The Road to Obama — How Volunteering Led Me Straight to the President

– Posted in: Movies, Websites, Worst Mom Reviews

So here’s something I’ve never told you guys: I met the president. I even got to talk to him. And he hugged me.

And no, I haven’t OD’d on pain meds — I’m being serious.

I don’t talk about this a lot (clearly, since I’ve been blogging for almost four years and am just mentioning it now). It feels self-serving and braggy, and the only reason I ended up meeting him was because I was doing something that I loved — and doing it with absolutely no expectation of return or reward. So why talk about it now? I’ll get to that. But first, the story…

My kids were 2 and 4 in April 2007. That previous fall, I’d worked on my very first campaign — Jill Derby for Congress. It freed me from the shackles of motherhood — not kidding. For four years, I’d been practically homebound with my son who’d been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. I never left the house. These were the dark ages, before millions of people were blogging and everyone had laptops, so I was very much alone.

Anyway, I finally got the kids into a preschool program for three glorious hours on two mornings, and I spent them making phone calls and manning the desk at this campaign. It was like coming up for air after being underwater for just a tiny bit too long.

After it was over, my husband asked if I’d planned to do it again since it seemed to make me so happy. “No, I need to believe in a person. I can’t just go work for anyone.” And that’s when it happened — Barack Obama entered the 2008 primary.

I was one of  a handful of people in Reno who started on his campaign. Hillary Clinton (who I admire up the wazoo and hope will be our next president) was the presumptive nominee. NO ONE thought he would win. Hell, no one even knew who he was…

We poured everything we could into that campaign. I say “we” because anything that our family could possibly put on the back burner was put there. We ferreted out every single person we possibly could who might be “one of ours.” Walked for miles. Talked for hours.

But here’s the thing — I didn’t do any of it because I wanted something back — at least not for myself. Yes, I wanted the country to be better for my family and me. I wanted to make a difference. But I wasn’t expecting a job or special treatment or even a pat on the back.

The funny thing about finding a problem that needs fixing is that it sometimes sort of ends up fixing you. During the Obama campaign, I not only came up for air, I stayed on the surface…and breathed. I ended up working all the way through to the November 2008 elections. And one day, when we were preparing for then-Senator Obama to come into town, I was asked to fill in for the speaker who couldn’t introduce him the next day — in front of 2,000 people.

It’s amazing what you can do when you’ve found your breath…


President Barack Obama and Tammy Soong in Reno


Anyway, the reason I thought of this story was because I found this — it’s called the Community Action Pack. I know there are a ton of you out there who want to do something, but you don’t know what it is. You see stuff happening that bothers you, but you don’t know how to change it. Or maybe you’re underwater and you just need that “something” to help you bust through the surface.

So background — this thing is put together by a group called Take Part, which pretty much tries to find really cool, relevant stories about people who’ve actually been able to change their communities. The hope is that when we see these stories, we’ll get all inspired and want to do the same thing (sort of a psychic pay-it-forward). Take Part is also part of the company that’s behind all of those crazy liberal movies that we all love like An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc., and Promised Land.

Anyway, the Community Action Pack has a redonkulous number of tools in it to help you figure out how to make actual changes happen, such as:

  • Share your ideas with city leaders
  • Start or sign petitions
  • Track Congressional bills
  • Hook up with volunteer opportunities that actually fit with your life
  • Start you very own community project — they’ll even walk you through the social media part (websites, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Get funding
  • And seriously, the list goes on…


And if you’re super confused and don’t even know what the heck you want to do at all, there’s even a sort of “What Color is your Parachute” type quiz that takes you through and helps you figure it out.

I look at this stuff and it kind of makes me want to cry because when you work really hard on a project and you don’t know what they heck you’re doing, it’s so hard to start from scratch. And I’ve been there so many times. Just the info on social media alone would’ve been helpful.

The thing is, I think most of us want to do something to help. Most of us want to make the world a better place for our kids and grandkids. But we watch TV, see all the political fighting and corporate money, and we don’t know where to start.

