1.12.2011

We the People


Yesterday afternoon, at the National Constitution Center, David Oh officially announced his candidacy for City Council at Large here in Philadelphia. I was honored to be asked by David to be one of about a dozen people to introduce him and say a few words on his behalf (that's me, fifth from the right). I am sure that, together, our dozen testimonies spoke volumes of the legitimacy of David's candidacy, and I'm not just referring to the words themselves, though there was certainly more than enough in the words to convey David's decency and quality and intellect and merit.

More powerful for me, though, was the sheer diversity of those of us David assembled to stand up with him. All racial and ethnic groups. Men and women. Democrats and Republicans. Old and young. Political neophytes and grizzled veterans. A wide range of professional sectors and city neighborhoods. Union leaders. And a Pentecostal preacher who turned David's campaign's simple request to offer a blessing into a fiery pseudo-sermon that had the aisles rocking and me mock fanning my colleagues to the left and right with my hanky.

It was not lost on anyone that we were in a building dedicated to honoring the founding document of our country, a document that starts with the magical phrase, "We the People." We have layered on top of our political process so much professionalism, so much commentary, and so much cynicism, that we often lose the magic behind that phrase. It is a remarkable tenet, in the face of overwhelming evidence that people are differently endowed in terms of physical, intellectual, and moral quality, that yet we are somehow stronger as a unit when we diffuse power to the level of "the people," instead of concentrating it among the more gifted.

This is the aspect of the American narrative that makes us unique and great. I know it is what stirred David into service. And it is what qualifies him for the office he seeks. For he has demonstrated the ability to marshal a wide range of people to support him. And he has done so by serving a wide range of people: in the military, as a lawyer, and in the community.

It may seem a quaint notion to want your elected officials to be public servants. In fact, it is a quaint notion; it is the very notion that got this whole thing started right here in this very city. "We the People" are still looking for good people to represent them in political matters, and today in Philadelphia, David Oh is one who has my support.

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