“Zdravo. Kako ste?” That’s how you say “Hello. How are you?” in Bosnian, but don’t ask me how to pronounce it. Maybe Russ Carnahan knows, since he has 35,000-45,000 Bosnians living in his district in South St. Louis. But even if he were to butcher the pronunciation, he’s Jake with his Bosnian constituents because he knows how to reach out to them.
As a natural outgrowth of his membership on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, he established and co-chairs the Bosnian Caucus in 110th US Congress, which is an alliance that looks out for their interests. That action netted him good relations with the leaders of the Bosnian community, so that in this election year he can work with those leaders to get the Bosnian community out to vote for Democrats.
Carnahan has hired a field organizer who speaks Bosnian, and she is concentrating on getting as many of them registered as possible. This afternoon, for example, there will be a naturalization ceremony, and Carnahan’s person will be there to talk to the new Bosnian citizens about how to register and to give them literature explaining the process. Then on Saturday morning, she will attend an organizational meeting with Bosnian leaders to discuss how to get as many Bosnians registered to vote as possible.
Carnahan’s office makes a conscious effort to include Bosnians in current political events as well. Thursday night, for example, Madeleine Albright spoke at Webster University, and the Carnahan campaign, knowing how much respect Bosnian immigrants hold for the Clinton administration, made sure that some of the community leaders were in attendance and had a chance to speak to Albright. And when Biden spoke at Mehlville High School on September 9th, Carnahan’s office arranged for reporters for local Bosnian newspapers to attend and to have a chance to speak with the vice presidential nominee. Having that opportunity would appeal to those reporters not just for the obvious reason, but also because Biden is chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
I assume that when the interview with Biden ended and when the Bosnians had spoken with Albright, they told the field organizer, “Hvala lijepo”–“thank you very much.”