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Movement

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Voters in North Texas describe why supporting Barack Obama feels like they're joining a movement. Video by Jose Antonio Vargas/The Washington Post

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By Jose Antonio Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 4, 2008

DUNCANVILLE, Tex. -- Another rally, another rapturous crowd.

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At around 1 p.m. Wednesday, less than a week before today's crucial primary vote, a few hundred supporters lined up outside Duncanville High School, about 15 miles south of Dallas. Buttons were sold, three for $12. Shirts too, $10 each. Three hours later, the packed gymnasium of more than 2,500 -- with at least 500 more stuck outside -- spontaneously erupted into chants. The right side yelled, " B ARACK!" The left side screamed, " OBAMA!"

The candidate had yet to take the stage.

And down on the floor stood Rhonda Friedberg, a roll of duct tape encircling her right arm like a loose bracelet. A slender, striking woman with more than a passing resemblance to Diane Keaton, Friedberg calls herself "the tape lady." She's taped signs in restrooms, posters on walls and electrical wires to the floor so people don't trip.

This has been a season of many "firsts" for the 46-year-old molecular biologist: the first time she's volunteered for a campaign, the first time she's served as a precinct captain in an election, the first time she's given money to a candidate.

Every time Friedberg drives her 1991 red Toyota pickup truck out of the driveway of her Dallas home to attend another meeting of Obama's precinct captains, she surprises even herself. Before, she was "a homebody," as her husband of seven years describes her. Now, she feels she's part of a movement.

"Whether or not he wins the nomination, whether or not he makes it all the way to the White House, this is a movement," Friedberg shouts above the roar of the crowd. "A movement is when you're emotionally involved, and that's where I am."

She pauses, then says "And, you know, it's not about Barack Obama. It's about us. He's expressing what we need expressed and what we've been needing expressed for years."

* * *

Rep. John Lewis knows movements. A lion of the civil rights cause, he endured nearly fatal blows in his fight against segregation in the 1960s.

Last Wednesday, the day of Obama's Duncanville rally, was the 48th anniversary of the first time the young Lewis was arrested for sitting at a lunch counter that didn't serve blacks. That anniversary was also the day that Lewis switched his support from Clinton, a longtime friend, to Obama, the first truly viable African American presidential candidate. Lewis's district and state -- Georgia -- voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

"I think what is happening today is the dreams, the hopes, the aspirations, the longing of a people being realized," Lewis said yesterday in an interview. "His rise is the most moving and exciting political movement that I've seen in my lifetime."


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