Eyewitness to History:A Volunteer's Experience with the Obama Ca
Eyewitness to History: A Volunteer's Experience with the Obama Campaign
Part One: The Democratic Primary: March-April 2008: Some moments of your life catch you by surprise. You work on Day One and the next thing you know, you are working nonstop and do not stop for seven months. Some of these moments are the culmination of a lifetime of interest. Some come because you feel like you can have an impact on something greater than yourself. A spring inside you has been flowing for most of you life and now it has been tapped. This moment introduces you to experiences and people you would have never experienced if Day One never happened. And as you look back on it, that moment, that one instance when you put one foot in front of the other and marched, was one of the greatest experiences of your life. For me, March 9, 2008 was one of those moments. The day started off like any other day. I received a Skype call from a volunteer named Marilee asking me if I would be willing to register voters for the Obama campaign the following morning at 8 AM at the Acme grocery store where I have purchased groceries my entire life. Marilee had been a volunteer for Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 Presidential campaign when she was a teenager. She impressed upon me that she had not seen a candidate like Bobby Kennedy before Senator Obama announced his candidacy. I agreed to register voters the following morning. When I first saw Barack Obama given the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in 2004, I knew he would be a rallying voice for the future leader if the Democratic party. I was amazed by his eloquence and fascinated with his story. But these are not the reasons I decided that night that if he ran for President he would have my support. He spoke of the founding principles of this country that were forgotten by the Bush administration. He urged us to not see our nation in factions divided by party, race, creed or income. Barack Obama reminded us that night that we are one people. Shortly after Senator Obama announced his candidacy for President on February 10, 2007, I learned that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. He was courageous for speaking his mind about this issue during a time when most politicians fell in line with the Bush Administration. His position on Iraq is stated on his campaign’s website: Barack Obama opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. In 2002, as the conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war, Obama had the judgment and courage to speak out against the war. He said the war would lead to “an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs and undetermined consequences.” In January 2007, Obama introduced legislation to responsibly end the war in Iraq, with a phased withdrawal of troops engaged in combat operations.
My experience the following morning was my first-ever experience with a political campaign. I have been political informed since I began watching CNN when I was in middle school. Shortly thereafter, I stopped in to the Springfield Obama headquarters and was greeting by a very nice woman named Lorraine. She asked me where I lived in the county and introduced me to my field organizer. Joani was very enthusiastic and I could tell she was very committed to the campaign. It was a pleasure to meet her.
I am not sure quite when, but I began to go volunteer at the office almost everyday. I would make hundreds of phone calls daily and had my first experiences going door to door and talking to voters. I made immediate friends in the Obama campaign. All ages were represented. All races were represented. The vast majority of us had never been involved in a campaign before. But the Obama campaign was unlike any other in the nation’s history. We were extremely organized, run efficiently and based on a philosophy that everyone was valued as a person and as a volunteer or staff member. I learned new things through my volunteer experience. I had never phone banked before. I was trained on how to do it and made my first round of calls. It was pretty much effortless. I feel like I am an effective communicator and politically informed. I enjoy talking to people even if they do not agree with me. With few exceptions, it was a positive experience. And I even got some people to change their support to Senator Obama. The activity I enjoyed the most in this campaign was canvassing. It is a simple principle. You have a walk list and you are to code that the person supports for the primary. Again, this was a positive experience. The only angry person I encountered was a woman who yelled at me and said “It’s time for a woman!” I thanked her for her time and left. Like many counties in the state of Pennsylvania, Senator Obama was significantly behind to Senator Clinton in Delaware County. At one point Senator Obama was 30% behind. Senator Clinton had the endorsement of Pennsylvania 7th District Congressman Joe Sestak. But our campaign was determined to persuade voters that Senator Obama was the stronger candidate and that his message of hope and change was what the country needed at this juncture in our nation’s history. During the