Volunteers across America: New York

Barack Obama

My name is Mike Bliss. I’m a student and a new volunteer with President Obama’s campaign in Rochester, New York.

I’m 25 years old, and I grew up in Rochester. After high school, I started working on my associate’s degree in business administration at my local community college, then transferred to the University of Buffalo. Unfortunately I was seriously hurt during my second semester, when I was assaulted by two kids and rendered a quadriplegic.

After that, I dropped out of school and focused on rehab. Two years later, I decided to start school again—and now, I’m one class away from finishing my finance degree.

There’s one other thing you should know: Up until a couple years ago, I was a Republican. I grew up in a conservative town, and my dad is pretty conservative. I used to work at a pizza shop, and I would listen to the GOP pundits after work and think “oh, those liberals … ” It looked pretty terrible from the outside.

But something started to happen after I got hurt. It started with embryonic stem cell research, and then I started looking at social and economic issues. Social Security helped me go back to school and get a little bit of income as I was getting back on my feet. Then on the other side, you’ve got the Republicans talking about getting rid of government and not helping people dig themselves out of holes like the one I found myself in. So the way I see it, I took a turn for the best.

I decided to get involved in re-electing the President because I believe in him and what he’s doing for our country. It was a little overwhelming at first, but it’s gotten easier—and it’s nice to be around people who are open-minded and share my politics. I started out by going to a couple trainings, got my feet wet, did some phone-banking and voter registration—and then a week or so ago, I held a phone bank at my home. I’ve met with some great people and love learning more about the grassroots team we’re building.

People here in New York care a lot about the economy and health care—two issues that have impacted me directly, and I’m just starting to realize what a personal connection I have to our politics. After I got hurt, the insurance company didn’t want to pay for my wheelchair, things like that, and it was just a nightmare. I’ve seen firsthand why health care in this country is a broken system that needs to be fixed, and I’ve really come to value the efforts to reform it. This week’s news is something I really appreciate—I’m so happy to see all that hard work is going to pay off.

We’re considered a border state, which I think is pretty cool. We hold our events here—voter registration, volunteer drives—but we’re also helping out in Pennsylvania, which is a closer state that we’re going to make sure goes to the President. So we kind of have a dual responsibility.

To anyone who’s thinking about getting involved: Your time is crucial to winning this election, and any second you can spare can go a long way toward getting the job done. While we don’t have the same availability of funds as the other side, we’re building a pretty impressive volunteer team—that’s where we get our power.

Help power this campaign by signing up to volunteer today.


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