Conversations with an Ethiopian-American Obama Organizing Fellow

By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New York (Tadias) – We recently spoke with Washington, D.C. resident Kedist Geremaw, a health care administrator and one of the 3,600 individuals who were selected and trained as an Obama Organizing Fellow this summer.

According to the Obama-Biden campaign website, the Fellows are “trained on the basics of organizing & campaign fundamentals and then placed in a community to carry out grassroots activities.” Their purpose? To encourage “a new generation of leadership that believes, like Senator Obama, that real change comes from the ground up.” Individuals who pass the highly selective process end up working a minimum of 30 hours per week alongside other grassroots leaders and the Obama campaign staff.

Kedist Geremaw (whose daughter Naomi Senbet, a 2004 Kids-Week Jeopardy contestant, also featured on Tadias along with Naomi’s father Professor Lemma W. Senbet) says she was sold on the idea of becoming a Fellow after reading Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.

Geremaw hopes Obama will become the next President of the United States. She recounts her initial introduction to the man. “Some time ago, someone suggested a book called Dreams From my Father, and after I was done reading, I went out and purchased Obama’s second book: The Audacity of Hope. I was hooked!! When he declared his intention to run for the presidency, I jumped on the bandwagon and joined the D.C. for Obama group,” she says. She took a road trip to Denver to hear Senator Obama’s historic acceptance speech on August 28th at Invesco Field.

“It was a historical and unbelievable experience,” she recounts with excitement. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium; there was hugging, high fiving, flag waving, cheering. There were people of all backgrounds, colors, ages. It was unlike the other campaign.” “In Denver,” she concludes, “people were unified under one cause and a future President.”


Kedist Geremaw at Senator Obama’s historic acceptance speech on August 28
at the Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, CO.

Geremaw had worked for Ethiopian Television prior to immigrating to the United States. “As a Washington, DC resident I have been troubled by the lack of representation in both Houses – the Congress and the US Senate. This started my journey to greater political involvement. I have been part of a community of grassroots organizers for many years” she says.

“‘No man is an island entire of himself’,” she adds quoting John Donne, “so I come to this campaign with the spirit of enthusiasm of a grassroots organizer hoping to make a contribution to my community, my country and my world.” As a health care worker, Geremew sees health disparities every day. “And as an informed citizen,” she says, ” I see an unnecessary war which has alienated our country from the rest of the world.”

Asked about the possibility of Ethiopian Americans swinging the vote in states like Virginia, where the election is expected to be close, Geremaw’s answer is an emphatic ‘yes.’

“If we go back and look at what happened in 2000 the gap between the two candidates was so minimal, with the high number of Ethiopians living in Virginia, the swing vote is a reality within our reach. The answer is yes, yes, and yes,” she says confidently.

Does she have time to collaborate with the swelling Ethiopians for Obama movement?

“I am very much familiar with the effort of Ethiopians for Obama,” she replies. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for choosing me as person of the week for my involvement in the campaign. They are working tirelessly doing voter registration by going to where our Ethiopian community congregates including churches and restaurants.”

She also mentions the annual pilgrimage to the Ethiopian soccer tournament which took place in early July.

“There was a lot of work done at the Ethiopian soccer tournament early this summer. These young energetic Ethiopian Americans are working hard, day in and day out” she adds.

And about the recent McCain-Palin surge in the polls?

“You know what? I am the most optimistic person. I have this belief in what is at hand. It is like a wave and nothing will stop it. But the reality is between now and November things can happen which may change the course. Our obligation is to stay focused in our work and commitment,” she says.

Geremew then quotes Eleanor Roosevelt: “‘The future belongs to those who believe in beauty of their dreams’. To make the dream a reality we as citizens need to register and VOTE.” “It is our civic duty,” she emphasizes, ” that is the only way to bring profound change.”

Geremaw, who tells us that she has incorporated the American culture of volunteerism into her lifestyle, believes that getting involved is the only way to make a difference. “A lot of my close friends complain at times about the little time I spend with them. Every time I am away from my professional duties my time is spent on volunteerism. I love it and it is rewarding. Your horizon, your network, your knowledge is enhanced by these experiences,” she concludes.

“When the founding fathers wrote the masterpiece that is our constitution, they did not foresee the great influx of new citizens, like you and I, that have arrived from every corner of the globe, and that now make up the beautiful fabric of this nation. As we assimilate and enjoy its many benefits we must also assume our share of the responsibilities of civic duty and volunteerism.”

