In 1992, he was a valiant foot soldier for the Union for Change movement which nearly brought down the Biya regime. 16 years later, Nfor Julio Barthson, former reporter for Challenge Hebdo and La Nouvelle Expression, and former Managing Editor for Cameroon Post, reminisces about his experiences as a campaigner for Barack Obama.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for having worked so hard to bring change to our great country. I am so honored to be have been one of yours; I am blessed to be called one Obama Soldier among Millions like you. Thanks for anyone who supported our strategy at the Real-Time Obama Active Response (ROAR). As I prepare to deploy overseas on another active duty tour in January, I would like to share a few words from my blog with you.
I met some of the most wonderful people in America thanks to Barack Obama's campaign. I will never forget.
I was one of those who signed on early to Barack Obama's campaign; in fact, I was among the earliest to sign several online petitions to draft him into the race - the most notable of which was a petition initiated by none other than the Senior Seator from Illinois himself, Dick Durbin.
Barack inspired me in a way that only one other person ever had - and that was while I was still a student and journalist in my native country Cameroon, Africa. Even though I was on active duty with the US Army - California National Guard for most of the period of the campaign (and I'm still on active duty at present), I traveled far and wide, on my own time and dime, to work for Barack because I believe in his word. I believe in his promise to change America, thereby changing the world too. I believe in his positive message that transcends hope as a mere feeling, transforming it into a real, palpable, reachable, touchable emotion.
I did the little I could to contribute as much money as I could afford, and raise funds for the campaign through MyBO. I posted blogs, emailed and called mainstream media to push Obama issues. I was just one among millions for Obama, but his style of campaign that was so inclusive and empowering made me feel like I was special.
I met so many wonderful Americans canvassing for Barack on the trail in California, Nevada, Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, etc. And I had the opportunity to talk by phone to hundreds of Americans hungry for change, ready for change, ready for Barack. In Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, North Carolina, etc. It was always such a thrill debating the issues for long minutes with an undecided voter and finally getting that "Yes" signifying a commitment to vote for change. My best moment was a few days to the election when I called a 71-year old woman in Colorado; she had never voted Democrat before, but she interrupted me when I was still struggling to make my case for Obama and said, "I'm voting for Obama because of his wife Michelle." As she hung up, tears filled my eyes as I could hardly contain the mixture of joy and bewilderment from expoding in my chest.
I am so proud of our country, and I thank Barack and Michelle for having been courageous enough to take the heavy weight of this country on their shoulders. I also have nothing but respect for the fact that Barack chose a fighter like Joe Biden to be his partner in this daunting task.
As a military professional with years experience in international journalism, public affairs and intelligence matters, I believe I am not going too far when I state that, the rest of the world believes that Obama is going to be their president too. The world is looking for leadership; Barack Obama will provide it.
I am deploying to Kosovo next year in order to participate in one of our most successful peacekeeping missions. I would like a President Obama to take the example of what Bill Clinton did in Kosovo, with the help of Gen. Wesley Clark, and replicate it with obvious cultural modifications in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I would also LOVE to see President-Elect Obama give a prominent role to wounded veterans Max Cleland and Tammy Duckworth. I propose Max for the Department of Homeland Security (that would be the best answer for those who used images of Osama bin Laden to scare Georgians from voting for him), and Tammy for US Veterans Affairs Secretary (she has more than earned it by deed and example).
MOST IMPORTANT THOUGH: I would like to invite the President-Elect and his family to spend a whole day intermingling with his troops - his Army, his Soldiers, his Warriors - on the eve of his accession to power. I have a wonderful plan for that, and I would like to discuss it with someone from the Transition Team or from the President-Elect's entourage.
Here's s summary/synopsis of the project: On January 19th, 2008, hundreds of American Soldiers belonging to the National Guard from several different states will be leaving from Camp Atterbury, Indiana, for overseas tours to Kosovo and Afghanistan (possibly Iraq too, but I do not know for sure). It would be a wonderful opportunity for the President-Elect, for the troops and their families to spend a social day together like no other President-Elect or acting Commander-in-Chief ever has. Michelle Obama has made military families one of her priorities, so I believe that if she and her husband spend a whole day with Guardsmen and their families before deployment, that would say a lot to the troops and to the nation as a whole about the way they view our nation's warriors. Brief stops at military bases for photo-ops is not the same thing as actually spending valuable time with troops and their families for a whole day, interacting and playing games with them, listening to them and taking careful note of their problems. No other political leader has ever done it that way, but Obama is a Leader of Firsts.
Furthermore, that would also allow the President-Elect to interact in a personal way with these troops of his who will not be in the USA when he officially becomes their Commander-in-Chief the next day (January 20th). He could play basketball with them, talk to the commanders, senior and junior enlisted alike over lunch, and thereby show how much he really respects his military and expects no less in return from them.
Finally, this would be an excellent opportunity for the President-Elect to introduce his future 4-Star "full" General that will be the first eve Chief of the National Guard Bureau with a seat at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I realized talking to some of my colleagues that they do not even realize that President-Elect Obama intends to honor the National guard, for the first time ever, with a seat at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thereby giving him the opportunity to get direct and unfiltered advice from the Guard. If the President-Elect uses such an occasion to introduce his choice for that position after he officially becomes Commander-in-Chief, it would go a long way towards helping in building morale among reservists and guardsmen/women, their families, and the rest of America. That may also be an excellent recruiting tool at a moment when he wants to increase the size of the Army and the Marines.
Of course, this project is also a little bit personal for me (truth be told) because I will be right there in Indiana preparing for my deployment until January 19th, 2009. I would be greatly honored to work on this project with some of my commanding officers and senior enlisted advisors. I worked hard for Obama's campaign like millions of others; but I will not be there on January 20th for his inauguration because I must answer the call of duty in the same way that Beau Biden did in Delaware. So a visit to our training base in Indiana (not too far from Chicago, and on his way to Washington, DC for the inauguration) would be more than a blessing.
God bless Barack and Michelle Obama. God bless Joe and Jill Biden. God bless America.
Nfor Julio Barthson
(Contributing from Camp Williams, Utah)