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It’s 9AM on a Saturday morning and a group of 20 volunteers are gathering at the Democratic party headquarters in Austin, Texas. It’s located in what was once a large grocery store.
They all take a seat as a man in a Barack Obama t-shirt leads them in a cheer.
MAN: ”Fired up ?!”
CROWD: “Ready to go!”
MAN: ”Fired up ?!”
CROWD: ready to go!
Welcome to “Camp Obama.”
During the next two days these volunteers will be learning all about the Obama campaign and how they can help by organizing campaign gatherings, assembling volunteer groups to call potential supporters and registering voters.
Austin may be a democratic stronghold, but it’s a little blue island in the big red sea that is Texas. McCain is almost guanranteed to win here. So the Obama campaign is focusing its resources in “battleground states” like New Mexico and Coloradio. Critical states that Obama needs to win.
Volunteers like Albert Bronson, a 62-year-old retired environmental attorney will be heading out of state for up to five weeks to work for Obama.
ALBERT BRONSON: “Barak Obama has, I guess woken me up, inspired me, and made me realize, given the direction the country has been headed in for the past 8 years, and maybe before that, this might be the last chance that I have in my lifetime that will do something that will help maybe change the direction of this country. Its kind of a naive and idealistic viewpoint in a way but i truly am worried about the future of America and thought this was the best way, thought it was time to put both my money and my efforts where my mouth is.”
During a break, a volunteer puts on some music to keep the energy going. A song appropriately called “Fired up.”
KAREN DELANY SMITH: ”It’s critical that we have Barak Obama as our president.”
Karen Delany Smith will be spending five weeks in Colorado. She’s enthusiastic to go, but also knows what she leaves behind: two young children, a seat on the school board, and a worried husband.
DELANY SMITH: ”He’s a big Obama supporter too, but he is not sure about my personally going. He’s like, ’Lets pay a college kid to go.’ He said it’ll be cheaper! Because it will be expensive.”
The campaign doesn’t provide any money for these trips. No gas money, airfare, meals, anything. They try to help out by arranging carpoos and possibly finding another supporter in a battleground state with a spare bed or couch they can sleep on.
I ask volunteer Charles Braining if it’s worth it.
CHARLES BRAINING: ”It is a big sacrifice. I’ve shut my business down for five weeks. I’m leaving my grandkids, my family, my kids, everything I’m doing. There’s a point in time when you have to stand and do what needs to be done.”
Towards the end of the day I get to speak with Diane Allemand, another volunteer. She’s been blind since the age of two. She came to Camp Obama with her guide dog and a braille machine that allows her to follow along with the numerous paper handouts. She has never volunteered for a campaign before and is excited about going to Colorado to help.
DIANE ALLEMAND: ”A lot of what has guided let’s say our country and people in the last several years has been fear and I think that now that we have hope. I am going to go out and prove that hope is more of a motivator than fear. I hope, thats my hope.”
Hope they’ll be spreading right up until November 4th.
For World Radio Switzerland, I’m Jeff Jones in Austin, Texas.
Jeff Jones is an independent radio producer, theatrical sound designer, composer, and audio engineer currently living in Austin, Texas. His work has been heard nationally on the Tavis Smiley Show, as well as on Austin’s local public radio station,KUT, and the Maine Public Broadcasting Network among others.