So you’re having hot dogs and beans?
Jenn Brown, state director of Organizing for America, was silent for a moment.
“Umm, healthy fare,” she said. “Turkey burgers, salmon burgers, fruit, vegetables. Things like that.”
This is the future of American picnics and health? Obama-inspired health care reform being pushed, ever so slowly, up a high hill of special interests in Washington? And veggie-burgers instead of brats?
“A healthy lifestyle is important to a healthy country,” said Brown, admitting with a laugh that Organizing for America is not emphasizing the picnic fare.
This subject of health and diet came up because Organizing for America, which grew out of the Obama presidential campaign, is hosting the Twin Cities Health Care Barbecue Wednesday evening — from 6 to 8 p.m. — at Wabun Picnic Area D in Minnehaha Park.
The hope is that the event will give a boost to grass-roots efforts to push health care reform through Congress. Similar events are being held by Organizing for America throughout the country this week.
Organizing for America, whose bills are paid by donations and the Democratic National Committee, is built around the volunteers who fueled the Obama campaign.
“We got him elected to enact change,” said Brown, who was an Obama campaign worker in Ohio. “After the election, we had all of these volunteers, so many of them involved in politics for the first time, saying, ‘Now what?’ “
Organizing for America quickly was formed, held together by state directors such as Brown, lead volunteers and a sophisticated email system that makes it possible to keep people of like interests working together.
The first event staged by Organizing for America was the “national day of service,” held on Martin Luther King’s birthday. But health care reform has been on the front burner of the organization for the last two months.
Brown says selling the public on the need for reform is not difficult.
“Everybody knows someone with a devastating story (about a broken health care system),” she said.
But, of course for years, polls have shown that the public has been far bolder than pols in seeking reform. Through events such as Wednesday’s picnic, Organizing for America hopes to help give Obama the political clout he’ll need to prevent health care reform from again becoming delayed for another day.
The picnic itself seems pretty small for such a large task. Brown says she expects “hundreds” of people to turn out for an event that will feature Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, an Obama/health care booster, as well as everyday citizens telling their health care war stories. (Thousands of these stories have collected by Democratic Party and Organizing for America officials across the country and delivered to the halls of Congress.)
The harsh stories are not hard to find, Brown said. Daily, she receives a new batch of e-mails containing a new batch of stories.
“It makes coming to work seem worthwhile,” she said.
It’s not so much the numbers of people who come to the picnic that matter — though the more, the better, Brown said. The hope is that those salmon burgers and the speeches will help energize volunteers to stand in front of grocery stores and go door-knocking in their neighborhoods searching for people to sign petitions and call the offices of members of Congress.
“We want people to keep spreading the word that this time it can happen,” she said. “We’re finding that people aren’t cynical at all. They are involved in a real way.”