with not too wonderful results.

    To some extent I agree with your point about people becoming infatuated on personality and letting that overcome or substitute policy, but not to the same degree. Personally I think the Merkley example is bunk; that's an example of a terrible excuse for journalism.

  • lin qiao (unverified)

    The Social Change Agent thang....

    Once when I was in grad school, I needed to find a couple of housemates to replace folks who had moved on, cuz I didn't want to give up my cheap, convenient place. One guy who came by to check out the place told me two things: one, he didn't eat onions because they "produced heat" in his body; two, he was "into social change".

    Yep. Social change. Sort of means whatever you want it to mean. Lon Mabon thinks HE'S a social change agent, too.

  • Sean Cox (unverified)

    This is so stupid. I chose the change agent bio as an afterthought. I'm a little surprised that it’s become such a key focus for so many comments here.

    It's no wonder that people are disenchanted with the political/public process. If you poke your head up and offer a perspective, there is a throng of folks looking for someone to toss a stone.

    For all of your that cited my "boyish" attributes. Way to go! There is nothing more effective than a few childish insults to make your point.

    I'm excited about Barack Obama because of the substance of his campaign and his character. I'm invested in his success because I share his opinion that America has been divided along a false line, and that there is a common good that all of our citizens can aspire too.

    I didn't go into detail about the policy areas that Barack and I agree about, because, (drum role) that wasn't what I was trying to communicate in my piece.

    I was trying to share an impressive example about a candidate walking his walk.

    I challenge any of your to cite an example of any other campaign, heck, any other organization you've contributed to that has followed up in less than 18 hours.

    I do this for a living, and that type of efficiency is very difficult to achieve.

    As to the bio...maybe I should have said something like...describes himself as an activist working for social change...duly noted.

    Or maybe I could have come up with some bs identify and hid in the safety of my basement and hurled insults - would that have helped me seem less "boyish". I think not.

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    Hey, Sean, don't let the childish comments bug you. Your awesome work with children with AIDS gives you the right to describe yourself however you want.

    As someone that has worked with Sean via the City Club and has seen his work first hand, I am absolutely ashamed at the response to his article. Gawd, people, get over your small-mindedness and focus on the issues. Its people like Sean who create change and if he identifies with Obama, quite frankly, it says volumes about Obama's campaign to me.

    Thanks for the article (and your activism), Sean.

  • East Bank Thom (unverified)
    <h2>Of the three media anointed "top tier" candidates, Obama impresses me most as the anti-politics-as-usual choice. (Of all the major candidates, Kucinich wins the prize though hands down.) Sean's story reinforces that POV and speaks to me as a serial volunteer. Locally, i remember Amanda Fritz's campaign being just as intimate and responsive. She motivated me. Candidates, take note.</h2>
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