Who’s missing from the Obama Organizing Fellowship?

Tomorrow is the (extended) deadline to apply for one of the summer Obama organizing fellowships. The program is open to “students and recent graduates” who will work, unpaid, at least 30 hours a week for the campaign. “Housing is not guaranteed,” the site adds. I love the fellowship concept, but I worry that the young Latino precinct captain I met in Northwest Indiana, who is not a student but has a passion for the campaign and has been doing political work since he was 13, and hundreds of others like him will not be participating. There is a mixed message in the program’s FAQ, “We expect most applicants to be students and recent graduates. However, anyone can apply and become an organizing fellow… People of all ages are needed to help build the movement!”

I know that Obama staffers are running on fumes at this point, and what the campaign’s accomplished will be the subject of study and praise for years to come. But was there no concern that, in creating a program for those few lucky enough to be in college and able to take an unpaid internship, the campaign could be giving proof to the “elitist” canard? Could it not craft an appeal for a fellowship scholarship program that would fund stipends or housing allowances?


9 thoughts on “Who’s missing from the Obama Organizing Fellowship?

  1. I’m beginning to suspect that this organizing fellowship was created specifically for those that are easily indoctrinated and those that consider political action a leisure activity. The only people I know that have been accepted are current students and recent graduates with time and money to spare. Unfortunately I know of many working class people with real experience, people who really have something at stake in this election, who applied, committed to making a sacrifice of time and energy and were turned down. Specifically, my self and several of my colleagues, teachers of history with masters degrees, active in their union’s, professors at local colleges were not even given the dignity of a letter informing they were not accepted. These people had to learn from their own students in college and others that those who were accepted were already notified. It seems a little bizarre to me. Why would the campaign pass over educated, working people with requisite qualifications, committed to change and willing to sacrifice for inexperienced youth? I can only speculate; is it because my union (UFT) did not endorse Obama? Is it because the Obama campaign really is elitist and believes that politics is a leisure activity for those who have time and money to spare? Is this campaign for only the sons and daughters of the well-to-do, the next generation of protectors of the establishment? Are we going to revisit the bourgeois activism of the sixties, when the youth of the elite usurped the power of the civil rights movement to rebel against their parents only to become the protectors of the establishment in their adult lives? Is this movement for change being co-opted by the next generation of elitists who will say one thing in their youth and do another when they get the reigns of power in adulthood? I smell a rat, or should I say a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I myself am now throwing my support, energy and money behind the green party? I’m beginning to see the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  2. Sam, I am absolutely shocked by your comment especially since you appear to be a mature and educated individual! The application clearly stated from the beginning that they were looking for current students or recent graduates. I graduated last year and am married with a young child. Nonetheless, I have also spent many hours volunteering for the campaign in every capacity possible.
    I think the campaign understands that young adults for the most part do not have many responsibilities therefore it is easier for them to participate in an unpaid program such as this one. Secondly, recruiting young people goes along very well with the Obama theme of change. Senator Obama himself started his career in politics by organizing. Younger people see the world differently and are passionate about it. This is way to get our ideas out there and to gain experience in a world that’s constantly asking for experience when fresh out of college (I’m not saying that older adults are not).
    I understand your anger especially since you had to find out about your rejection “through the grapevine”. But, please be patient with the campaign. As long as I’ve been involved with this campaign I have always been impressed with their professionalism and their helpfulness. I hope after your anger would have vanished you will once again support Senator Barack Obama. We need your vote in the Fall. There are many other ways you can be involved in the campaign so don’t give up yet!

