Chris and Larry.jpgToday the girls and I went out for another day of knocking on doors to get out the vote for Obama.  This time, however, we were paired with Larry, a doctoral candidate in the School of Education, who was out for the first time volunteering.

When we started, I was really hoping that he would experience the same feeling of empowerment that I have come to feel each time I muster the courage to go door to door canvassing. The day started slowly as there were no answers at the first few doors on which we knocked. Then we came to a house where someone came to the door and motioned that he was not interested.  Just as I was beginning to feel depressed for Larry, we knocked on the door of a strong supporter who was even willing to volunteer on election day. 

Chloe Driving.jpgLarry and I were rejuvenated by this response and proceeded to happily work through the rest of our assigned addresses, with Chloe helping a bit with the parking lot driving, and Hannah happily sleeping in the back.  (If you look closely at the picture to the right, you can see her napping.)

Today we were knocking on the doors of all the houses that had no answers yesterday. While we are out there, another two volunteers were going through the same neighborhood putting signs on the door nobs of the houses of likely voters indicating where their polling place was and giving them information about voting. 

Chloe and Hannah PA.jpgAgain, I was very impressed by the organization of the campaign materials and those training the volunteers.  The Obama office in State College was buzzing with volunteers young and old.  An eighty year old woman was behind us as we were picking up our packet and she said she was there to work the phones. I met a student I had last year in my first year seminar at Penn State, Stephanie Marek, who was calling off-campus students to make sure they knew where to vote and that there were also down ticket candidates for whom it was important to vote.  We saw dozens of young out-of-state volunteers catching a bite to eat before going back out canvassing. 

It was really quite inspiring to see so many people so motivated and engaged. This year is different for so many reasons, but most of all, it is different because so many people have felt empowered to participate in the political process and have been given an avenue through which to channel this very positive political energy.

The polls open here in Pennsylvania in about 34 hours …

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Dana says:

    I feel inspired, too—I have never actually done anything except vote for a political candidate. In the last month-and-a-half, I held a fundraiser (raised $1,200!!), called other women in PA, and, partly because I read your accounts of canvassing, I did that, too.
    Yesterday I talked with a woman who was a lifelong Republican and is struggling with her decision as to whom to vote for. Although we weren’t trying to sway anyone either way, I remembered your post where you noted that if nothing else, perhaps people will remember which campaign had a volunteer that took the time to listen to them. So, we chatted for 10-15 minutes about what issues were important to her and why she was on the fence. I’m keeping my fingers crossed…

  • petya says:

    Hi Chris. I just wrote about that very same sense of empowerment you described. I think that my personal disillusion with Bulgarian politics has heightened my sense of hope and empowerment I am experiencing as an Obama volunteer.
    I worked the phone bank today. Called a lot of ‘weak democrats’, i.e. people who have in the past voted for democratic candidates but not consistently so. I made 62 calls but only talked to 11 people. Left messages for the rest telling them where their polling location was. From the ones that I did talk to, only one said she was voting for McCain.
    I even got a 4-year-old to promise me to tell her mom and dad to go vote on Tuesday.
    I am hopeful.

  • Wow, Dana, congratulations on raising so much money and on involving yourself so thoroughly in the process. I can’t tell you how moved and honored I was reading your comment. It means a lot to me know I had a small part in moving you to go out canvassing.
    It is strange and exhilarating to realize that words I wrote about my experiences have so directly translated into real action on your part. Who said words don’t change things?!
    I am hopeful that your discussion with the lifelong Republican swayed her, but even if it did not, you know now that you did what you could. My experience with this campaign this year has been a little like my experiences as a teacher. You put your whole self into the process, trying to change the way people think about the world, but you never really know the full dimensions of the impact you are having because students are changed in subtle ways over the course of a lifetime. So, in the end, the process is about a certain faith; a faith that is reaffirmed when you receive a note from a student who you had five years ago thanking you for something you said then that had a deep and lasting impact.
    So, thank you for reaffirming my faith in this process with your comment. Now, let’s hope our faith is resoundingly affirmed tomorrow evening by an Obama victory!

  • Cole says:

    Chris … we’ve been trying to do our part as well! Both my wife, Kristin, and I are a mess waiting for tomorrow. Kristin took our 6 year old out canvasing today in our neighborhood to try and use up some of that nervous energy. I could hear how happy she was that they did it on the phone.
    I am enjoying reading your posts and think you’re finding a real groove with your writing in this space. I look forward to pings from my RSS reader of your feed! Let’s hope we can pull PA and the election!

  • Larry says:

    Hey my fellow pavement-pounder! It’s Larry. Thanks for helping to make my first time out such a great experience.
    Being out there with you and the girls really got me even more “fired up and ready to go”. Monday, I decided to get my son Larry, III (3 yrs old) involved. We did a little shopping and delivered some food and drinks to campaign headquarters. Tuesday, after voting, we worked with the campaign to help PSU students with their on-campus voting.
    Each experience was better than the next. It was great meeting other engaged folks and it was even better to introduce my son to the idea of civic responsibility at such an early age. I could go on forever…especially after tonight’s victory…but I should get some rest.
    Great job to you and your girls…yes we can…yes you did! 🙂

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