The excitement over Sen. Barrack Obama's presidential candidacy resulted in many volunteers young and old coming together in Alaska's capital to campaign for change in America.
Barbara Learmonth, 60, had never volunteered for a political campaign but decided there is something special about Obama that made her want to get involved this election season.
"I decided really early on that the campaign for change isn't just about Obama, that it's about all of us," she said. "I don't expect him to change our country, I expect us to change our country by working together. So electing him was really just the first step."
Believing in Obama's candidacy made it easier to do things that Learmonth said she never imagined doing.
"I just felt that this was a candidate that I could really believe in, so it made it easier to do things that I would not want to do, like going around talking to people door to door," she said.
Jesse Kiehl helped volunteer during the historic democratic caucus in Juneau last February. He said the party planned for three or four times as many people as participated before, but ended up seeing eight or nine times greater attendance.
"I was somebody who had actually backed some other Democrats early in the process," he said. "When they ended their candidacies, I backed Senator Obama. I was amazed to find just how many people, how passionately, from the very beginning that he was the best choice."
Blue Ross, 24, recalls feeling dejected after President George W. Bush was reelected in 2004. Instead of sitting around, he wanted to get involved this presidential election.
"This time around it was like, 'we got to do something so this doesn't happen again,'" he said. "It was nice to be involved and trying to change things up a bit. The last administration I think has done a lot of harm. Our generation really wanted to make a difference in this election."
He said this election gave him a chance to get involved with politics firsthand. The local campaigning hit a snag when Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was chosen by Sen. John McCain as the vice-presidential candidate for the Republican Party, he said.
"It was fun and everything was going cool and then Palin got picked," he said laughing, recalling that the local campaigning efforts seemed to somewhat fizzle out for Obama at that time. "As soon as Palin was picked, it was like, 'Alaska's done.'"
According to the official campaign Web site, the Juneau volunteers placed 11,487 telephone calls and raised more than $125,000 over the course of the campaign.
Although too young to vote in the election, Miguel Rohrbacher, 16, was inspired early on by Obama and wanted to do what he could to get involved. He ended up taking an internship with the campaign and said he put in about 20 hours a week from July until the Nov. 4 election.
"I was really impressed by his whole campaign message," Rohrbacher said. "I know how corny it sounds, (but) the message of 'yes we can' really appealed to me. I liked him before, but his win in Iowa really engaged me and really made me want to be involved and help this guy win."
He said he spent time going door to door, making phone calls to potential voters, organizing house meetings and events and even registering people to vote. He said he didn't feel left out even though he didn't get to cast a ballot.
"What I figured is, if I could get one person to vote in my place who wouldn't have voted, or 50 people who weren't going to vote, I figure it made up for it and I did my part," Rohrbacher said.
Amber Bennett, 24, and Kevin Skeek, 26, didn't volunteer for the Obama campaign itself but did their own style of clandestine campaigning, including putting up signs in support of Obama at the governor's mansion in Juneau.
"We felt like we were doing our part, just by putting in time and making a sign and we hung it up downtown," Bennett said. "It's nothing major but it made us feel like we were a part of it without being officially a part of it."
She said it was a historic campaign and she is looking forward to a new era of American politics.
"I guess I just have this excitement within. For one, I feel compassion, like wow, he has worked so hard to be here. It has nothing to do with color, but he's actually qualified. With our last president I don't think he was qualified," Bennett said. "I'm proud to be somebody who supports (Obama) and glad that he's going to be representing our nation."
Skeek, an Alaska Native, said this historic campaign helped bridge a gap in American politics like no other election before.
"It really excited me to see a minority elected," he said. "The only thing I can see that is going to be equal to this or have the same amount of coverage is when the first Native American runs for president, that's the next thing. If a black man can get elected, I was like 'yes, we're moving one step closer.'"
Learmonth has great hope and expectations for the next four years, now that the election is over and Obama has been sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.
"Watching the campaign, it was a very, very well run campaign and that gave me a lot of faith that it will be a well run administration," she said.
Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or email@example.com.
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