My name is Emilia Bradley—though you can call me Emi—and I'm a volunteer with President Obama's campaign in Raleigh, North Carolina.
I was born in Torino, Italy, a city laying in a fertile valley surrounded by the majestic Alps. It's a good city and a fun place to grow up—I used to go skating and skiing quite often; the winters were mild, the summers were glorious, and it almost always felt good to leave an enclosed place behind.
These days, I'm a proud U.S. citizen living with my family in North Carolina. I spend my time chatting or playing with my grandson, frequently traveling to Maryland so that I can see my three granddaughters, watching the news to see what's going on, and, of course, helping to re-elect the President the way I have been since his first campaign.
In 2008, I carefully watched the progress of the candidates—I focused on Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. Then I heard the words hope and change—they were more than a slogan. They meant something to me. In this country, hope is what motivates children and young adults to move toward the promising 'something' that's going to come. I will be 72 in December, and I know that if something bad happens, hope keeps you going because the good will eventually again arrive. Hope is what has kept generations of people alive who have had and still do deal with hardship. Hope is what brought immigrants to this country and still does. Change is a simple world to address: In 2008, we needed some.
Those two words made me focus on Senator Obama. I developed a great admiration for him and said, "Okay, I'll do something." That's when I got involved and I decided to pound the pavement looking for people who needed to be registered and work as a canvasser knocking on doors.
The President has not disappointed me. He has made good on his campaign promises, and somehow he has been able to accomplish so much even as he tries to navigate all kinds of problems. He's always shown strength, dignity, integrity, and goodness. Each of his accomplishments are interrelated—for example, if you don't have a good education, you'll have trouble finding the kind of job you need to do well, and finding a job is related to your well being and therefore to health care. It's a chain, and they all stand out to me.
It's not just my pride in what the President has done that inspired me to get involved this year—we need to have conversations so that every single person who has benefited from health reform and more knows they have benefited. We need to remind people when they make claims about "big government," that government, ideas, and innovations together have always moved this country forward. We therefore need to continue to combine the private sector with the government to grow the economy, and that's what I tell people.
I am doing what I did in 2008 because I like the face-to-face encounter, the ability to make eye contact, the possible exchange of ideas. Since I was born in 1940, I was trained early on that children should be respectful and not speak out of turn. So I learned to listen instead, and being a good listener became a part of who I am—because to listen is also a way to learn. People will open up—if they have troubles, they want to tell someone. I pause and say, "Let me listen." I just use my skill, try to draw out the person, and see if that person wants to talk. That's pretty much how I do persuasion—I don't try to overcome the other voices, I let them come to me.
There are so many other things I particularly enjoy about doing what I do: working with individuals who are really committed—the captains, the organizers, (our local organizer, Katina, is super), the ones who have made the phone an extension of their hands, the ones who so very accurately and painstakingly enter data into their computers, and of course the ones who have to face total strangers. Just as importantly, it is a privilege to be able to register people so that all can be heard; finally, it's really exciting when I'm able to bring a smile to peoples' faces, which I am somehow able to do quite often. People are as dedicated now as they were in 2008. It's great to see our President in the White House. We are determined to keep him there, and that's what keeps us going.
My advice to anyone who might want to volunteer is very simple: If you do support our President, you can't just sit back. Every single effort that a person could put in, even if it's one hour once a month, can make a difference. "We need you," I tell people. "Okay, you can't come to the office? Talk to your neighbors, make sure people go to register to vote, get them out on November 6th." These are things anyone can do.
In the meantime, I'll keep knocking on doors every opportunity I have—and that includes the 5 o'clock canvassing shift on the morning of Election Day. Because this is important.
If you agree with Emi, sign up to volunteer in your community today.