May 24th, 2008

The Parade of Prospective Denver Delegates Ends Here: The Hasan and Weston Edition

by Philip Baruth

The State Convention is tomorrow, which means that the Parade of Prospective Delegates must end. But not before we find room for two of the more dynamic young organizers to happen by in quite a while: Rachel Weston and Arshad Hasan. Rachel is the youngest member of the Vermont State Legislature, Arshad is the Executive Director of DFA, and neither of their accelerated career trajectories can be seen with the naked eye. —PB

Parade of Delegates: Weston and Hasan Edition
Rachel Weston

There I was, spring of 2006 in my final year at UVM, packed shoulder to shoulder into a steamy, overflowing Ira Allen Chapel, simultaneously tearing up and cheering my head off.


The man at the podium had me mesmerized. His words of change, real change, and understanding of the economic and social challenges facing us were inspirational and a call to action. Barack Obama was the first mainstream politician who made me believe that the youth movement was no longer alone in our cries for change.

westonI am beyond ready for a new President.

I have actively protested the Iraq war, advocated for renewable energy, and sparked debate about a failing economy since long before these issues were popular.

I am ready for a President who embraces the values of the younger generation.

For almost my entire adult life our country’s President has wielded power in such a way that it has left my generation with significant economic problems including weak job prospects, unmanageable student loan debt, and no health care security.

The past eight years have thrown our country into reverse. Indeed it is a much different climate than when my parents and grandparents started their adult lives.

Despite the mining of the foundation of our future by the Bush Administration, I am not cynical or apathetic. Quite the contrary. I believe that government can be a force for good if used properly. I have never been content to sit back and watch the world go by.

Much like Obama, I began my career in community organizing. After a few years of working with projects on food security, youth, and low income housing I realized that the grassroots needs powerful advocates working from within government. The decision to run for State Representative came in 2006. I ran a successful grassroots campaign by knocking on almost every door in my district. Democracy is a trickle up venture in my book.

For far too long the hooligan in the White House has forced us to accept trickle down. I know that it is time to take our country back and Barack Obama is going to lead the charge.

Obama will work hard to make this country great once again. I firmly believe that the key to my generation’s ability to prosper lies squarely with the election in November. I have personally registered over 500 voters in the last two years, encouraged people to think of the political possibilities, and lent my time and service to Barack Obama’s campaign in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Young Vermonters overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama. Send me to Denver to support Barack Obama and you will reaffirm the hopes of a generation of Young Vermonters.

Parade of Delegates: Weston and Hasan Edition
Arshad Hasan


You know this story.

It’s the story of a man whose parents come from two different cultures. A man who struggled with race and identity and wanted to fit in with people who did not look like him or come from where he came from.

It’s a story of a man who went to a fancy Ivy League school, but decided upon graduation that he would devote his life to community organizing — working to help people with issues that affected their lives.

It’s a story about a man who found that his calling to public service would bring him into electoral politics. It’s an exceptional story.

It’s Barack Obama’s story. It’s also my story. My name is Arshad Hasan.

If Barack Obama’s story is compelling to us, it makes sense that we should seek out others who find themselves on a similar path. Obama’s message of hope resonates with me, not because we see it on TV, but because I’ve walked in the same shoes.

After college, I became a community organizer. My first assignment was Arkansas. I organized residents living near coal-fired power plants to oppose the Bush Administration’s attempt to force more pollution down their lungs. After years of environmental work in Arkansas and four other states, a certain Vermont governor incited my interest in electoral politics in 2003.

I now work for Democracy for America, the group that Howard Dean founded in 2004 to change politics in this country. One of DFA’s first endorsements in 2004 was Barack Obama. We endorsed Barack, not when he was about to win his Senate election in November, but back when he was running against an establishment Democrat in a contested and bitter Primary — before his famous speech to the DNC Convention, before he was a rockstar.

In October I became the Executive Director of DFA. I run a 3 million dollar national organization with over 800 local groups organized all over the country. But I don’t run it out of DC. We’re based here because Vermont politics are the politics of hope — well before “hope” was hip.

I think it’s exceptional that Vermont hosts organizations such as ours. I’m really into “exceptional”. My story is exceptional. You’re just not going to meet many young gay men of color who grew up in North Dakota — it’s just not going to happen. You’re not going to meet many 27-year old Executive Directors.

But my unusual, exceptional experiences have shaped how I see the world. It’s how I know that America needs someone with Barack’s exceptional background. It’s just time for something different.

I ask you to send me to Denver because I can help tell Vermont’s exceptional story to the assembled delegates from all over the country.