There is much for Geremew to accomplish as an Obama Organizing Fellow, and the creativity, dedication, and optimism that she and her colleagues are displaying is inspiring, commendable, and contagious.

33 Responses to “Conversations with an Ethiopian-American Obama Organizing Fellow”


  1. 1 Naomi Senbet Sep 16th, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    I am so proud of you mom! Keep up the great work! Yechalal!

    To anyone reading this- text HOPE to 62262 and you will be a part of the movement to elect our next president- Sen. Barack Obama

  2. 2 Nati Kiros Sep 16th, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Believe it or not I was ALSO sold just recently (like last week) after I read Obama’s book as well. He is a great guy folks. He is a true gentleman. He has my vote…1000%

    I just want to say what an amazing time we are living in. Good luck Kedist and all the others who have been working their heart out to elect Barack Obama the next President of the United States.

    I think he will make a fine President. And I predict that Americans will be pleasantly surprised and proud to have him as their leader. I just wish his mother was alive to see this on November 4th.

  3. 3 Debre Tabor Sep 17th, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Very well put. I am proud of your passion and commitment to bettering our world starting at the individual level. Although I am not a US-Ethiopian, I feel that you are an exemplar of the Ethiopian diaspora. We often extol the great deeds of King Conquerors and the unending endurance of swift-footed atletes but we must also bend our knees and bow our heads to those that toil in our communities for hope of better democratic representation of the distraught, disenfrancised, and dissaffected: for it is them that reinvigorates a democracy.

    Thank you Kedist Geremaw and President-to-be Barack Obama.

  4. 4 Elsa Geremew Sep 17th, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    I am so proud of you Kedist. Keep up the great job. Obama 2008.
    Your sister from Texas.

  5. 5 Romish Sep 18th, 2008 at 8:34 am

    You make us all proud and the picture at the stadium says it all. You are one tough woman and your dedication is to be commended and applauded. With your uplifting attitude and confidence you have encouraged and touched a lot of people to be part of history.

    Your friend!

  6. 6 Ladesaw Sep 18th, 2008 at 11:22 am

    I am so proud of you my sister Kedist Geremaw from Keller, TX.

    keep up your good movement in D.C.

    Ladesaw

  7. 7 Mary Liepold Sep 18th, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Kedist, you are carrying my heart with you as you do this work. Whatever happens in November you will know that you have given it your all, and history will know that our almost ex-democracy was brought back to life by this candidate and the good people like you who worked for his election.

    Shine on! I am proud to know you.

    Mary Liepold

  8. 8 Aster Bekele Sep 18th, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Kidy(ye) I have confidence in you since I know your backgroud, means I’m not that much surprised of what you’re doing. I know you’re able to do more than this if you fully get our support. I’ll always be beside you to keep your spirit & moral up(*-*)!!!!

  9. 9 Selam Sep 18th, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    I am proud of you as an Ethiopian. This is great and important history in our life time.

    From Keller,TX
    Selam

  10. 10 Genet Bekele Sep 24th, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Kedist,
    We are very proud of you. Keep up the good work.

    We are 100 % sure it is going to be Obama, no if , but or may be.

    Ayele & Genet

  11. 11 Tim McNamee Sep 24th, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Kedist,

    Congratulations! You embody the optimism and can-do spirit that Obama speaks of. After the last eight years we need to show the world that Americans can choose and act wisely.

    I’ll keep the champagne chilled until November!

  12. 12 Genet Bekele Sep 28th, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Kidestye,
    You are one of a kind and wish you the best. What can I say. I want you to know I am 100% with you.
    Bethlehem

  13. 13 Jackie Bynoe Sep 28th, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Kedist,
    Well done! What an inspiration you have been to all of us here in DC. Keep up the good work.We are all supporting you and Barack Obama.

  14. 14 Jember Yimam Sep 28th, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Kidest,

    I am so proud of you. Since we were kids, you have always been determined to make a difference. We are so grateful for the hard work you have put into this campaign. Some people may be surprised by how passionate you are about Barack Obama becoming president, but to me it is Kidest just being herself. From the protests in Ethiopia to the hope for change in America, you have always been ahead of the curve. Keep up the good work. And when things seem difficult, just remember these three words: Yes We Can!

