Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sandy Chapin Endorses Barack Obama -- and Harry Would Too

When Harry Chapin died in 1981, no less a Republican than Kansas Senator Bob Dole eulogized him in the Senate. "He could have been a millionaire," Dole said, "instead Harry Chapin chose to try to make a lasting mark on the world by upholding his commitment to a higher moral order."

I met Harry Chapin in 1975 as news director of my college radio station (WNYT Old Westbury, the voice of New York Institute of Technology). I was one of a group of college news directors to visit Harry Chapin at his home in Huntington, Long Island, to interview him about his role as founder of the "World Hunger Year."

Last year I had a brief correspondence with Jen Chapin, who I met at the time. She was about five years old. Harry Chapin was the kind of person who, if you ever met him, made you feel right at home e-mailing his kids thirty years later. "Just one of the family."

Anyway, I ended up on Jen Chapin's mailing list. I received this just minutes ago:

Dear Friends,

Hello! All of you are people who have somehow identified yourselves to me as "Chapin Fans,” and some of you have indicated that my dad and his life and music have made and continue to make a great impact on you all. Some of you I know well, some not at all. Some are politically and progressively engaged in the way passionately advocated for by my dad, and some have other ways of keeping his memory alive. In any case, I wanted to share this with you.

My mom, Sandy, and I share a deep interest in and concern about our democracy. We talk a lot and exchange articles, insights, etc. Recently our exchange has been almost entirely about the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama. We are constantly strategizing on how we can collectively and individually help this movement that his candidacy has sparked and organized. A few weeks ago we took my son Maceo down to Philadelphia with us as we went door to door to register voters. Next week we are making some calls at a phone bank together. We will do more. It’s an exciting time for us.Part of this excitement is the way that Obama’s philosophy, intelligence, words and deeds so resonate with those of my dad’s. “Yes we can!” is the chant of the day, and this was a refrain my dad repeated some 30 years ago when he spoke of the great challenges facing our democracy, and the urgent need to energize our youth and citizenry to fight hunger, support the dignity of work, protect our environment, and support the arts as essential building blocks of dialogue. The words of Harry, and Obama, speak of the ability of each of us to make a difference, and indeed, the necessity that each of us become “armchair experts” - not passively waiting for some heroic leader to tell us the facts and what to do with them, but instead taking responsibility for being informed and engaged ourselves.

Words do matter — for as much as Harry blazed a frontier of musician philanthropy and activism with his deeds, it was his words — in song and speech — that still burn in our brains and inform our days. Obama’s words -- and his sincere belief in our common intelligence and the fact that we do in fact have power -- have already moved millions across the generations. His record as an activist and legislator is deep and impressive (I am happy to direct you to details) and the substance is there in his biography and policy proposals.

Sandy stays away from the internet (bless her) but she asked me to help share her thoughts with you. Feel free to pass this around to your friends and family, and to respond to me with any questions or comments. Thank you!


Here's the text of Sandy Chapin's endorsement of Barack Obama:

On Barack Obama and Harry Chapin
By Sandy Chapin

I am so excited about Barack Obama as a candidate for President of the United States that I am compelled to share my thoughts with you. I learned from Harry that when you really believe in the power of individual people you can accomplish great things. I learned that when you are young with boundless energy, initiative and sheer determination to pursue the impossible dream you can empower others to galvanize their own energies, ideas, and determination. Remember, Harry said that out of every six or seven tasks he tried, “I might fail at three, but if I hadn’t tried I would have accomplished nothing.”

Harry founded an organization to end hunger at home and abroad with the realization that he must not compete with, but partner with all the existing, dedicated anti-hunger groups and he would make a life-long commitment in order to ride on past the occasional hurdles that lead to doubt and despair.

I have been waiting a long time to see someone light the fire to inspire individuals to act, to see a universe beyond self-interest and to fulfill his potential to be the best that they can be.

Yes, I believe Barack Obama is like Harry- standing tall for his country with intellect, stamina, and desire from the depths of his being, not to divide and conquer, but to seek a better tomorrow. I believe Barack Obama defines compromise not as concession, but as seeking and combining the best qualities out of differences. I believe Barack Obama defines strategy, not as tactics, but as preparation plus iimagination. Imagine what we can do, acting all together, doing our best!

Yes, my intuition says Senator Obama is a new kind of leader who can lead us, as Harry said, “Onwards and Upwards.” But I have also read and watched and listened and studied and I believe Barack Obama is the best person for this new era of a new generation, a new economies and a new world order. He understands our disaffected youth are a generation starving for direction and for a sense of purpose. They want to address the huge gap between the rich and poor caused largely by the explosive power of special interests. And they are more aware of the profound and complex issues facing this new world where we are intricately bound whether or not we choose to be. He is the best person to enlist a majority of citizens to address the new economic order – no longer the 19th century where a factory owner with tax breaks in his pocket would buy new machinery and hire more workers. It is workers who alleviate poverty; it is workers who are the engine of the economy. Workers with incentives from government can repair our collapsing infrastructure, can assist in teaching the under-schooled, can develop the new companies for energy efficiency and innovation. And I believe Barack Obama can move America into its appropriate relationship with the rest of the world, a position that has been essentially altered during two terms of George W. Bush.

China has consolidated at home and set out prongs of power on every continent abroad. The European Union has steadily strengthened and enlarged. India and Turkey and Brazil and Russia and Vietnam and Venezuela and Morocco will be our allies and partners or not. The present administration has taught us that who is president does make a difference, a difference of life and death. Peace comes, not from threats, but from understanding -- understanding that today’s world and tomorrow’s is multi-nuanced, multi faceted, multipartite.

Some people called Harry Chapin a visionary. He knew that you had to have a vision, to stretch toward a goal, but you had to engage in the streets to structure the best plan to achieve it.

This is a pivotal election. Our country is crying out for change. We need Barack Obama to lead us back to our roots in the constitution and moral character and forward to active and responsible citizenship in the nation and the world.

Thank you, Jen Chapin. Thank you, Sandy Chapin. And thank you, Harry. Keep the change -- change that we can believe in.


V Cubed said...

Thank you Jen and Sandy - I love Harry to this day! I saw him when he gave a free concert in Bryant Park on my lunch hour - an astonishing surprise, his voice, the violin, the music, unforgettable. I've done more for the Obama campaign than ever before, gladly. It's revived me to the highest capacity I've had in years, so let's keep calling and knocking on those doors! I'll think of you Sunday when I'm begging for votes to go to Denver for him as a devoted pledged delegate.

Dr. Fallon said...

Thanks, V3, and to all readers, please help get the word out. Write, e-mail, and/or call your friends. This year's presidential election is not just about the next four years; it is about a future we begin to create today.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this, and for making me aware of the Chapin's support. I have always been a Harry fan, and to know that his wife and daughter are supporters of Obama is no surprise.

Peace is inevitable!

Anonymous said...

I am a most devout fan of Harry Chapin. I was pregnant with my only child that hot Summer July when I heard the terrible news.

That baby girl of mine now lives and works in our nation's capitol. Wash DC - she's age 26 - (2008)

I must say that while his family may have known him deeply then, NO ONE should speak for him. Harry is not here to endorse anyone- If I remember Harry he NEVER endorsed anyone JUST the cause.

Be careful what you read, think people, and remember Harry - You are the only song! His legacy lives not through the person, but the deeds.

Tony Coppola said...

Had enough change yet?
Tony Coppola