A reward of presidential proportionsMadeline Nelson checked off one of her top five bucket list items a couple weeks ago: Meeting the president.
By: Amber Ooley, Lake County News Chronicle
Madeline Nelson checked off one of her top five bucket list items a few weeks ago.
“When he walked through the room he seemed like an illusion,” Nelson said. “He didn’t seem real.”
After winning a contest, Nelson, the daughter of Mark and Kathy Nelson of Finland, was given the opportunity to spend a few minutes with the President of the United States on June 1.
Nelson is a team lead volunteer for President Obama’s campaign, Organizing for America, working in Duluth’s Hillside neighborhood.
Minnesota’s Day of Action on May 19 was dedicated to spreading word to the community the importance of supporting Obama in this year’s election.
An incentive was given to volunteers who were able to have conversations with at least 40 people. If they were successful, their name was entered into a contest to meet the president as he visited Minnesota for a speech and campaign stop.
“You’ll make over 300 calls in one day but you’ll only have about 40 people sit down and talk to you,” Nelson said.
Nelson sat on the phone from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. to make sure she had at least 40 people talk with her. Due to low contact rates for others, she was lucky enough to not only be entered into the contest, but also win.
Nelson was one of 10 volunteers selected to take part in a brief session with the president at The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, a restaurant owned by Gov. Mark Dayton’s sons.
The volunteers waited patiently for a couple of hours until the president entered the room. Each of them were given a few minutes with him along with a photo keepsake.
“I told him I thought he has a good heart and that it is very apparent in his policy-making decisions,” Nelson said.
Obama gave Nelson a hug and said that he loved her name because it’s the same as his grandmother’s.
“I was so star struck, by the time I left the building I turned around and thought – Oh my gosh, did that just happen?” Nelson said.
Nelson’s visit with the president went by quickly but she said she will treasure the photograph for the rest of her life, along with copies her friends and family have received.
“When I saw the picture I cried,” said Mary Anselment, Nelson’s aunt. “I just couldn’t help it.”
Anselment, who lives in Silver Bay, has the photo as her desktop screen saver and when she shares the photo with others they ask if it’s been edited.
Nelson said she grew up in a very politically-conscious household where there were always things to be said.
“I always joke that I was a Democrat at age 10,” Nelson said.
Nelson was frustrated with politics as she worked to get a bachelor’s degree in communications at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She wasn’t through, though.
Landing an internship with Obama’s first campaign, Nelson relit her passion for polictics.
She decided to go back to UMD for a masters in Advocacy and Political Leadership.
“It’s a weird thing,” Nelson said. “Once you start working in a campaign, you fall in love with it.”
Nelson’s works on social issues such as equality and rights of those with lower incomes.
“I’m just really proud of the work she’s done for his campaign,” Anselment said.
Nelson has a steady job and said she isn’t on the lookout for a permanent campaign career. She does hope her volunteer experience will lead to some part-time campaign work.
Obama’s campaign in Duluth divides the city into neighborhoods of similar demographics for outreach. Nelson took over the Hillside neighborhood as soon as she could. She mostly organizes and coordinates the volunteers, but also makes phone calls.
“I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing for anyone to meet the president,” Anselment said.
Still in awe, Nelson could hardly remember the date she met President Obama.
“It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” she said.