This is one place. And trust me, I’ve seen it happen. If you go in with an open heart (bah, I’m sounding really Hallmarky now), you’ll be amazed at what it can bring your way.

Be that person who break the water’s surface. Start the ripple, and give us all a push.


The fine folks at Linquia hooked me up with a sponsor for this post, but frankly I would’ve done it regardless because this stuff rocks. And don’t forget that January 19th is the Martin Luther King National Day of Service — perfect time to put this to use.



19 Comments… add one

Molly January 16, 2013, 4:58 am

Good idea to so all this! My favorite line, “The funny thing about finding a problem that needs fixing is that it sometimes sort of ends up fixing you.” Amen.

Tammy January 16, 2013, 11:16 am

Of course you would love that line. That’s so you. And I know, I love all of this stuff. There’s nothing worse than running into barriers when you’re trying to help.

Kelly DeBie January 16, 2013, 6:02 am

Tammy!!! That is awesome.

Tammy January 16, 2013, 11:16 am

Thanks Kel! I knew you’d love this.

Mary January 16, 2013, 9:17 am

Matthew is now considering changing his major to a “community Organizing” major. There is something specific in there that it is called but I am the Worlds Worst Mom and cannot remember. I love that he wants to give back.

Tammy January 16, 2013, 11:19 am

Hmm, gee, I wonder where he would’ve gotten such crazy ideas…

That’s truly awesome. I could totally see him doing that. You need energy, enthusiasm, the ability to inspire and connect with people. He has all of that in spades.

Susanne January 16, 2013, 11:13 am

Thank you for this post. I feel like I’ve been filling up my days with stupid stuff. Now that the kids are in school full day, I’m ready to try and do something. I’m sharing your post right now!!

Tammy January 16, 2013, 11:23 am

I think you and I have been on a similar trajectory. There was the campaign and we made time for that. Then there was the burn out. And then there was section where the kids were in school but you still seem to have no time. I’m hoping the leveling off period is here and we can pull it together.

But I’m glad this got you going! It really is well put together. It makes you feel kind of hopeful even.;)

Claire January 16, 2013, 11:43 am

So cool.

..and if anyone wants an excuse to study the issues in depth to figure out how you could fit in and/or educate the public so they get the connections…The League of Women Voters is still around. It’s been co-ed for a long time, but the name is the same.

Claire January 16, 2013, 11:46 am

Full disclosure to previous comment: my dearly departed mom was the Prez of her LWV chapter…twice…and LWV has always been full of very cool, educated women who know a “redonkulous” (love that word) amount of cool stuff about politics and their communities.

Tammy January 16, 2013, 1:03 pm

Dang, I always forget about them. And they always come out with great stuff during election time. Serious unsung heroes.

That’s really cool that your mom was the prez. What an incredible role model.

Alise January 16, 2013, 9:31 pm

It’s so rewarding to be a part of something bigger than self. Thanks for sharing.


Tammy January 17, 2013, 12:41 am

It was a great time. Meeting you and Tom was one of the best parts. And I know you know exactly what I’m talking about with all of this. xo

Lily from It's A Dome Life January 18, 2013, 7:49 am

I would totally brag about meeting Obama. I like Hilary too. This is a great resource for people! thank you for writing about it.

Tammy January 30, 2013, 9:54 pm

I’m glad you thought it was helpful. I would’ve loved to have had this thing around when I was trying to start up (and failed to start up) our non-profit.

Paige January 18, 2013, 2:52 pm

I have a picture just like that! But mine is with a cardboard cut out at the Reno Dems first inauguration party. Yours is infinitely better.

Tammy January 30, 2013, 9:54 pm

Haha! But that was a good party.

The AnimatedWoman December 2, 2014, 2:22 pm

I JUST SAW THIS. And all I can think is, “I hugged someone who was hugged by Barack Obama.”

You never said anything. You’re amazing. And strange.

I hafta love that.
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Tammy Soong December 2, 2014, 11:53 pm

Definitely strange. Not so sure about the amazing. :p
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