It was the week before the election. I left Lexington, KY and made my way to Dayton, OH. The gang was late. I waited anxiously, texting to confirm ETA's and yelling for Nicole to hurry up. Slowly but surely the crew arrived and, finally, Nicole strolled out looking like "Obama Girl"…

Including bright blue heels.

I asked, "You sure you want to wear those shoes??!! Then, I decided to drop it. We were late and I figured what the hell, maybe it will work to our advantage.

The headquarters was packed. People had traveled from all across the country to this swing state. Earlier that day, a bus full of volunteers had arrived all the way from Texas. One of my favorite out-of-state volunteers was a guy from Boston who, despite his health conditions, caught a bus to Ohio to give his time. The "on-foot" aspect was too much for him to handle and I remember worrying about his safety. So, we suggested that he drive while we hit the pavement. Leigh, of course, asked to see his driver's license before she would hand over the keys.

Getting out the vote was hard work and required some thick skin. I still have bad dreams about a lady with a bad mullet that told me she hated Obama and then proceeded to slam the door in my face…hard. If I hadn't caught the "Symbolic Religious" sign as it flew off the door, it would've beheaded her dressed-up fake duck.

Then there were others, like the lady we approached while she was doing yard work. She was laid off months ago and was most concerned about Ohio jobs. Kami and I got hear her story, listen to her concerns, and talk about solutions. I had been tired and was ready to call it a day. That lady gave me the energy to keep going.

We didn't do anything special or out of the ordinary. There were millions of Americans giving their time, way more than we did. My Dad was on the other end of the state doing the same thing for the other team. And, despite our drastically different views, we were both proud of each other.

On election night, our group was again together as the deciding results came in. We looked at each other and said, almost simultaneously, "What can we do next? Let's get to the real work." We all knew this was simply the beginning.

Recently, someone asked me, "I bet that made you all feel really good, but do you really think what you did made a difference?"

No. I think millions of Americans doing the same thing did.

And, millions of Americans dedicating their time, talents, and passions can fix this Country.

Yesterday, fueled by President Elect Obama's call to service, millions of Americans volunteered for more than 12,100 service projects taking place across the country.

Today a new President is sworn into office.

This new administration is calling on people from every walk of life and citizens of all ages to serve and work together to repair our nation. They'll be expanding national service programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps and will create new service organizations to meet the nation's challenges:

• A Classroom Corps to help under-served schools

• A Health Corps to serve in the nation's clinics and hospitals

• A Clean Energy Corps to achieve the goal of energy independence

• A Veterans Corps to support the Americans who serve by standing in harm's way

They are setting a goal that all middle school and high school students engage in 50 hours of community service per year. College students who engage in 100 hours of community service will receive a fully refundable tax credit of $4,000 for their education.

The online office of the President Elect, www.change.gov (www.whitehouse.gov after today), created a venue for citizens to share their ideas and solutions on the issues facing the new administration. You can go online, read the ideas, and vote for the ones you like the best. To date, over 125,000 users have submitted over 44,000 ideas and casted over 1.4 million votes. The most popular ideas will be gathered into a Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he has taken the oath of office.

It doesn't matter where you're traveling from or what kind of shoes you decide to wear for the journey…

Now more than ever before, there are ways you CAN make a difference, have a seat at the table, and impact change.

Will you?


BE the Change
www.usaservice.org

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Non-Operator
Comment by Matt Smith on January 20, 2009 at 8:13am
Volunteering really is the best way for us to be a part of the change Amanda! We can talk all we want about how to fix the economy, get more jobs back (of course in restaurants, we hope we can help here soon), or fix things that are broken on Capitol hill, but the first, most relevant thing we can do is lend a hand.

It's great to have hope in a new administration, but to fix what's going on in our country, it starts with every individual.

We're doing a huge party tonight in Denver to celebrate service and the inauguration. Make sure you check out Service Nation (www.servicenation.org) to sign the declaration of service and connect to your local volunteer center for opportunities via Hands On Network (www.handsonnetwork.org) !

If we all just commit 10 hours by 2010, imagine the change we can affect!

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