Voices for Obama at Union Chapel, Oak Bluffs

Charles Ogletree. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

In a veritable who’s who on Martha’s Vineyard, 10 of the Island’s best and brightest will gather at the Union Chapel Thursday, Aug. 18, to share memories, writings, and possibly song in support of the 2012 Barack Obama presidential campaign. The $100-a-head event, Voices for Obama, will feature an enviable lineup of luminaries, all of whom live either part-time or full-time on the Vineyard. The evening will be a benefit for the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee authorized by Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Each of the speakers, from the worlds of literature, law, and human rights, will speak for 5 to 10 minutes, followed by a wrap-up by DNC Chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz. Co-organizer Tom Lesser notes that the speakers have been asked to share “something original related to Obama.” The Union Chapel event will be followed by a $500- to $1,000-a-head dinner at a private home in Oak Bluffs, which will be attended by all of the Voices for Obama participants.

What the speakers (who will be presented in alphabetical order) have in common, besides name recognition and support of the current President’s bid for reelection, is a reputation for being compelling speakers. The event was organized by Tamara Buchwald and Mr. Lesser, both attorneys and summer Vineyard residents. Says Mr. Lesser, who previously organized a similar event in Northampton, “We chose people who we thought would be good voices.” He adds, “There are so many talented people on the Vineyard. I sometimes wish we’d done a second night. We could easily have picked 10 more people.” Mr. Lesser notes that all who were asked agreed to participate. He says, “I think Obama brings out the best in people.”

The evening will be bookended by a group of women starting with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks, who says that she will read from a memoir piece she wrote on her experience canvassing for Obama in New Hampshire for the 2008 primaries. Finishing up the evening will be Alexandra Styron, author of the recent memoir “Reading my Father” about her life with literary lion William Styron, followed by her mother — poet, journalist, and human rights activist Rose Styron. The evening will conclude with singer/songwriter Kate Taylor, who says that she hasn’t yet decided if she will read, speak, or sing.

Speakers from the legal profession will include Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, who counts both Barack and Michelle Obama among his former students; and two attorneys of note, Alan Dershowitz and Greg Craig. The latter two count between them a number of the most high-profile cases in the past 40 years. Mr. Dershowitz is equally well-known as a vocal champion of a number of causes. Mr. Craig, former White House Counsel under President Obama, served as special counsel to the defense during Clinton’s impeachment trial and he was a foreign policy advisor to both the late Senator Edward Kennedy and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

A former lawyer turned novelist will be among the lineup. Richard North Patterson has authored 15 mysteries including 8 consecutive international bestsellers. Mr. Patterson was a past chairman of the National Governing Board for Common Cause and he has served on boards of several advocacy groups dealing with gun violence, political reform, and reproductive rights.

The remaining speakers, Dr. Kenneth Edelin and Geoffrey Fletcher, are both history makers in their own right. The outspoken Dr. Edelin made headlines just shortly after the passing of Roe v. Wade when he was tried for murder after performing an abortion. His trial, which was undermined by racism and religious fanaticism, is chronicled in Dr. Edelin’s book “Broken Justice.”

Geoffrey Fletcher became the first African-American Oscar winner for screenwriting when he won the award in 2010 for his screenplay of “Precious.” As well as a screenwriter, Mr. Fletcher is a film director and adjunct film professor at Columbia University and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Following the Union Chapel event, Ron and Judy Davenport of Pittsburgh and Oak Bluffs will host a fundraising reception and dinner at their home on Temahigan Avenue. The dinner will be catered by V. Jaime Hamlin and Sons, and Ms. Wasserman-Shultz will be the featured speaker.

The Davenports hosted the first Obama campaign fundraiser on the Vineyard in 2008. That multi-tiered gathering, attended by the Obamas, raised $300,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign, according to Ms. Davenport. She notes it was at that event that the Obamas met Caroline Kennedy.

Voices for Obama is the only fundraiser in support of Obama’s campaign scheduled on the Island for 2011.

“The money goes to field organizing,” Mr. Lesser says. “The plan is to have even more field organizers and more offices in key states than in 2008. I spent time in eastern North Carolina and watched how important field organization was, and I believe in that cause.” He adds, “This is going to be a critical election and now is the time to begin to fund that operation.”

Voices for Obama, Thursday, August 18, 6 pm, Union Chapel, Oak Bluffs. Doors open at 5 pm. $100; $500-$3,000 includes reception at Davenport home. 617-717-4655; rfleury@barackobama.com; my.barackobama.com/voicesforobama.