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Volunteers across America: Pennsylvania

Bill from PennyslvaniaMy name is Bill Browne, and I'm a full-time student—I graduate in December with a degree in social work—and a volunteer data captain for President Obama's campaign near Scranton, Pennsylvania.

In 2008, I read a speech—that's when it started. I hadn't heard much about then-Senator Obama, and this was back during the primary. A friend gave me a written speech, and it was just the most incredible piece of work I had ever read. I did some research, watched a few YouTube videos, and thought, "Wow. This guy is awesome. He really can be president."

A little later, I was walking down the street during the St. Patrick's Day parade. I passed the campaign headquarters on Main Street, and I figured I would go in, maybe stuff some envelopes—just see what I could do.

We had a very good field organizer back then, but my background is in technology. So when I saw that people kept coming up with the same names on their call sheets, I knew it was because they weren't entering their data after each call, which meant they weren't reaching as many people as they could have been. So I learned how to use the program, and I wound up putting in over 1,000 hours. I'm an insomniac, and I found I could stay up late at night doing data. That was an incredible campaign, and it was incredible to win it.

Afterwards, I stayed involved in politics, and I kept in touch with the friends I had made through the campaign. So when the election came around again, my phone rang right away with someone saying, "We'd like to meet with you," and I just got that same 2008 feeling.

From that moment, I never looked back. I like to say I have a foot in every door: I'm about to turn 53, I'm a college student, I'm black, I'm gay, and my 2008 friends say I'm an honorary Woman for Obama since I go to their meetings. So if you have me on your side, I can get a lot of people helping you, as long as you're someone I believe in—and I believe in President Obama. I know he's still the change we've been waiting for.

He's done so much over the last three years, but the Affordable Care Act is what I really find amazing. I want to be a geriatric care manager, and I've seen what it's done for the elderly. I go to school with college students, and I know what it means to young people to be able to stay on their parents' insurance plan. I've done some volunteer work for people with HIV who were afraid to change jobs because they weren't sure their employer would cover their pre-existing conditions. For so many reasons, this is the health care we need.

I hear a lot of what people are saying all around Pennsylvania, because I enter the data when people come back from knocking on doors and making phone calls. I get to read the comments section of those sheets—and the issues are all across the board. People know what's at stake,from women's rights to the economy and jobs—that's a big one. On college campuses, it's keeping down the cost of higher education and not raising the interest rate on student loans. I'm hoping the progress the President is making on a national level will keep pushing parts of my state forward—that because he said he supports same-sex marriage, maybe we can finally get laws passed in my county to help end discrimination. The list spans the entire spectrum.

Over the next three months, I'm planning on throwing myself into this campaign wholeheartedly. On Saturday we're having a big party at our local office for the President's birthday—and it's my birthday, too, so that should be a good celebration to kick things off. I'll be starting school again, but I've only got classes two days a week. With the rest of my time, I'm going to teach as many people as I can to do data coordination the way I do it. I'll keep on doing one of my favorite things as a volunteer, which is talking to people to dispel myths and get them the facts they need to make a rational decision. And we all need to spend some time making sure everyone's not just registered to vote—they're ready to walk in there and do it.

Join volunteers like Bill—sign up today to lend a hand in your community.

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