Most of us students sit home and watch Obama and McCain make speeches on TV, or we skim the articles in Newsweek and Times at the checkout line at Fred Meyers. However, there are others who spend their weekends raising awareness about the presidential nominees. These active citizens of the community are campaign volunteers.
Though we inhabit one of the most sparsely populated states in the country, Alaska has been lucky enough to host campaign awareness with the help of campaign volunteers, staff members, and supporters, though so far away from the political happenings going on in the Lower 48.
As most of us have seen around the city and around campus, since the very beginning of the 2008 Presidential Race, the Obama campaign has been highly active in the Anchorage community, spreading the idea of change to local citizens. There are hundreds of members involved in the Obama campaign, and a large majority of that number are what we call campaign volunteers. These people raise awareness about the importance of voting and of supporting the presidential nominee.
The Obama campaign in Alaska has not only two offices in Anchorage, but also in Fairbanks, Juneau, Palmer, Homer, and Sitka. This abundance of Alaskan headquarters has only aided the growth of Democratic support in Alaska. When Sen. Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for President, over 1,400 Alaskans in over 15 different Convention Watch Parties viewed this monumental moment on television. These viewers made over 4,000 phone calls to other Alaskans, urging them to join in.
With a never-ending list of things to do, one may wonder just how the campaign stays organized and still maintains success.
Katherine Osborne, campaign volunteer and also a student at UAA, spends her typical day in both the office and out in the community, spreading the word. In the midtown headquarters, which are located on Fairbanks Street, she spends a few hours a day answering phones, call banking, and data entry. On other days, she works either alone or with a partner neighborhood canvassing. This involves going to door-to-door and recruiting volunteers, handing out pamphlets, and assisting people on voting registration.
She described the root of her enthusiasm as “energizing” the community of Anchorage about Obama through events around town and by word of mouth. “It’s all about getting people more involved politically and getting people registered to vote,” Osborne said. On that note, students on campus have several events to look forward in future months where the Obama campaign will be on site, recruiting and informing students on Obama’s issues and more information about the campaign in our region.
Group events in the area include: weekly meetings, group canvassing, volunteer orientations, and phonebanks, where campaigners get together to call friends, family, and neighbors in support of Obama. There was also a Walk for Change that took place in Palmer on September 6. Events such as this have been and will continue to take place all over the state in the various cities.
UAA students interested in joining in the local campaigning, no matter their political stances, are urged to join. The benefits of volunteering are never-ending. In most cases, the number of volunteer programs a student is involved in can glorify job and scholarship applications, which Osborne noted in her interview. By being a part of this national issue, students can obtain information about politics and the presidential candidates that they might not have known already.
Volunteers are able to set their own schedules, with flexible times and a variety of activities and jobs to participate in. Through the daily, weekly, monthly activities, volunteers have the opportunity to meet new people both inside and outside of the campaign. “An advantage of being a volunteer is getting to know the people in your community and the opportunity of taking part in a historical campaign,” Osborne remarked.
Anyone interested in taking part in the Obama campaign can visit their website at www.barackobama.com to register. The midtown office at 2513 Fairbanks Street is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., so all of those interested in getting involved with the upcoming election are urged to stop by.
The Alaska Republican Party was unavailable for comment, however an overview of their actions in the Anchorage community is available for all to see online. Volunteers can register online to participate in events, go door-to-door, register voters, and make phone calls, volunteer on Election Day and at campaign headquarters, and recruit their friends. There are a number of groups to join, such as youth and students, women, entrepreneurs, veterans, and several more.
The importance of Republican representation in Anchorage amounts to no less than that of the Democratic representation and a future interview is extended to any campaign volunteers who wish for their side to be represented to the students of UAA. Students have a possible follow up article regarding Republican representation at UAA to look forward to.