Iranian-Americans for Obama hold gathering


by Hamid Karimi

On Sunday, September 7th, Bay Area Iranian American Democrats (BAIAD) held a special public event featuring Steve Westly, the former candidate for California governor and co-chair of Obama’s campaign as the keynote speaker. The eloquent MC, Lily Sarafan, started the event by welcoming everyone and introducing the agenda for the evening which included a roster of speakers and grassroots community organizers. [photos]

The first speaker was Ira Ruskin, the California assemblyman from the 21st district who has led key efforts on environmental issues. Ira commended the Iranian American community for taking the lead in becoming one of the fastest politically active ethnic groups in America; according to him it took other immigrant minorities many generations to realize the value of activism and civic participation. Ira also shared his experience of living in Iran right before the revolution of 1979 when he witnessed a society ready to erupt. He shared two great hopes with the crowd, first to see Obama become president and second for Iran to return to its main threads as a great culture and civilization.

The second speaker was Jamie McLeod, a member of Santa Clara city council who is running for re-election this November. Jamie’s self-described political philosophy focuses on fostering open governance, safeguarding communities and protecting natural resources. Jamie noted that our strength comes from a common belief in democracy and not shared bloodline. That is why organizations such as BAIAD are critical to the construct of a civil society. She denounced war as an instrument of policy by saying “in a war it is the civilians that ultimately suffer and not the politicians; Barak Obama understands that distinction.”

The third speaker was Teresa Cox, the chair of economic development in the city of Fremont who is running for the Ohlone’s College Board seat. Ms. Cox has the distinction of being the first female African-American with the nuclear engineering degree in the United States. She has worked on establishing global colleges in strategic locations such as Shanghai, China. In her opinion the Iranian American community can use that example and extend the reach of global higher education system to people of Iran.

Mike Honda was unable to attend in person but sent a letter strongly supporting the grassroots efforts of BAIAD and wished that Iranian Americans would become more active in political affairs.

At half point, a 3-minute video clip that was shown at the recent GOP convention was broadcasted. In the video, there was a blatantly false claim linking Iran to Al-Qaeda and the events of September 11, 2001. Recognizable political figures such as Henry Kissinger were shown at the end of this clip expressing approval by a standing ovation while the crowd chanted “USA, USA.”

Following the video clip, Maryam Ghazvini of BAIAD’s board of directors took to the podium and engaged the crowd. She shared a few key statistics reflecting of Iranian Americans’ achievements as well as political apathy: More than 25% of Iranian Americans have a Masters or PHD degree which is the highest among 67 surveyed ethnic groups; they earn 20% more than the closest group; they also occupy more than 50 key positions at Fortune 500 companies and yet this is totally unmatched by this community’s political underrepresentation due to widespread apathy and callous indifference. According to MIT’s Iranian Studies Group (ISG), in many metropolitan areas, less than 10% of Iranian Americans vote in elections. Building on these statistics, Maryam invited the crowd to become active participants in the political process and reminded them that in the Bay Area alone, there are 10,000 registered Iranian American democrats whereas the number of paid members at BAIAD is under 50. In the end, Ms. Ghazvini closed her speech by quoting Abraham Lincoln: “Lets have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

Steve Westly took to the stand as the keynote speaker next and shared history of his involvement with the Democratic Party; about 30 years ago, Steve became California’s youngest Democratic officer. He made his personal fortune working with Pierre Omidyar of eBay and has recognized the value of working with bright Iranian Americans. Steve passionately laid out the roadmap for the growth of Democratic Party and stated that organizations like BAIAD are the key for such growth by opening a new chapter in American political playbook. Steve acknowledged the achievements of Iranian Americans as the cause for envy and suggested that America’s greatness is precisely because of her embrace of productive, progressive immigrants. He went on to explain the differences between the two leading parties vis-à-vis policies towards Iran: “while Bush says that Iran is a part of axis of evil due to disagreements with the leaders of that country, Obama advocates active diplomacy.” To underline the stark philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans, he used John Kennedy’ famous quote, “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” Dick Chaney exemplifies the darkest contrast compared to Obama by saber rattling and adopting the most bellicose postures and case in point is the recent crisis involving Russia’s conflict with Georgia.

Mr. Westly articulated the reason for his support of Barak Obama in some detail. According to him, Obama represents a higher order of what this nation can offer by appealing to large masses that have historically been disenfranchised –a phenomenon that has not been since for at least 25 years. Steve described three distinct areas of policy differences, first Obama unequivocally condemned the Iraqi war from the start, second he unabashedly supports the rights of women and minorities and third he is determined to end America’s addiction to fossil fuels. In contrast, Republicans represent the interests of oil, gas and coal companies and as we all know, the coal industry sponsored the Republican convention this year. There are several counties in California alone that are turning “blue” simply because of Obama’s outreach to these communities and their angst in the face of dire political and economic pictures. He then invited the audience to use this opportunity and widen the gap against McCain and the Republican Party through volunteerism and financial support.

