#15: Volunteer for a presidential campaign
My 30th birthday falls on November 4: election day. And thus it seems only fitting to mark the mid-way point in my “30 things before 30” campaign by volunteering for another type of campaign: a presidential one. The time I spent volunteering today enabled me to check off another item on my to do list. But, even more than that, it enabled me to play my part in moving this country towards a turning point, a historical moment that has so many of us feeling inspired and hopeful.
Our assignment today (I say “our” because I also volunteered my reluctant husband) was to call voters in Virginia—largely southern and western Virginia—to find out who they plan to cast a vote for in the presidential and senatorial elections. This data will inform plans for canvassing in areas of Virginia with larger percentages of undecided voters. In the last 10 elections, Virginia has gone Republican; right now, Obama has an average lead of 6 points over McCain, making Virginia a critical battleground in this election.
Now let’s back up a minute. My politics are really no secret to anyone who knows me (come on, I concentrated in women studies as an undergrad and I live in “The People’s Republic of Takoma Park“). But over the years I’ve grown more sensitive to other people’s perspectives and their rights to their own opinions. There are only so many family gatherings (or fill in the blank here any event involving “mixed company”) that can be tainted by arguments between people with extreme and fundamental differences in their politics before one just wants to eat pie and shut up already. I’ve always been an armchair critic and I haven’t done much to actively promote a candidate beyond a sign or a bumper sticker here and there. But in this election such an approach just won’t do.
When I decided to vote for Obama, it was because, well, Hillary didn’t get the nomination. I, like many others who voted for Hillary, went through a short period of mourning and disappointment. But to be perfectly candid, watching the way Barack has navigated the past few months—from accepting the nomination, to his mastery over the debates, and most importantly, his ability to fire people up about change—has truly made me a convert.
I’ve been obsessed with Obama’s Web site for months now (even while I was rooting for Clinton). If you’ve visited it (and how could you not have!?), you’ll know how visually striking it is. He’s clearly got a brilliant design team and an adept social media gang pulling out all the punches, building his brand (yes, I mean brand—his last initial is the campaign’s logo for crying out loud and I’m surprised they haven’t yet trademarked the word “change”), and spreading the word virally in a way we’ve never seen before in a presidential election.
Visiting his site a few days ago, I noticed a quote in the header that took me by surprise:
I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington . . . I’m asking you to believe in yours.”
Now, doesn’t that make you want to push your sleeves up and do something? Not just watch Obama and Biden as they march towards the White House . . . but actually participate?. (Or maybe in your case, McCain and Palin? Whoops, I actually just snickered out loud thinking about that.) When is the last time you really felt like a candidate turned the tables and believed in you? This quote urges us to act. It tells us we all can go beyond simply believing in our abilities and, instead, actually make use of them. (This reminds me of my disdain for Baltimore’s anti-drug campaign that peppered billboards and bumper stickers with a simple black ground and one white word: “Believe.” Believe!? Is that really the best we can do? What about an action verb that actually implies, well, action? But I digress.)
So, reading that quote made me want to do just that: move beyond belief to action. How convenient it was, then, to go right from there to clicking on that word, “Action,” in the main navigation of the Obama Web site. And that’s how I came across this weekend’s volunteer opportunity, “Last Call for Change.” The Action Center is filled with large and small ways to get involved. (Hint, hint.)
And if you’re feeling like you just don’t have the time, or you just don’t have it in you, the least you could do is carve the “O” in your Halloween pumpkin and set it outside for your neighbors to see. Right? (And for my Republican friends and family: I still love you. But try fitting “maverick” or “Joe the Plumber” or “I read ALL newspapers” on a pumpkin. That’s right, I didn’t think so.)
Lesson learned: You gotta know when to get on your soapbox. Like, now would be a good time.