Keen on words…

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By now, we all know that President-elect Barack Obama and his team ran what is widely considered the most effective campaign in the history of modern politics.

It was massively grassroots, it maximized the potential of the Internet and other forms of digital technology and, just as importantly, it incorporated popular culture in ways we have not seen in our lifetime. When was the last time you saw so many T-shirts emblazoned with the face of a political figure (in the U.S. that is)? Obama’s iconic image portrayed boldly and artistically was hip enough for everyone to wear.

But the Obama campaign, in an apparent nod to United Farm Workers co-founders César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, also did something that ultimately became the driving force of the campaign: it turned “sí se puede” into “yes we can.” And with that, the fledgling campaign of a relative unknown with an awkward and hard-to-remember name turned its candidate into the most popular since the likes of Ronald Reagan. Sí se pudo.

In uncertain and tough economic times, these words, translated, helped unite a nation and elect a president. So if this message can help the son of a man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas to energize and inspire a country, and to finally mobilize the much-hyped Latino and youth vote, then surely it can work for us… again.

These simple words that once lifted the hopes of many, made the pathway to college for Latino youth a little smoother, and helped make the corporate ladder just a little quicker to climb.

It’s time for the reclamation to begin. Not of lands taken but of words graciously and wisely borrowed and used so eloquently and effectively in a message of inclusiveness that provided a sense of personal responsibility to all who joined the march for change.

Unless we truly believe in these words and that change is possible, even in our collective back yards, ballot initiatives intended to divide us will continue to pass; efforts to diminish the contributions of a people so large in number, rich in diversity, will succeed.

Strung together, these words do not speak of rocket science, or even complex economic theories. They speak of change envisioned by a humble man and a courageous woman in the fields of Delano (Calif.) and now championed by the world’s next leader.

So simple and yet so powerful.

Sí se puede.

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