Notes from Iowa – A Moment with the President
Posted by Jerry Duchene Saavedra on September 16, 2012
Post by Pete McRoberts, ServeNext Organizer for Iowa
I’m a native Iowan, born and raised, and here is where I have made my career and home life. I like it here. I like Iowans and I like how we do politics.
One of the things I really like is that as the kick-off state for Presidential elections, every few years we get a lot of candidates in audiences of all sizes. For the last six years, it seems at any given moment, a White House hopeful is either visiting the state, or announcing a trip back here.
There is something unique when the candidate for election also happens to be the sitting President. The scale gets larger, and the access we grew accustomed to during caucus season isn’t typically possible anymore.
So, when President Obama came to Des Moines recently, for a campaign rally, I had to think that the days of being able to say hello to him and maybe grab a second about national service were over. I thought our best shot at spreading the word about AmeriCorps was likely limited to getting a second glance from a reporter – maybe a member of the press would ask about our “Expand National Service” t-shirts – maybe.
I should have known better. The state office of Obama for America has kept an open door on matters of national service, routinely helping ServiceNation/ServeNext volunteers and former AmeriCorps members get into events with the President or Vice President.
To that, I was still surprised when, while waiting to get in, the State Director of OFA came over to me, and gifted me a set of special tickets to the event, substantially better than the ones I’d had before.
In practical terms, this meant instead of hoping for a a bit of attention from the press, that my team was placed in the front row, just feet from the President. Around us were statewide electeds (including our Attorney General Tom Miller – a former VISTA and national service advocate,) media, and senior staff.
Once we were placed, things moved quickly. The President was introduced by Army veteran, and member of the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service, Lucas Beenken, (read about him here) and the event got underway.
The President spoke, and then began to work the rope line. Of course, there is very little time for him to spend with people in that setting, but it was my pleasure to thank him for AmeriCorps and the Serve America Act before he moved on. It was over quickly, but it was a great reminder as to why we do what we do. It was a potent thing to think about national service as a part of his administration, and as a key part of solving some major challenges in the country.
I am grateful to the staff of OFA for putting ServeNext into that audience with the President. It was a big deal. And I look forward to the rest of the election season, talking national service with candidates and officeholders from both parties – even if for just a moment on a rope line.