Putting together yard signs, slipping the printed plastic paraphernalia over metal rods, I almost killed Susan. Stacking them against a folding chair, their weight soon collapsed and toppled the devoted volunteer. I held my laughter, offered my apologies, listened as she reprimanded me and told me to lean them against the wall.

Susan retired in December to her home in Hawaii. In January, she was on a plane traveling to the mainland to volunteer for one man with a plan. This woman was so moved by Barack Obama that she left her professional life behind her to spread a message of change across the continental United States.

This woman left her home behind to campaign during the primaries in South Carolina. She used the air miles she had saved up to pay for her flight. She lives in volunteer housing and a friend back home has been paying for her rental car. “He said he couldn’t believe someone was doing this, he said he surely couldn’t,” Susan told me today as I volunteered for the first time at Obama’s VA campaign headquarters on Marshall Street.

Not only have people traveled from all over the country to help out, there were also volunteers from London, but it was Carol, a Richmonder, who shared a similar story. Carol works independently, but has taken a month off from work to focus on the campaign.

It started three years ago when she took her granddaughter to see Obama speak in support of Tim Kaine’s race for governor. “I didn’t know who this senator from Illinois was, but he had a unique name, so we decided to check it out.” She said from then on, she knew there was something special about Barack Obama.

Going into campaign HQ was slightly intimidating. In a makeshift office building, you are welcomed by folding tables, chairs, the ringing of phones, and hand-painted murals and posters wallpapering the room. Organized chaos is in the air – as is excitement and anxiety.  Papers and water bottles, clutter not only tables, but also the floors where volunteers are sorting, making calls, and entering data on their laptops.

I had my first assignment – I was phone banking. A volunteer coordinator handed me a list of names, explained the purpose of the calls, and gave me a sheet to take notes on. We were given names based on the neighborhood we live in.

Today’s mission was to inform people about absentee voting, making sure these folks knew about their polling precinct, and to see if they needed a ride on election day. A lot of messages were left – but I did speak to one woman. Her husband and son are political science majors and she said her family is really electrified about the race.

We talked about many things, but particularly about how I had never seen myself volunteering for a political campaign. This does feel different. There is something special about Barack Obama – he has managed to inspire across social, racial, ethnic, political, and religious boundaries. He speaks to all of America. I’ve caught the Obamarama.


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