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Volunteers Across America: Illinois

State of the Union House Party—Chicago, Illinois, January 24th, 2012

My name is Simone Stephenson. I work in sales, and I'm a volunteer for President Obama's campaign in my hometown (and his): Chicago, Illinois.

In a way, I first joined the President's campaign when I was in high school. Every Chicago public school student had to have a certain number of community service hours to graduate—so my mom made me volunteer for this guy, Barack Obama. He was a state senator who wasn't even that well known outside of the city, and it was just me, him, and one other person in that office working side by side. Now that I'm older and take advantage of every opportunity I get, I can hardly believe how lucky I was—but back then I was just trying to get my hours in and go to the movies with my friends.

A few years later, he was in the U.S. Senate and I was a college student applying for summer internships in D.C. I think he remembered me from home, because I got a job interning for his office on Capitol Hill. In 2007, I started volunteering for his presidential campaign. I traveled to the Carolinas, where I knocked on doors, made phone calls, and tried to be as active as I could, because I really felt strongly about getting him in the White House.

Almost four years later, we're back at it again. I'm phonebanking every week, and I'm about to start as a phone bank captain with a neighborhood team in Chicago's 2nd Ward. My favorite part of what I do is meeting people who have the same goals as me—it's really nice to be surrounded by people who want to see President Obama in the White House for another term. I love having that common bond.

The President has a lot of support here in Illinois because he's taking action on some of the issues that affect us most directly. Home ownership is a big deal here, and just yesterday, the President spoke about the mortgage crisis and what needs to be done. We were raised to believe that owning a home is part of doing well in this country, but it's getting harder and harder. I'm glad the President is going out on a limb to help with that.

I also appreciate the President's efforts to take on student loan debt. I've been fortunate not to have to deal with student loans, but I have really close friends who are struggling and can't afford other necessities because they have to pay their student loans. I think that's ridiculous. Education shouldn't be so expensive that only the wealthy can afford it—I think everybody should have a fair shot, so that's high on my list.

The reasons I came to this campaign are the same reasons I'm still in it today. From the very beginning, President Obama ran his platform on this idea of hope and change. He's done a lot to help people, and he has changed this country for the better—but even more important, he's given people hope. He wasn't born into an elite family; he was born into a family like ours. He always says his story is only possible in America, but before he was elected, his story wasn't something any of us could have imagined. And that gives people hope. It gives little kids hope that no matter how poor you are or what your race is or where you come from, you really can do anything—even be president. It was a far-fetched idea, but now we know it's true.

Stay connected with Simone and the rest of the team by following @OFA_Illinois on Twitter—and don't forget to check the state blog for updates.

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