With a big smile and a soft voice, Megan Klein has slipped comfortably into the big sneakers of Mike Litt as OFA’s Central Texas Regional Field Director. If you haven’t met her by now, you’ve been hiding from Democratic activism way too long. She’s everywhere.
Klein is proof positive that President Obama has attracted young leaders from lots of diverse backgrounds. An English major from the University of Texas, she was design editor of the Daily Texan, studied at the University of Sussex in England, learned to speak Mandarin, taught English to students in Taiwan, landed a White House internship, taught Mandarin to pre-schoolers in Round Rock, taught a leadership program at the Texas Youth Foundation in Killeen, wrote web articles for a New York-based marketing firm and then landed at OFA with Mike Litt.
Before heading to the State Convention in Houston, where President Obama’s delegates to the National Convention in Charlotte will be chosen, and before moving OFA’s office to the TCDP’s new Coordinated Campaign office at 2406 Manor Road, Klein spent a few minutes with us on the phone.
QUESTION: How did your enthusiasm for President Obama come about? Were you one of the millions of young volunteers in 2008?
KLEIN: No, I was in Taiwan in ’08. But I was a White House intern a year later in the Office of Presidential Correspondence — which is the mailroom — and I spent 45 hours a week reading letters from the public. That was before the health care legislation passed, and most of the letters were about people’s struggles with health care and how their mortgages were under water.
I just felt that it was important for people’s stories to be heard, and being able to connect people’s personal stories to the campaign is what it’s all about. Everyone who comes to volunteer here has a meaningful story. I really believed in what the President was saying, and that he was interested in getting regular people involved.
QUESTION: I know you and other OFA staffers will be attending the State Convention, but will you also go to the National Convention in September?
KLEIN: No, the OFA staff doesn’t get those perks, and we’re used to it. My perk is that I get paid!
QUESTION: Have you ever met the President, either in Washington or here in Texas?
KLEIN: No, but I don’t really feel like I need to. The work that I do is really what I’m in it for.
QUESTION: What will OFA be doing this summer to rev up support and excitement for the fall election?
KLEIN: We have 30 summer organizers who just started who will be working from June through August throughout Central Texas, basically from Waco to San Antonio. Those people are committed to 15 hours a week to organize.
And we’ll have what we call core team members and neighborhood team leaders, volunteers who have stepped up to say they’ll be involved in Austin through the November election. The goal is to have 150 core team members and 15 neighborhood team leaders. The team leaders are like our precinct chairs.
QUESTION: So you’re still recruiting the core team and neighborhood team leaders? How can people volunteer for those opportunities?
KLEIN: They can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or come to our office (1311 E. 6th Street until Thursday, then 2406 Manor Road). Some people volunteer for only an hour a month, some for two hours a week. Whatever level, it’s just important that they come and get involved.
QUESTION: We hear all the time about Texas being such a “red state,” but the President comes here often and OFA hums along year-round in Texas. What is expected of us in 2012?
KLEIN: At the last fundraiser in Houston, President Obama said he wants the state to be purple by the next election and then blue after that. OFA has a really good structure in place — we have volunteers who come in who have never volunteered at all. We really do engage people who are not normally involved in politics. We have the manpower to contact people who have never been contacted before. The point is to send people past this election cycle and through to the next cycle. The focus this summer is getting in touch with people who want to volunteer, and in the fall we’ll work on getting out the vote. We’ll get there.