Obama on Faith Call

Community Organizing Health Care

6a00d8341c630a53ef0105360d93d6970b-800wiNew Orleans There were technical problems and it was a weird experience, but I have to say, of the millions of conference calls I do in a year, it’s still special to have the President of the United States pop on to one.  What a powerful political tool with such huge potential – I want to figure out how to do this NOW!

Ok, let me back up.  You may ask yourself, what I was doing on a conference call of what they call “faith leaders?”  I know that doesn’t fit easily with my usual image or the current effort of the right to position me squarely between Attila, the Hun, and Karl Marx, but it just shows how little you know!

My friends at the PICO National Network keep me up to date through their email lists, and dutifully sent me (and all the rest of the gang!) a message that we had an opportunity to join a call yesterday with the President about health care reform.  What a good idea, I thought, so I signed up.

I waited for the text message on the call in number, and I did get a couple of strange messages that were firing blanks, so I know they were trying.  At the appointed hour I was finishing a meeting with a young man helping on the Organizers’ Forum reading list for our trip in October to Thailand, so I hurried on the right PICO website to figure out how to get on.  It said I could go on via the web, but I found myself scratching my head and unable to figure that out, so I tried three or four times to call the 347 long distance number without success.  I’m not happy.  I went back to the website and stumbled on this too small widget on their site, which was obvious in retrospect, double clicked, and by damn, I was on the call via the internet with a great connect and free as a bird.  This rocked!

The call was heavily scripted, as you would expect.  I recognized an excellent PICO leader who had been at an Organizers’ Forum dialogue in Chicago this spring.  Our friend Jim Wallis did the bridge introduction to Melody Barnes from the White House to answer some questions.  She was smooth.  She sincerely thanked everyone for their questions, which was more memorable than the answer.  But, mainly the call was authentic. There were real people, some of whom were real nervous, with real questions, and a big-time issue about the need for health care reform.  President Obama was on message, pointed, and essentially tried to rally the troops in the faith community to help push health care reform in Congress.

The list of sponsors for the call was dozens of denominations and religious groups.  I saw both our friends at the Gameliel Foundation and PICO from faith based community organizations, and that was wonderful.  I also got a text late last night that did come through from PICO saying that 140,000 people were on the call, and they were apologizing that so many people were NOT able to get on.

This is what really moves me:  if we have the technology to let 140,000 people come onto a phone call with the President – or anyone else! – that is a wildly powerful communications, organizing, and mobilization tool!  I want to figure out how to do that on our websites, too, and I bet I’m not just one of thousands trying to figure out this great idea!