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Starting an Obama Group Gives Supporter Confidence, Diverse Community

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It was shortly after watching Barack Obama speak for the first time that Megan Meagher turned to a friend and said "I have to do something. I've never been so inspired by someone before." And do something she did. In addition to working her full time job as a designer, Megan single-handedly started and ran the Greater Richmond for Obama campaign. Supported by a small group of Richmonders, she worked around the clock organizing fund raisers, canvassing door to door, and planning trips to support Obama, usually at her own cost. Shortly before the primaries, campaign organizers arrived to help, and noticing Megan's diligence and dedication, gave her tickets to see Barack speak at the DNC. She now volunteers at least three days a week for the campaign; she says she's been "slacking" but it's that sort of dedication and devotion to the Barack Obama campaign that make Megan Meagher one of Richmond, VA's hometown heroes.

Questions/Answers:
* What is your greatest accomplishment?

Beyond starting the Greater Richmond for Obama group on April 27th 2007 with a small group of people in my apartment, my greatest personal accomplishment is that I've gone way above anything I thought I could do in terms of leading a group. I didn't plan on starting and leading this group, but at that time no one else in Richmond seemed to be doing anything. I figured well, no matter what I do, it will be better than nothing! Realizing that gave me the confidence to do things like leading meetings of large groups of supporters which is something I never would have imagined I'd be able to do before getting inspired by Barack Obama. I also couldn't have done it without the help of so many other people but especially Jane Van Ostern who has been my mentor throughout the campaign.

* How did your involvement in the campaign impact your relationships with friends and family?

Everyone has been so supportive. They gave me lots of slack when it came to returning phone calls in a timely matter and just generally having the time to keep in touch. I think one of the first things I'll do after the election is try to reconnect with the friends and family I've been in less contact with because of the amount of time I've devoted to this campaign.

* What do your family and friends think of your commitment? Is it ever hard for them?

Most of my family and friends are Obama supports so I think that they feel that encouraging me and letting be me a bit of a bad friend/relative for the past year was like helping the campaign in a round about way. (At least this is how I hope they think about it!) If I ever felt like it was becoming hard for any of my family/friends I made a point of reiterating my reasons for working so hard for Barack Obama so that they wouldn't take my lack of time for them personally.

* Do you relate differently to your community? Has your volunteer work drawn you more closely into local politics?

Now I feel like I'm more a real part of, and contributor to, my community. There were a few months between the primaries and the start of intense work for the general that I had time to go to my local City Democratic Committee meetings. I enjoyed attending these meetings and finding out more about local politics. However, for me that involvement felt like "politics" whereas the volunteer work I do for Obama somehow doesn't feel like traditional politics. Volunteering for Obama feels like community organizing. It feels like a group of amazing, kind and caring people who want to get together and do what they can to change the way things are for the better of everyone. I plan on getting involved again with my local Democratic Committee after the election and one of my goals will be to try to figure out why I didn't have the same feeling within the City Democratic party that I had within the group of Obama volunteers. My hope is that I can bring some of the
spirit of the Obama campaign into city politics.

* How have you changed personally - temperament, attitudes, ideas, emotions -- because of your volunteer work?

Most of all I feel more confident in myself. I never would have imagined that I could start a group, with the help of so many others, and keep that group growing for the time when the Obama staff would finally come to VA. I've also become more confident of the idea that individual people in a society can make a difference and get things done. It was amazing to see all that could be accomplished when each person took on a bit of responsibility for accomplishing a goal (such as getting signatures to get Obama on the ballot in VA). One other amazing part of being involved in this campaign is that I now have a wonderfully diverse group of friends. Before volunteering for Obama most of my friends were around my age and from about the same background. Now I have friends who are much older than I am or younger than I am, friends that are African American, friends that are from many different cultural, social and economic backgrounds. I even became friends with volunteers who came to VA to help elect Barack Obama from other states in the U.S. and other countries like France and England! I know that having these people as a part of my life has enriched my perspective and I have my involvement with the campaign to thank for that.

* What was the highlight of the past year so far? The low point?

The highlight was definitely the night that Obama won the primary in VA by such a large margin. We had been working so hard towards that goal and to see it realized was amazing. That night at the victory party I just looked around at all the volunteers I had been working with so closely over the past 9 months and it there was such a strong sense of community.

I will try to think of a low point. Nothing comes to mind right now. . .

* Will you be able to sleep the night before Nov. 4?

No, not at all!

* How do you feel now - with just one week left until the election? What's going through your head?

I'm worried that the American people will make a mistake. But, I feel good that I have given everything I could give to help elect Barack Obama. On the night of the election I will have no regrets. When Bush was elected for the second time I was sick with regret. All I had done was drive to my polling place and vote! After that I promised myself that I would work as hard as I could to elect a Democrat in the next presidential election so that I wouldn't have that horrible feeling of regret again. Little did I know that I would get as involved as I have been!

* What do you plan to do Election Day?

Unfortunately I have to work for at least the first half of the day. I used a lot of my vacation days traveling to PA and SC during the primaries as well as taking off time for activities in VA over the past year and a half. I was also fortunate enough to get to go to Denver which used up the rest of my vacation time from work. On Election Day I will get up early, go to vote, try to stay focused at work, then leave as soon as I can to go out canvassing to get out the vote! Hopefully there will be an event planned where I can watch the returns with all of my fellow volunteers. It's going to be a nerve wracking and hopefully very happy night!