White House Senior Legal Assistant Mika Rothman (far left) during the 2008 presidential campaign. •  Photo by Kelly Jo Smart
White House Senior Legal Assistant Mika Rothman (far left) during the 2008 presidential campaign. • Photo by Kelly Jo Smart

The following is a reflection from API White House staffer Mika Rothman:

In the summer of 2007, I boarded a plane for Des Moines, Iowa to work as an intern for then-Senator Obama’s longshot campaign. I remember late nights at 323 East Locust Street — I don’t think I’ll ever forget the Des Moines campaign office’s address — hunched over laptops, typing voter contact data into Excel spreadsheets, and early mornings stacking packets of canvassing materials. Any campaign veteran can proudly tell stories of all-nighters and the pre-sunrise starts to their days. But I saw a special type of dedication in the campaign’s tireless field organizers and my fellow interns. We were committed to spending every waking hour working to elect Barack Obama, but we were also building a grassroots organization to empower Americans within their own communities.

That summer, polls across the state put Barack Obama well behind in the caucus race. Numbers from the revered Des Moines Register to the Iowa State Fair — in which fairgoers dropped one corn kernel in a jar for their favored candidate — indicated that our campaign was climbing an uphill battle. But instead of fretting over poll percentages, our campaign was focused on building teams of supporters, empowered to organize for Barack Obama in their own neighborhoods across Iowa. It was a model inspired by Barack Obama’s work as a community organizer in Chicago.

White House Senior Legal Assistant Mika Rothman. • Courtesy Photo
White House Senior Legal Assistant Mika Rothman. • Courtesy Photo

The campaign’s foundation in community organizing is what makes this photo so special to me. I am standing outside 323 East Locust Street with my fellow interns on January 4th, 2008, the day after Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses. We traded our summer t-shirts for winter parkas for a week and a half of “Get Out The Caucus.” The five of us spent long nights and early mornings together, alongside energized volunteers and heroic field organizers. We were just five out of hundreds of interns and staff across the state and country who had worked tirelessly over many months to get to that day. But the five of us felt an incredible bond amongst ourselves and with those throughout Iowa and across the country. We all shared a sense of community and purpose in our work to get Barack Obama to the White House.

Mika Rothman
White House staffer

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