Woman’s campaign buttons tell story

Published 10:04 am Tuesday, January 20, 2009

By Benita Heath

The Tribune

FRANKLIN FURNACE — Campaign buttons. For most people they’re here before and during an election and gone out in the trash the day after the votes are tallied. But not for Dawnita Redd.

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Long a collector of anything from stamps to Barbie dolls, Redd can proudly present a history of the Barack Obama campaign and election through her collection of campaign buttons. Mounted on a dark blue throw, the collection starts with a button that marks Obama’s burst on the national stage to the one that commemorates the moment in history that happens today when he becomes the first African-American president.

There are about 30 buttons mounted and some more at home. And for the months Redd passionately campaigned for Obama, she never left her house without putting on one.

“As of tomorrow the buttons come off,” Redd said Monday afternoon. That’s because the inauguration signals that purpose of all her work has come to pass.

Redd was first intrigued with Obama when he spoke to the Democratic National Convention during the campaign of 2004. That’s why the button on the top left corner of Redd’s quasi mural is one from the John Kerry-John Edwards attempt to secure the highest office in the land.

“He didn’t get involved in racism but in unity and pulling us together,” Redd said. “Not that he didn’t understand racism. He didn’t focus on it.”

Then comes a button for the Springfield, Ill, speech the senator made in the bitter cold of Feb. 10, 2007, announcing he was seeking the presidency. That is followed with one that features the first logo of the Obama campaign.

Redd got on the campaign trail herself making phone calls that went out across the state, going door-to-door, sending out voter registration forms and distributing absentee ballots. That resulted in a special button given out at a training session Redd went to in Columbus along with about 900 other supporters. That’s where Gov. Ted Strickland spoke.

“He fired us up,” Redd recalled.

Then on election day, Redd put in a close to 18-hour day as a poll observer at a Burlington precinct. That gave her another button for the collection.

It was a tired Redd who came home that historic Tuesday in November to flip on the television to hear for the first time that her candidate had done it.

“The moment I turned on the TV they declare him president,” she said.

Her elation that night was only partially eclipsed a week and a half ago when she opened up an envelope thinking it was the autograph of the president-elect she had requested. It was no autograph. It was an invitation to the inauguration.

“I opened it up and started screaming,” Redd said.

Likewise that invitation is immortalized in, you guessed it, another button for Redd’s collection.

“We’re talking about the next-door neighbor being President,” she said. … “I hope people will continue to pray and give him a chance. … This man is everything we want our children to be. … Harvard Law Review … He could have gone into any office and pulled up a chair and they’d be happy to have him. … I don’t put him on a pedestal. He is not my Messiah. He is so humble and caring. You can see how he loves his family.”

As to any advice she’d like to give to her candidate and the inspiration for her latest collection, Redd answers simply:

“Pray and praise. Give God the praise so he will hear you and your prayers.”