Here's part of a memo an Obama Regional Field Director in North Carolina (where I was born) sent her volunteers last week:
Barack really is
expecting a lot out of us — and there isn't much else for him to do. He
has placed this election in our hands at this point. It's up to us now.
We may never again have our hands on history quite like this again for
as long as we live. That makes each hour so, so precious. We can slack
off, sleep in, and make excuses for the rest of our lives. But today —
and for the next 3 weeks . . . whether we knew what we were getting into
or not . . . we have ended up with people's lives, livelihoods, and dreams
for their children — all dependent on our performance day in and day
out. This is our one chance at history . . . our one chance at perfection.
Our one chance to live forever. So today — breathe this in . . . realize
that your grandkids will be reading about you . . . realize that you will
miss this feeling very, very soon . . . and win every single hour.
This describes the sort of feeling men in war have. Teddy Roosevelt described his action on San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War as “my crowded hour”. Oliver Wendell Holmes said of his peers who fought in the Civil War “in our
youth our hearts were touched with fire.” It's probably what the early adherents to a new religious revelation feel in their urgency to spread the word. The common ground is effort and risk and sacrifice for others, for a cause outside of and greater than the self. The cause is not Obama's run for political office — it's “people's lives, livelihoods, and dreams for their children.”
The Regional Field Director is talking about that moment in a battle when the generals have done what they can do and it's time for the men to move up to the line and march to the sound of the guns. She's talking about that moment when the disciples leave the teacher and head out to obey his command, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . .”
Obama isn't just running a campaign, he's training citizens for acts of service, crowding their hours with meaning, touching their hearts with fire, giving them a duty and a place among the generations of men, which really is one way of living forever. Obama's success or failure in the campaign, or in the Presidency, is beside the point now.
[With thanks to FiveThirtyEight.com for the memo.]