My name is Jerusalem Demsas. I’m a 16-year-old high school student from Maryland, and even though I won’t be able to vote this November, I’m a volunteer with President Obama’s campaign.
I was born in Ethiopia, but my family is Eritrean—we had to leave because of the conflicts in the area, so we moved to the United States when I was 3 years old.
My state is right next to D.C.—so we’re near a lot of political hullaballoo, but at the same time we’re a bit quieter. We’re liberal on social issues, but we’re not radical or reactionary—I think that’s what makes voters here unique.
I’ve always been interested in government, and I really feel that if everyone cared and thought what they did was important, we’d be able to build the kind of politics we wanted to see. That’s why I started working with the campaign.
I really like coming to volunteer at the OFA office here in Maryland. I hop on the bus as soon as school is over with a bunch of other high school students, and it’s great to feel like we’re doing something worthwhile. It’s not just a routine—it’s something we want to do. We show up, get to work, and just know we’re making a difference. It’s fun, and it’s a great feeling—kids don’t always have the opportunity to feel so useful. And I think we bring a lot of energy to the office, too.
I don’t feel any less involved because I can’t vote. I spend a lot of time convincing other people to vote or to listen to what’s going on, and helping them do that seems just as important as voting itself. The point of a democracy is that people take the government into their own hands, and if we don’t do that, it’s useless. If you’re unhappy about something, you should do your best to make a difference—I’ve seen how that small bit can have an impact.
One of my most exciting moments of the campaign so far was getting to be at an event where the President was speaking—that was so cool. I was about 10 feet away, listening to him talk, and it just hit me: We’re making it possible for someone who really cares about people and wants to do what’s best for the country to get re-elected. How could you not want to be part of that?
When it comes to the President’s accomplishments from the last three years, I’m a big fan of how he’s stood up for the DREAM Act, and I really like how he’s made health care for young adults a priority. He’s not just going for what he believes in, he’s fighting for America as a whole. You can hear it in everything he says: There’s no inflammatory language; it’s all about uniting the country.
The more I’m involved in political causes like this one, the more I start to think about my goals and what I want to do in life. I really want to work in foreign affairs someday. I come from a family of people who were all born in a foreign country, but we’re familiar with the U.S. and involved with policies here. It’s definitely something I’ll pursue in the long-term. In the meantime, once school ends, I’m basically going to spend the entire summer at the office doing everything in my power to get President Obama re-elected.
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