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“It all starts with a conversation”

Every neighborhood team needs a leader—a person who's committed to building support President Obama in his or her community. For Edwina and James Marshall, leaders of Team Lansing in Michigan, their journey began in 2008 when they started hearing about then-Senator Obama in conversations with friends.

“In 2008, I got a call from a friend who was excited about this skinny young guy from Chicago she had seen on television,” explains Edwina, who worked as a music teacher in Michigan public schools. “I had never heard of him, but I always took the word of my close friends. I started listening to his speeches—listening intently when he spoke of education and the responsibility of the community as a whole to get things done—and I was excited.”

For James it was when Edwina got interested—she’d never paid much attention to the political process—that he decided to tune in, too:

“When Edwina told me about this guy from Chicago, I knew there had to be something special. There was a special significance to a young black man running for the highest office in the country, having spent my entire career holding employers accountable to equal-opportunity regulations here in Michigan.”

When they received an email about a 2008 campaign office opening in downtown Lansing, they headed over. James and Edwina got straight to work—recruiting other volunteers. They also became the welcoming committee for new staff and out-of-state volunteers: organizing housing, cooking everyone healthy meals, and hosting weekly team meetings in their home every Monday.

“We had never seen people working this hard--especially the young people. Their energy and endless enthusiasm inspired us every day.”

James and Edwina’s proudest moment was setting up an outdoor voter registration and information tent in the middle of a strip mall in South Lansing.

“People didn’t always trust you, especially when you were talking about politics,” explains Edwina. “But we stayed there. And every day, more people came to register. Soon enough, they were sending over their friends to register and ask us about Obama. It all starts with a conversation.”

After the 2008 election, James and Edwina continued to volunteer with OFA Michigan. In 2011, they signed up to host a State of the Union house party, and nearly 100 people showed up. Seeing how good they were at inspiring other members of their community to get involved, Regional Field Director Jody Money asked James to be a Neighborhood Team Leader and Edwina to be his deputy.

“It was a no-brainer,” says James about their decision to take on more responsibility. “Sharing information about the President and the political process, talking to people, strengthening our community, and leading others to do the same—it’s priceless. That’s what our team—and this campaign—is all about.”

James and Edwina are going to be working even harder over the next nine months—Team Lansing had over 25 people turn out for their team meeting this past week, a full house.

If you’re ready to meet the Edwina and James of your community, find a campaign event near you today.

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