Steve Preminger, chair of Santa Clara County Democratic Party was the last speaker of the evening. Since the inception of BAIAD in 2004, Steve has been an avid supporter of the organization and has helped it become a charter member of Democratic Party. Mr. Preminger expressed his gratitude to BAIAD for educating the county and state Democratic Party on issues related to Iran and expressed that “a club is only as strong as its individual members and collective numbers.”

During the Q&A session, the audience had a chance to ask candid questions of Steve Westly and Steve Preminger. In response to a question about Obama’s Iran speech at the AIPAC gathering the day after he became the presumptive nominee, Steve Westly compared and contrasted the views of both parties and described Obama’s language as a lot less hostile than McCain’s “bomb Iran” comment. Furthermore he invited Iranian Americans to emulate the success story of AIPAC and build relationships with key politicians. In Obama’s recent visit to the Bay Area, Indian Americans who are a smaller group than Iranian Americans in California were the biggest fundraisers. It is important for the minority groups to have their voices heard because unlike the Republican bunch, Obama gets it; he has lived abroad and understands the international community. In a democracy, there is no concept of them but us; any other view equates abdication of responsibility as citizens.

In response to the hypothetical possibility of Iran as a nuclear weapon state, Steve Westly supported Obama’s contention that active diplomacy is the only answer even of more states eventually follow that route.

In the end, Steve Westly reminded the crowd that what they needed was building a movement not a club; Only Obama can put an end to encroaching and intrusive legislations like the Patriot Act; Obama has created such excitement that 2 million new democratic voters have been registered in this election cycle and 3 million pairs of feet on the street are spreading the word and creating momentum. Democrats are also out-raising Republicans and given all these factors, it will be difficult not to imagine president Obama.



Obama has shown that he

by Obama rocks! (not verified) on

Obama has shown that he clearly deserves to win this election. He is not only articulate but also not your typical politician. We need a democrat in the white house and that's that!


the democrats have zero

by Anonymous1234567890 (not verified) on

the democrats have zero credibility. (proof? patriot act stands ...)

lets cut to the chase. you only get change with a revolution.


What I see in Obama...

by Concerned (not verified) on

Well, for a lot of people, his lack of "experience" in the senate or congress is essential. For me is a plus that he has not learned the ropes to deal business as usual.
He is smart, articulate and knowledgeable about issues and his proven strength is standing up to Clintons, Bushes, the neo-cons, Republican Party and so on. If he did not have it in him, he would have been eliminated by now.
I guess all politicians do promise a lot and I agree with a lot of people that may say Obama will not deliver. My gut feeling is that he will deliver more that McCain or Clinton can. I am sorry I do not have a solid proof but do you know anybody that can show proof for somebody else's deliverance? You just got to make some gut decisions.
Also, the naysayers about Obama, react as if there are many options on the table and we (I) am making a wrong decision by voting for him. Hilary says it best: No way, No how, No McCain.
Haven't we learned anything in the last 8 years.
I have been kind of involved with the Democratic Party for the last several years and what I learned from them, while having many problems with them, that they care more about human issues such as women rights, minorities, health care, education. The opposite is through with republicans, they care mostly about army, the war machine, interfering in other countries process, oil, corporations and ....
i believe Obama's promises, the way he has handled himself in this election, his education, and his life experience, while may not be 100% perfect, but it is the best we got. I hope we all support him.


I am curious

by MRX1 (not verified) on

what some people find interesting about this empty suite called obama? Talk is cheap. every one can promise you: free education, free health care, free this, free that, etc.As a matter fact one famous bozo once even promised that proceed from oil sale will be delivered house to house! The man is junior senator with no experience in anything except b.s.. His record of voting on issues mediocare (on 30% of issues he could not vote yes or even no, so much for leadership) beside being balck, younger what do people see in him? and please don't bring bush in the picture, that's story by itself.



by ali1 (not verified) on

Wow, I guess I'm the only one here that thinks obama would be spell for the hopes of freedom for millions of our countrymen/women held hostage by the brutal mullahs!
let me be clear that I would never advocate war to save iran, BUT, it is also extremely stupid to think the mullahs deserve respect and diplomacy!
why would anyone with half a brain want to legitimize these murderers???what are u going to say when u sit down with them???: would you please not call us the great satan, would you stop creating and arming terrorists, would you stop butchering your own people, would you please stop stonings, public hangings, selling young boy/girls to arabs, and on and on....
It baffles me that anyone would support such a misguided and unethical policy- the mullahs represent evil on earth, and the only thing they deserve to be exiled out of iran, so we can be finally free!!
If you consider yourself iranian you would not try to appease and legitimze a bunch of theives, liars, and murderers. We should rather support all internal groups that are trying to topple the mullahs- that is the only just action for our country- and not rewarding the mullahs for their 30 years of rape and pillage of iran!