primary, I attended three rallies for Senator Obama. The first was a Michelle Obama rally at Villanova University in Villanova, PA. It was a small rally at the Jake Nevin Field House on March 13, 2008. She was very well-spoken, informed, passionate and motivated me to work very hard. There were pro-life protesters who were outside the event that day. Here is a link to the article called Michelle Obama, Villanova University Criticized by Pro-Life Advocates by Lucas Johansberg: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/658801/michelle_obama_villanova_university.html?cat=62 Excerpt: As hundreds crowded around the entrance for her speech, they were greeted by pro-life protestors. Their large and plain signs read "Catholics Must Reject Obama" and depicted a picture of an abortion. The first time I saw Senator Obama speak was at town hall meeting at Strath Haven High School in Wallingford, PA on April 2, 2008. I was told there were 1,500 people in attendance. I had a great seat in the gym's bleachers. It was a bit overwhelming to see the Senator I had supported throughout his campaign since his announcement. He spoke with vision and clarity and was very candid in his response to audience questions. One young boy asked about the kind of dog Sasha and Malia would get. I believe Senator Obama said he did not know. I also attended the on April 18, 2008 rally at Independence Mall. Senator Obama was electrifying that night. He spoke outside the Constitution Center and there were people packed in throughout the area, even behind Independence Hall. He reminded us on the need for change and a new future for the country. It was the biggest politically rally I had attended to date. Here is an article called 'Obama Speaks to 35,000 at Independence Mall'. The article was written by Julio C. Nunez. http://temple-news.com/2008/04/21/obama-speaks-to-35000-at-independence-mall/ Excerpt: Obama began his speech by reminding people of the history of Independence Hall. "It was over 200 years ago that a group of patriots gathered in this city to do something that no one in the world believed they could do – to declare their independence from the tyranny of the British throne," he said. His ongoing messages of hope and change were also present in his speech. Before a cheering crowd, Obama vowed to change the way politics is conducted in America. "It is time to declare our independence from the broken politics of Washington – the type of politics that's all about tearing each other down instead of lifting the country up," Obama said. He quickly turned the attention to the Iraq war by criticizing the current administration's policies and the policies proposed by presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain. "I don't think we can afford four more years of George Bush and John McCain ideas of economic progress," he said. "It's time to turn the page and write a new chapter in American history."
The polls were tightening up before the April 22nd primary. Here is an article in the Delaware County Daily Times that was published two days before the primary. The article is called Delco, Philly suburbs hold key to Pa. Primary. The article was written by Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn.
Excerpts: Clinton holds a lead in statewide polls. But Obama is strongly favored in Philadelphia and surveys show him holding a slight lead in the arc of four increasingly Democratic counties around the city. Delaware County, the one that makes up most of Sestak’s 7th congressional district, is his toughest with demographics that also suit Clinton and her blue-collar appeal. "It's nice to be inspired by a politician," said Andrew Arcata, 34, as he kept an eye on customers entering his arts and crafts shop in the center of town. Arata, among two-dozen Delaware County voters interviewed by The Associated Press this week, switched his registration from Independent to Democrat so he could vote for Obama. He said he feared the emergence of White House family dynasties. "Since I started voting, it's been a Clinton or a Bush," he said.
Senator Obama brought supporters together and we believed that we could achieve victory and overcome the odds. We aggressively hit the phone and knocked on doors during Get Out the Vote.
We all believed that if we rallied together wit a common purpose and knocked on doors and made phone calls that we had a good chance of winning the county for our candidate.
On Election Day I canvassed the county for eight hours. We had a party that night at our county headquarters. We were all so proud of the work we had accomplished. Our office erupted when Delaware County was called for Senator Obama. When the final results came in, Senator Obama won by 11%. We smiled and hugged and cried. We were so proud.
-to be continued-
-John H. McManus
John H. McManus, a new GlobalPundit.Org Correspondent, was a volunteer for the Obama campaign in Delaware County, PA during the primary, an Organizing Fellow in the summer and an intern for the Pennsylvania Campaign for Change during the general election. He is also in a label institute course with Realize Records, a musician, a songwriter, a poet, a GED tutor and an avid reader.
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