While Furman University students on campus were gearing up for a new school year full of essays, tests and lab assignments, senior Marcus Tate and junior Quentin James were on the political trail beginning paid positions on Barack Obama's campaign for "change" in North Carolina and Ohio.
Tate, stationed in Raleigh, N.C., is working as part of the senior state staff as an information technologist at the state headquarters. He receives a salary of $3,500 a month and under a program called "supporter housing," also receives lodging. Volunteers supporting the cause open up their homes to those working on the campaign until Election Day. Working twelve-hour days, seven days a week, Tate ensures the functionality of the telephones and computers assigned to all the other workers at headquarters.
"I have been told that my job is very important as I am the one that keeps 'everything running' and have always enjoyed knowing that my work is always appreciated," Tate said.
James is taking a politically hands-on approach as an assistant to the Youth Vote Director in managing operations on 30 targeted colleges. One of those colleges, Ohio State University, happens to number more than 57,000 students.
"Ohio is the most important state in this election. Also, Ohio has the second highest number of college students in the country," he said.
James works long hours seven days a week starting at 9 a.m. He describes his work as community organizing.
He said, "We give great leaders credit for helping shape a better America, but it's actually the local community organizers who motivate regular, everyday people to make America better themselves."
Both men possess different political perspectives and reasons for working on Senator Obama's campaign. An active student on campus, James is a passionate Democrat hoping to be a part of history.
He said, "I'm on the front-line of an improbable, historical election. America is at the edge of a breakthrough, and I will be able to say I did something, I did my part."
On the contrary, Tate who describes himself as a right leaning moderate, fell into the job.
"I didn't apply on my own will," he said, "An old high school friend is the Operations Director and was looking to fill my position. It was a little hard to stomach that I would work for a campaign that had little in common with my views."
After some consideration however, Tate came to the conclusion that it could be a gratifying experience.
"I have always admired the passion and energy that Obama has placed in many around the country and in his campaign. I have worked on many campaigns and never have I seen so many people, young and old, have such a passion, drive and determination for their candidate and working to make this movement a success come Election Day," Tate said.
With the rest of his coworkers aware of the fact that he identifies more with the Republican ideologies, he explains that it works well because he is able to explain different issues and what is important to people on the other side of the race.
Although their reasons for working on the campaign differ, both young men are gaining experience for a life in politics.
After graduation, Tate aspires to become a lawyer and one day run for office, using the knowledge gained from his experience in campaigning. James stll has one year left at Furman, but after graduating he eventually would like to work in Washington D.C. improving the lives of everyday people.
As far as the election goes, Tate believes this is anyone's race, but James has not lost faith in his candidate.
"I feel Senator Obama has the infrastructure to not only win this election, but to help spark a desire and commitment from the American people to make things better for the future," James said.