Babak Talebi

Great Job IAD

by Babak Talebi on

I am so happy to see our community getting engaged in the political process both on the right and the left.  We are particularly happy to see one of the major party candidates taking the exact same position on diplomacy without pre-conditions (Barack Obama) that NIAC has been promoting for 3 years... without the active engagement of our community, Congressional leaders, including people Like Sen. Diane Feinstein of California and Barack Obama would hav had less public backing on taking such a stance.  

Our community is FAR more powerful than it knows.

On a side note - this picture of hundreds of Iranian Americans willing to be in public and in pictures with their political views is so meaningful for me... when we first started NIAC in 2002, I remember Iranian Americans telling us how they were worried that if they even CALLED their members of Congress, their names would somehow end up on an FBI list somewhere... its so wonderful to see us, generally speaking, getting out of our shells and participating.

Great job IAD.


ps. just to be non-partisan about it - there will be an IA McCain rally in Beverly Hills this weekend which is slated to draw 1300 +/-.  Mainly because McCain has an official Iranian American Outreach coordinator while the Obama campaign relies on volunteers for the task.



Babak Talebi

Director of Community Relations, NIAC


"Advancing the Interests of the Iranian-American Community"



by Poirot on

As a young iranian-american studying politics in the states i have always hoped that us iranians would start caring for this country as it has for us for the past decades. It is time for us to understand that the failed republican policies directly influence the way things are in Iran ."let's BOMB IRAN" no iranian in his/her right mind would want that but with the McCain/Bush policies that threat seems very possible. Let's for once get involved and vote if not for iran for our pocket books, as neither Palin nor McCain have any economical background, this election we need someone like Joe biden to fix the economical problems we face. nontheless whoever you believe in JUST GO VOTE!


Thanks For Sharing!

by Khar on

We the Iranian-Americans have been very active in presidential and other elections especially in the recent years but none more important than this year’s elections. There’s a lot on the line this year for us as a nation and as individuals. The choices are very clear; on one hand we have the same old tired and dangerous politics of the last eight years and on the other the progress and change which America really needs and can believe in. LET’S GET OUT AND VOTE, shall we!!!

American Wife


by American Wife on

I've been looking at this election as what's best for ME... an average American concerned about the economy and our military aggressiveness (I think that was a VERY nice way to put it... I wanted to say cluster-fuck...oops... :-)

Anyhoo... it just hit me that you have a very specific agenda of your own!  No, no... I don't mean I'm not aware of the ramifications of the different views towards Iran... your homeland, but right here in the states.  You CAN affect changes for your country from HERE.

So this is doubly interesting to see the different views played out.

And FYI, the excitement about Obama is only going to GROW!  :-)


Very interesting posting, thank you

by Laylaj (not verified) on

We need to get involved politically. By getting engaged we'll learn and care about issues. We see the need to educate ourselves about the issues. We can do a lot better if we choose the road of political engagement rather than sitting on the sidelines and complain. Go Obama.


Ben, it's not a Miss America contest

by Anonymous8 (not verified) on

so you only like popular winners? Maybe he'll take a picture with Micky Mouse then you'll like him again!

This is what's wrong with Iranians' conception of democracy.

Ben Madadi


by Ben Madadi on

I'm not an Obama fan...

I don't really see why all this excitement some STILL have about Obama. The excitement has cooled down quite a lot over the months, and there is a big risk it will crash until the election and the Democrats will lose!


Har chee pool bedi aash mikhori.

by Shadooneh (not verified) on

It is obvious Palin's choice for the GOP ticket has activated, some say energized, the core of the party. The US media markets are going to be inundated with fohsh and badobiraa about Obama paid for by the right wingers. The good news is this election is happening in a very serious and tense economic period of time. People's pocket books mean alot to them, and with the economy stuck in a persistent stagflation (no, it does not mean two dear having oral sex) the GOP's dog-and-pony show is losing steam very fast. The poor girl has been sequestered and can't talk to the people in case she messes up! As Bill Clinton used to say, "it's the economy, stupid". As for Obama's speech a the APAC gathering. Let's put it this way, speaking at AIPAC is the solid proof of "har chee pool bedi aash mikhori". This election is not about Obama nor McCain/Bush, this election is about American historical trajectory as an advanced society for the rest of the 21st. century. Obama seems to have a better grasp of world's hunger for a positive and constructive role for the US in the 21st. century. McCain/Bush, on the other hand, is interested in the worst US past practices, as well as naked militarism, which have proved utterly inadequate to deal with the world's current and future problems. Here's the bottom line for me, in the middle of a bad economy, if a politician tells you "the fundamentals are sound", what he/she means you're are economically f**d and I can't, or don't want to, do a damn thing about it. With Obama AT LEAST we won't have war(s). Why? Because he is a "community organizer" and that's what the US needs right now. The American people seem to have decided they are smart enough to rescue the economy that the "MBA" president has dropped on their laps. GW's legacy is nothing but debt and misery coupled with death of thousands of young people, and a colossal deficit. Obama will bring the people on board, and the people will fix this country's problems.