  15. 15 Atsede Shiferaw Sep 29th, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Kedist,

    I am very pleased and proud to learn that you are one of the 3,600 people elected and trained as an Obama Organizing Fellow. I strongly support your hard work for change and I do not doubt that the result would be positive.

    I appreciate your effort to make Obama win this presidential election and I would like to assure you that my families and I are on your side.

    Atsede

  16. 16 Wessen Debela Sep 30th, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Kedist Keep up the good job!

    I wish you all the best on your Journey for change!

    Your freind

  17. 17 G. Beyene Oct 1st, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Barack Obama’s view is that can lead to a more likely success strategy. His ability to unite Americans and the rest of the world, no matter their color, gender or social background is admired. That is why I am with Obama.

    Kiddy, I am proud of you that you are ready to stand up and assume responsibility for our advantage. Yes, he is a symbol of truth. I associate you all the time with truth.

    Any way, he is our nearest neighbor and brother. where do you think he get all this wisdom, personality and broadmindededness?

    Your friend from NY

  18. 18 W. Negash Oct 2nd, 2008 at 10:39 am

    I am very happily surprised to see Kidest Geremew on your magazine. We were classmates way back when. I have seen your pciture one of the DC for Obama events, but I didn’t know how much you were involved. It is very inspiring and encouraging to see our own friend to be up there in the thick of it. I am proud and delighted you are out there not only talking the talk, but also walking the walk. All the best. GO OBAMA!!!!

  19. 19 yaredberhane Oct 8th, 2008 at 2:18 am

    hi Kidest you send it to me by mistake but anyways i won DV 2008 and me and my wife got our visa just 3 weeks ago. so if there is anything that you supose or any advise, please keep in touch.

    best regards

    Yared

  20. 20 Esther Epstein Oct 8th, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Kedist is quite an inspiration and an asset to the Obama campaign. Her dedication and delightful nature make her truly deserving of the title Fellow. She is a gem! I love the way she is open with people from all walks of life which is in direct correlation with what Sen. Barack Obama’s focus is.

    Love you,
    your Jewish sister,
    Esther

  21. 21 teshome geremew Oct 10th, 2008 at 1:13 am

    Hi my sister I am proud of you, allways I follw your inspiration and endless moral.sis keep up the goodbjob forever.

    yors B teshome from Ok

  22. 22 Berhan Dagnachew, From Texas. Oct 13th, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Kidest; I know one day you will make a difference (make a change) in our mother
    Land .You work so hard and put all your energy including your daughter (God bless her).
    I can say you are our inspiration, we are proud of you, keep up the good job.
    God help us this election, it is one of a kind.
    I hope and pray OBAMA will Winn.

    Berhan,
    From Texas.

  23. 23 elizabeth kassaye Oct 14th, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Kiddi,

    I am very proud of your role in this great movement. Keep up the good work . We are almost there!

    elizabeth kassaye.

  24. 24 Melake Berhane Nov 5th, 2008 at 8:14 am

    I am realy proud of you!I am not American but I will invest in America b/c of you and Obma.

    thank you.

  25. 25 elsa berhanu Nov 5th, 2008 at 8:33 am

    iam so proud of you kidist

  26. 26 Elias Asfaw Nov 18th, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    hi, kidi congratulation !!
    It is very hard to express what a great job you did. you made it happen
    we realy proud of you keep up great gob.
    Abel,Sara,Alem and Elias

  27. 27 E. Shiferaw Jan 1st, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Congrats Kiddy! I’m so proud of you

    -Eden

  28. 28 tewbel tefferi Jan 5th, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Tadias, thank you for the welcome. I think you are doing an excellent job, and your magazine is second to none and certainly the best Ethiopian publication.

    Anyway, I have supported President Obama from day one, and I am glad of his winning the Presidency of the US. The first Black man to do so. I think that will be very good for Africa and the third word in general, because he has lived and survived in our midst and knows better than any expert the reality that prevail in our countries.

  29. 29 Nunu Jan 7th, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Congreatulations Abbaye, Happy new year and all the best in the cominig year,

    Keep up the good work, Thank you.

    Your sister from Vancouver, BC, Canada.

  30. 30 Yinekachew Girma Mar 20th, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    you are the greatest person from my country Ethiopia
    i really proud of you and you also an explanary woman for the others
    keep in touch …thanx

  31. 31 Meron Tesfaye May 8th, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Dear Tye Kidist,

    You such an inspriation to all of us and a blessing…keep the spirit and the hard work God will do the rest…

    Much Love

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