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Making One More Vote Count

NAM, Suzanne Manneh Posted: Nov 04, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO This morning, along with numerous other Americans, I exercised my civic duty of voting in this historic election.

I voted for Barack Obama, and I always knew I would, but not because Im 25, not because Im a registered Democrat, not because I find Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin untrustworthy and unsuitable leaders, and not because all of my closest friends and my favorite celebrities support him, but because I genuinely believe in his potential to be the leader who will lead our nation in the direction of positive change.

But it was last night that I realized this more than I could have ever imagined.

Last night I volunteered with the Barack Obama Campaign doing phone banking.

I should say first that my older brother had spent numerous hours volunteering on the campaign. He had helped with the set up of the San Francisco campaign office, and traveled to New Mexico, Colorado, and Washington to canvas and phone bank, putting in a total of about 300 hours of his personal time. In our occasional conversations, he had suggested that I too phone bank, though he never pressured me. Last night, just hours before elections, I decided I would.

I never asked my brother why he did it, why he was so invested and committed, but last night, after briskly walking through the freezing rain, I understood.

Numerous Obama campaign volunteers welcomed me with open arms and warm smiles to the office that reminded me of a newsroom. There were around 250 people crammed into every available space. A little dining area was stocked with drinks, pizzas and snacks. After a brief training, armed with a cell phone and a list of registered voters, I went to work.

I found a spot at the very back of the converted kitchen calling room. Welcome! Ready to win some votes? an older gentleman asked me, grinning.

Go Obama! I replied.

Every time a volunteer found out that the person he or she had called was going to vote for Obama, he or she would ding a bell placed on the table.

I found myself momentarily wondering before I began my calls why I was doing it.
I asked the older gentleman who had welcomed me and another woman why they were there. I couldnt have agreed more with their answers. Thats why I was there, too.

Theres a lot of s**t going on, not just in America, but in my life, the gentleman told me. I cant just vote for Obama and expect there to be less s***t. I have to do my part to educate others. He said he made 1,000 calls in the past week, and at least a third were either Obama supporters or felt he was their best choice.

Lots of people out there are uninformed, they go and vote based on hype or stereotypes, a woman in her forties explained, noting that just the act of voting for him wasnt enough. You cant take any vote for granted. Its very important that we all play a greater role and connect with as many voters as possible and help them see why Obama is the best choice to lead our troubled nation to positive change.

I called voters in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Colorado, and for three hours I had short pleasant chats with most of those I called. A few were hostile, a few hung up on me, but most wanted to hear why I was calling. The most rewarding call was my last call for the night. It was a woman in Colorado who only spoke Spanish, my third language. She said she didnt know why she and her husband should vote for Obama.

In the first 10 minutes, I listened as she talked about issues that mattered most to her immigration and U.S./Latin American policy were in her top five. I shared my observations about Obamas overt support for immigration and strengthening ties with Latin America. I compared and contrasted Obamas perspectives and McCains on her other concerns such as health care and education. At the end of our conversation, I gleefully hit the bell.

As I left the campaign office, I knew I wasn't just going to vote, but that I had made at least one more vote count.

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