Understanding Obamacare

Say hello on Twitter @CrismanRichards

Say hello on Twitter @CrismanRichards

Understanding the Affordable Care Act is a breeze once you consider the policies of the Obama Administration as a whole.

Written and produced by Crisman Richards. Theme music and engineering by Graham Richards (BMI). Music by G Koop & O-man (RM Moods & Colors, BMI) featuring Lauren Avery and Sayknowledge.

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The Second Time I Met Obama


In May 2008, Senator Barack Obama returned to Dallas for a festive round of fundraisers.  I had the honor of hosting an event at the Palladium Ballroom on the South Side of town.  It had been just over a year since the last time I had met Mr Obama.  More people knew his name this time.

Millions had arisen from the grassroots of the country.  We were a mighty army, working together in a common goal that defined the community at large.  I had a deep appreciation for the women on the campaign, in particular.  They instilled within me a bravery I had not known.  New skills came into play as we all worked together to coordinate the ever-growing number of volunteers reporting for duty.  It was a very exciting, very exhausting time.

Secret Service had a greater presence in 2008.  Nothing puts stars in my eyes like well-dressed bodyguards  — especially if they are posted up specifically to make sure I’m not up to any funny business. Naturally, I took this as my cue to adopt the performance duties of a USO Girl, entertaining them with a tap dance and some jokes.  Thusly we passed the time until the Senator arrived, twirling and asking how I looked.  The fringe around the hem of my dress tickled my knees, making me look like a hyperactive lampshade below the waist (I would make a good Leg Lamp, come to think of it).  By the time Mr Obama arrived, we had all been lined up like the nice ladies and gentlemen we were all hoping to be.  Before I knew, I was walking right up to him with an extended hand.

“Lovely to see you again, Senator.” I said, exactly as I had rehearsed for Agent Jenkins for the last half hour.

“I like that dress!” said Barack Obama. “You look like one of those girls from the Twenties.  What do they call them?”

“A Flapper.” I said.  We had been shaking hands for over 8 seconds.

“Yeah, you’re like a Flapper.”  He said.

I burst into giggly shoulder work as we continued shaking hands.  The photographer cleared his throat.  Mr Obama put his arm around my shoulder.  We smiled.

After his speech, I went immediately to a gay cabaret — being the only other place in Texas that would appreciate my sensational politico pictures.  The next week Michelle fussed at Barack on Oprah about putting his arm around everyone in the country.  Miss Edna on the campaign called me “Marilyn Monroe” in a most unflattering tone, and now Mr Obama is the President of the United States.

The First Time I Met Obama

Perks of early campaigning, 2007

The idea hit me while I was scraping a dirty plate into the dish pit at work.

“I’m going to meet Barack Obama.” I told my fellow waitress, Alicia.

“Who?” she said.

This was the first time I’d been possessed of the notion to get involved in politics.  There was something about Senator Obama that sparked activism in thousands of Americans — even before he formally announced his candidacy.  In the days before Obama for America was established, supporters found each other through Meet Up groups.  Dozens of North Texans crawled out from under our rocks and met in a hotel ballroom to find out what we could do to make Senator Obama the next POTUS.  It was the first time I felt a deep sense of responsibility to my community.  When the veteran activists organizing our grass roots group asked leaders to come forward, I stepped up.  My primary responsibilities included introducing the elders to social media — this was back in the day before Grandma was on Facebook — and coordinating various campaign events.

I was deeply inspired by the people I met on the campaign.  It can be difficult to find other liberals in Texas.  We’re outnumbered and personally speaking, often ostracized for our progressive beliefs.  (Have you ever been bullied by a Christian?  It’s weird).  The women I worked alongside had marched with Dr King.  My mentor, Molly Hanchey, told encouraging stories about 1968 protests.  These Civil Rights activists were moved by the wild, frustrated looks in our young eyes.  We worked together and shared tried and true ways to bring the national tension to the surface.

“It’s time to get to work.” Molly would say.  It was abundantly clear at every level of the campaign that we were not depending on one man to snap our country into shape — the change we need is on all of us.  We are responsible for making this better for our children, for ourselves.  We had hope because for the first time, we had each other.

One Sunday afternoon in April 2007, I got a call from the campaign.  They needed another volunteer to work Senator Obama’s fundraiser the next day.  For the next 24 hours I existed in a sort of ethereal haze.  Even though they could not guarantee I would meet the Senator, I knew I was about to meet Obama.  Hello?  I wished upon the dish pit!  Hard working American dreams come true.

I was standing in the ballroom of another downtown hotel when the energy shifted down the hall.  Through the modest crowd of politicos and rich Dallas democrats, I could see Senator Obama smiling and shaking hands.  One or two cameras flashed around him.  Here was a defining moment.  It had been less than three months since my dish pit prophecy.

After handing out place cards to the campaign donors, I was able to slip in and listen to him speak.  There were about 13 volunteers working that day, and perhaps a handful of official campaign workers — all openly gracious and careful to thank us for our hard work.  Finally, we were told to post up in the hall so Senator Obama could thank us himself.

Being tall, I was shoved to the back of our photo-ready volunteer cluster.  This meant I got to lurk awkward behind everyone while they shook his hand, waiting to tell him “You’ve inspired us to great things” as I had rehearsed in the car all morning.  Lucky for me, Mr Obama is also tall.  Once he shook all of our hands, he swaggered  strode over beside me and said “I’m going to stand over here for the picture” and put his arm around my shoulder.

Not wanting to betray the frozen nature of my brain in that moment, I put my arm behind his back and muttered some incoherent nonsense about this being just like Disneyland.

I’m sure there was more after that.  But I can’t remember a thing.