  3. Hey Sam,
    I completely understand your frustration with not being notified by the campaign about the status of your application. If you have still not been contacted by the campaign to tell you if you were accepted or not, and are still interested in participating, I strongly encourage you to email them at fellowship@barackobama.com. I applied at the beginning of may and was told that I would be informed of the status of my application by may 23, however as of yesterday I had still not heard from the campaign. For the past three weeks I have been calling or emailing the campaign daily, and felt it was extremely disrespectful that for all my efforts, and my willingness to put my life on hold for the summer to participate, they did not have the courtesy at least to send me an email informing me that I was not accepted to give me some closure about it. After many emails and phone calls, however, I finally received a call from the campaign informing me that I had been accepted to the program weeks ago, and they claimed that the acceptance email “must have gotten lost in cyberspace” and asked me to call them back immediately to tell them where I wanted to go to work as an organizing fellow! I don’t think I really buy that- they seem incredibly disorganized (which is why I guess they need “organizing” fellows) and I think that they possibly forgot about or misplaced some of the applications or decisions. Anyway, I am headed for PA next Friday and even though I had a very stressful month waiting for them to give me their decision, I cant tell you how excited I am to be participating in this program! If you email them ASAP I’m sure they will at least respond to tell you definitively if you got the fellowship or not (if you still wish to participate) as I know from talking to others that this has happened to many people, and if you act fast I don’t think it will be too late to participate. Also, regarding the initial blog entry- while the FAQ on the website does say that it does not guarantee housing, the campaign is providing housing for everyone who requires it, so that definitely helps out with the money problem for all us poor college grads. Also, I know that a lot of high school students got accepted, so the program is definitely not limited to those in college or with degrees. I’m super excited to get started and cannot wait to begin the Obama revolution! Yes We Can!!

  4. Hi everyone. To Sam: I don’t think that you should allow yourself to be discouraged so quickly. I was accepted into the Fellow Program and contrary to your belief that “the only persons selected are current students and recent graduates,” I am a former Police Detective (six-years) and have been out of law school for more than two-years and am no where close to being an eliteist (my parents did not graduate college and currently I am broke) or having liesure time. The law firm that I was with downsized over six months ago and now I spend every waking day searching for gainful employment. I do not view the time that I will commit to the campaign as “liesure time,” as I could be spending that time searching for another job. What I plan to do is sow a seed-I am confident that the time that I put into the campaign will help me in keeping my spirits up and staying focused on bettering my current situation. Don’t allow negative thoughts of what the campaigns motives might be keep YOU from focusing on the larger picture of all of us working together to better our current situation. I’m sure if you call the campaign headquarters in your city they will be happy to find ways for you to make a contribution to the campaign.


    Glass Half Full

  5. Sam,

    After reading those excellent responses to your frustration, can’t you say that these are your kind of people? Your role may be different, and I know that the Fellows program was disorganized, but this campaign needs people like you with eyes that are not so star-crossed.

  6. Sam:
    Calm down, sir. Just because you weren’t accepted into the program doesn’t mean that Obama is an elitist, and it doesn’t mean that this program is for the sons and daughters of the “well to do.” The fact is, they are looking for people with storied pasts, and diverse experiences. People who may not be otherwise involved in a campaign. In other words, the exact opposite of what you seem to think they are looking for. Now, I cannot speak as to why your app wasn’t accepted, but making a blanket judgement about the campaign and the candidate based on the fact that you didn’t get a spot on the fellowship (which, mind you, is meant as an opportunity for younger people to gain experience that will help them in a future career) is absurd.

  7. I have been accepted as an Obama Organizing Fellows. I received my letter on 5/28/08. I have done something that is historic in nature. I organized the first ever voter registration event in Millbrook, Alabama on 7/12/08. I was able to register 39 new voters and gave out 13 mail-in forms. Many residents of Millbrook were very happy to have someone bring the voter registration to their area, as it saved a lot of time. I will hold another event on 7/26/08 in Millbrook. The Millbrook Independent Community Newspaper has said that they wants to do a feature story on me and what I did. I have contacted radio station 1410, they said that they will announce the 7/26/08 event. I am trying to organize a Plaining Platform in Millbrook, but I need some help. Tom.

  8. I am hoping to work with other Fellows in the Alabama area. I have a brother in Birmingham, Alabama, Darrel Muhammad who wants organize. (darrel_muhammad@yahoo.com) Tom.

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