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On The Road

By Valerie Wilk

During the fall 2008 election campaign, I spent ten weeks based in northwest Ohio, working with Ohio Education Association and NEA colleagues.

Our goals throughout Ohio were to educate OEA leaders and members about NEA’s and OEA’s recommended pro-public education state and national candidates and to get out the vote for those candidates.

We visited local officers and executive boards, presented at general membership meetings, talked with members one-on-one about the candidates and the issues, helped with Association “meet-the-candidate” events, organized member-to-member phone banks, canvassed members in their neighborhoods, distributed OEA campaign materials, and recruited and mobilized volunteers.

OEA higher ed members got the chance to see and meet candidates Obama and Biden and their surrogates on campus—Barack Obama spoke at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, and Hillary Clinton campaigned for Obama at Youngstown State University.

We can learn a lot from Obama, the community organizer candidate, who is our nation’s first “Organizer President.” The campaign used personal contact, as well as technology for personalized e-mails and text messages that engaged millions of people in the campaign.

In one example of his grassroots approach, on his way from the Toledo airport to his hotel, Obama surprised and delighted people by stopping his motorcade and knocking on doors to talk to voters and listen to their concerns.

Let’s bring some of that inspiration to our own organizing work on our campuses.

—Valerie Wilk coordinates NEA higher ed activities

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