LatinaLista — Though it was leaked last night that Gov. Richardson would be leaving the presidential race, he made it official today.
In his afternoon farewell speech, he showed the good manners every Latina mother would be proud to see practiced by their son, when he listed one-by-one his opponents and said something nice about each one:
Senator Biden’s passion and intellect are remarkable.
Senator Dodd is the epitome of selfless dedication to public service and the Democratic Party.
Senator Edwards is a singular voice for the most downtrodden and forgotten among us.
Senator Obama is a bright light of hope and optimism at a time of great national unease, yet he is also grounded in thoughtful wisdom beyond his years.
Senator Clinton’s poise in the face of adversity is matched only by her lifetime of achievement and deep understanding of the challenges we face.
Representative Kucinich is a man of great decency and dedication who will faithfully soldier on no matter how great the odds.
And all of us in the Democratic Party owe Senator Mike Gravel our appreciation for his brave leadership during the national turmoil of Vietnam.
Believe it or not, manners still mean a lot to most Latinos.
Though he lost, Richardson exits as a classy guy and will be remembered for doing two things:
1. Holding the world record for the most handshakes in eight hours — 13,392.
2. And something no other candidate had thought to do with the Latino electorate — he didn’t just reach out to Latino voters, he INVOLVED them.
How? With one of the tenets of good manners: a simple invitation.
Richardson’s campaign set up a program they called Mi Familia con Richardson.
The hopes for this grassroots campaign was to directly involve Latinos in his candidacy. The campaign grew through people personally inviting others to join.
Bill Richardson speaks to a family of potential voters.
In addition to recruiting more members for the campaign and help raise money, each member had to commit to do at least five of the following actions between the time they enrolled and the Democratic primary or caucus in their state:
Attend community/neighborhood organization meetings to represent the Richardson for President campaign.
Distribute campaign literature in their neighborhood, at events, and at public gatherings.
Host a debate watch party for Mi Familia con Bill Richardson members or potential members.
Organize new chapters of Mi Familia con Bill Richardson in neighboring communities or at local businesses, organizations, and other appropriate venues.
Volunteer five times at a Richardson for President Headquarters or event.
Submit Letters to the Editor about Bill Richardson to local publications.
Submit blog entries about Bill Richardson to blogs of their choice.
Call radio talks shows on behalf of Bill Richardson.
Collect voter contact information.
Volunteer for voter registration drives and block walking.
Man the phone banks.
Vote or caucus for Bill Richardson.
These kinds of commitments may not seem like a big deal to most people but it can be when it comes to turning more Latinos onto politics.
In a recent exchange with a Dallas reader who wasn’t Latino and who had observed that not many Latinos had stepped up to the plate in local politics or speaking out for the community, I was reminded of what one professional had told me who had researched the poor turnout among Latinos when it comes to volunteerism — “Latinos still wait to be invited but when we are, we give it our all.”
By providing the guidelines for participation, Richardson’s campaign tapped into what we know exists in the Latino community — a willingness to work and be involved.
Unfortunately, too many Mexican-American and South American Latinos lack what American culture so highly values — initiative. They still wait for that personal invitation before they act.
Richardson’s campaigners knew this, and whether coincidence or not, one of Richardson’s idols also knew that to involve Latinos, it has to be personal — in both invitation and cause.
In today’s Huffington Post, Joseph Palermo reprints an excerpt from his book “In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy,” where he specifically details this same strategy to get Latinos involved in his 1968 election.
Kennedy’s prospects for winning depended upon grass-roots participation, and aggressive voter-registration drives in neighborhoods where poverty and unemployment were the key issues…
Volunteers set up a group of seventy-five Latino youths in the 21st Congressional District in Los Angeles to galvanize support for Kennedy. They also organized African Americans in the district, an example of black and Latino solidarity for Kennedy. Reports came back to the campaign that there had been “the most astounding outpouring of volunteer help” in many districts, which required the then innovative practice of tracking names on computer punch cards. By the first week of April, the Kennedy campaign headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard, as well as the national headquarters in Washington, D.C., received reports that thousands of Latino farmworkers were being added to the voter registration rolls in the San Joaqin Valley. Latinos were also involved in trying to compete with McCarthy at colleges and universities. Chavez himself spoke in support of Kennedy on several California campuses.
There’s no doubt Latinos want to be involved in the political process and respond when asked to do so. The marches of 2006 are proof of that alone.
As the campaigns rev up for the next primaries where there are significant Latino communities, all would do well to take the lead from Richardson in remembering — people respond better when good manners are used.