As the world well knows, on November 4, 2008, the United States voted to elect Barack Hussein Obama to be it’s 44th president.
I volunteered for the Obama campaign that day. I was asked to drive out to Republic, a short 15 miles from Springfield, because they needed more help than any of the Springfield offices did. It was a small office in the corner of a shopping center; decorated with every bit of campaign paraphernalia they could find. We were going out to canvass neighborhoods to ensure Obama supporters knew where their polling place was and that they actually got out to vote.
I was astounded to learn that I would be one of three team “captains” because I could drive and I knew the area. They needed people like that because, unbeknown to me, the Obama campaign had bussed almost 50 volunteers from Texas to Missouri. Not just for the 4th either; they had been in Missouri since Saturday. I was amazed, touched, and embarrassed all at the same time and all for the same reason; these people spent their time and energy to volunteer in a place they had never been before, to help people they had never seen before, to help a candidate they believed in, but I only had time for a single day.
I have always said that the faith most important to me is the faith I have in human potential. I will always remember November 4, 2008 as the day that faith was proven to be fact. There is no limit to what humans can do when we work together.
And did we work. I drove and we walked and the hours just slipped through our fingers as we knocked on door after door. After six very long hours the whole of Republic was finally canvassed. Then they sent me and six other out-of-town volunteers to a southern district in Springfield where a very large section of democrat-friendly voters had not been canvassed. Out we went again at 4:30. For the next two hours we rushed to talk to as many people as we could.
We were given two packets consisting of 8 streets each. I had been given two people. I gave them a street to walk and I took a street to drive. Thankfully the alignment in my car is still spot on. As I approached one of the houses on the list I would hop out of my car, let it continue rolling, talk to the person at the house, and then jump back in the car before it rolled away from their property. Dangerous, yes, but it allowed me to cover the same amount of ground as two people on foot.
It was 6:20, the sun had gone down, and the street lights were of no help in finding the addresses on our list, but I was able to talk to one last person. His garage door was open and I found him sitting outside enjoying a cigarette. I introduced myself, told him I was with the Obama campaign, and asked if he had voted yet. He told me he hadn’t and that he wasn’t sure if he was registered. I was kind of stunned. I said “sir, you’re registered to vote. And if you’re sure you are registered to vote, but your polling place doesn’t have your name on the rolls, they have to give you something called a provisional ballot. It’s only 6:25, your polling place is not that far from here, and if you are in line by 7pm they have to let you vote. This is possibly the most important election you will ever have the change to take part in. Don’t pass this up.”
He looked at me for a second, glanced at the ground, and then looked at the clock hanging on the wall in his garage. “You know what? Fuck it” he exclaimed as he dashed over the get the helmet for his scooter. “I’ve still got time right? And they have to let me vote right?”
“Yes sir they do. Thank you sir!” My heart was pounding as he drove his scooter off into the night.
I don’t know whether he was able to vote or not, but I am so excited he tried.
It was projected that Greene county only needed to have 42% of the vote for Obama to take the state. We capped out at 41%. Our efforts made this state undecided even three days after the fact. 5859 votes separate the two candidates.
That night, as I sat with a few friends watching the results at a downtown restaurant, I was speechless as I watched Senator McCain stroll out onto that stage and concede the race. The place erupted in deafening applause. A hard-fought campaign season was finally over. We could all rest, if only for a moment, and enjoy our victory. Now the hard work begins.
Yes we did.