There is nothing more powerful than ordinary citizens coming together for a just cause.

“Forward Together” — a new photomosaic of Barack Obama

Four years ago, I was busy devoting most of my free time knocking on doors and talking to people about the presidential election. At first I was very uncomfortable disturbing folks at their homes to talk about a subject that most would prefer to avoid: politics. Admittedly, it took me a little while to become comfortable with the front porch conversations, but, as soon as I did, there was no stopping me. I loved it. All of it.

In ’08, I also spent some time traveling around Michigan photographing Obama rallies. While Obama spoke to the crowds, I photographed them. I viewed, intimately through my lens, the large diverse crowds while he spoke the words “Yes we can” and shared a message of unity and how together we can bring about change.

I think Jonah Sachs outlines Obama’s message in ’08 best in a recent article. He wrote,

Obama’s words glorified optimism over fear, collective sacrifice over individual greed, and engaged citizenship over prepackaged, convenient solutions. My social network wouldn’t have been weeping if Obama had been addressing us as a mass of passive children needing to be coddled and directed. He touched a nerve with an empowering message highlighting our boundless ability to mature and transcend.

As I walked door-to-door four years ago, I thought much about how I should talk to people about Barack Obama and the election. I was worried that if I didn’t know everything there was about the subjects surrounding the election that I would fall short. I was concerned that if I didn’t have all the facts then I wouldn’t be able to defend my support for Obama. What I came to learn was that the details didn’t change people’s minds or empower. My most successful conversations were with people who talked about their issues and concerns. I helped them to connect their lives to the election, hoping they would feel more engaged and would, in turn, vote. Those conversations were the ones that empowered people. Each night when I returned home from knocking on doors, I knew that I was part of something very big. I was beginning to feel very much a part of the “we” in “Yes we can”.

The Republican National Committee put out an ad for the 2012 election where they show snippets of Barack Obama speaking in 2008 and repeating a lot of the same phrases in his speeches this year. He says in this video, “It’s time to realize we are all in this together” and “America is a place where you can make it if you try”. He says, “because I believe in you” and “your hopes”, “your dreams”, “knock on doors with me” and “If you are willing to work with me then I promise you change will come.” The video ends with the phrase, “Are you better off?” and it made me laugh because the message I got from the video was that this election is about us and that we should be part of it, just like it was in the last election. These are not words special to one election, they are words that should be spoken at every election to remind of our power in this process.

Barack Obama said in a campaign speech last week:

Somebody asked me ‘What lesson have you learned after four years?’ and I said I’ve learned that change doesn’t just happen from the inside.  Change happens from the outside.  My opponent got very excited.  He thought, well, he’s waving the white flag, he’s giving up on change. I had to explain it, you haven’t been paying attention.
 
“I said that — I say that now; I said that in ’08.  The whole point of our campaign the first time around was this belief, this profound belief in the decency and the goodness and the common sense of the American people, and the notion that change doesn’t start in Washington, it starts with them.  And everything we’ve been able to do is because they have empowered me to do it, or they have pushed Congress to do it.  But that’s who I bet on.  That’s who I’ve got faith in.  That’s who I have confidence in.

I hear different versions of the phrase “this election is a choice between two very different visions” from both candidates in almost every speech. Of all the differences in the two campaigns, I would argue that the biggest and most important difference is how they view the American people.

Romney is running a “just trust me” campaign devoid of details and, at its heart, the message that HE knows best, not us. This message was reiterated through his statement about the 47% of Americans he says refuse to take personal responsibility for their lives. It is clear that he does not trust the American people to decide for themselves.

On the other hand, we have President Obama. His message is one about moving forward with the changes he has been talking about since before he became president on issues like equality, the environment, stronger economy, better education and energy independence. These changes are not like flipping a switch, they are ongoing.

Most importantly, Obama is running a “I believe in you” campaign. He trusts that we can make the right decisions for our lives. He, unlike Romney, believes that we not only take can care of ourselves, many of us — our teachers, firemen, police officers, nurses and soldiers — go beyond that and take care of others. He recognizes our differences but knows that we all want the same things in life: fairness, opportunity, and happiness.

President Obama reminds us, every time he speaks, that he can’t move this country forward by himself, but together we can. This is what inspired the my most recent photomosaic “Forward Together, Faces from 2012 Obama Rallies.” It is compiled of over 6,000 faces from Obama rallies over the last year. Each face, like the main image of the president, is facing forward to signify our collective desire to continue moving forward with change.

I am donating 50% of the profits from poster sales to the reelection of Barack Obama between now and October 21. Consider buying a poster and help me raise money for this election. Click HERE to see the individual faces up close and to see the mosaic I created in 2008, “Out of Many we are one”. To purchase either of the posters or as a set click HERE.

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