by Mark Curtis
Pleasanton Goes to Washington
"Yes we can!" was the simple, but memorable slogan that launched Barack Obama's campaign and this week landed him in the White House.
The fact that America was now calling him President Obama was music to the ears of Timothy Mae Lee, a registered nurse who lives in Pleasanton. "T," as she likes to be called, is African-American.
"I am very, very excited about Barack Obama becoming President and I think it's a beautiful thing. Nothing could happen in my history, in my lifetime, that could make me more happier than him becoming President," said Lee, who works for Alameda County.
Lee said she never thought an African-American would be elected President. "No I did not," she said, "I did not think it would ever happen in my lifetime."
"It gives me hope. It gives my son hope. Our daughters hope," Lee said, "It just gives hope to the whole race that we can achieve, what ever we put our mind to."
It was a colorful day for entrepreneurs on the Washington National Mall, as well. "Obama buttons, two dollars shouted one!" and "Get your Barack Obama hand puppets," yelled another as he demonstrated the product. Many people were dressed in patriotic red, while and blue colors, and one man carried a sign that borrowed from the old Civil Rights slogan. "We have Overcome!" it read.
Some residents from Pleasanton gathered at the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Jerry McNerney, (D-CA), who was just elected to his second term in Congress.
"Well you know the speech was just plain honest words and they were delivered in a real straightforward way, so I think it was powerful," said McNerney.
McNerney was impressed that Obama took such a tough stance against terrorism in his Inaugural address. "We will defeat you," said Obama, and McNerney agreed that it was a message that needed to be sent loud and clear at the change of administrations. "People were very excited to hear that from him," said McNerney, "because it's needed. We need to let them (terrorists) know, that we're not going to cower and we have to stand up to them."
Now that he has been reelected McNerney says he is also focused on reviving the slumping economy, but in new ways that are more environmentally friendly.
"Well the thing that I am most excited about," said Congressman McNerney, "is that if we move forward with the new energy technologies, that we can bring so many of those jobs home." McNerney cited two businesses in Pleasanton, which can employ people from the East Bay. "One that is going to use municipal solid waste to produce energy," McNerney said. "We have a company that uses algae to produce energy," he added. "We're thinking about having them move to the district."
McNerney said be believes the new energy companies are a good fit for a Pleasanton economy that has many high tech companies. "It's a matter of making sure that those companies have the incentives to keep going and build strongly. Our district is really well positioned to take advantage of that new kind of technology.
The Inaugural was especially inspiring for Pleasanton Vice-mayor Cheryl Cook-Kallio. "It's been an incredible experience." Cook-Kallio said, "A woman on the subway told me 'I'm here with ten million of my new found friends.'"
The Vice-mayor came to Washington, DC strictly to enjoy the Inaugural, and to fuel her passion for politics and education. Cook-Kallio teaches government at Irvington High School in Fremont and runs the, "We the People" program. She is also a former Congressional Fellow, so today's lessons will find their way to her classroom. "It's absolutely an extension of my teaching," she said, "And it opened the door to elective politics."
The day was festive in Washington, despite the crowded conditions and cold weather. People seemed to embody the "Yes we can!" campaign slogan that made this day happen. "I was going to have a wonderful experience, no matter what," said Cheryl Cook-Kallio.