Activist reaps rewards -- an Obama hug

Tuesday June 26, 2012


On Monday, I got to meet President Obama, shake his hand, hug him, and take a picture. Who would have thought.

Coming of age in the 1960s, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I barely tuned in to politics in my earlier years. Instead, I threw myself into traveling, meditating, saving the planet and raising a family.

In 2004, I worked to "green" the Democratic National Convention at the FleetCenter in Boston. I was checking recycling bins in the building when I felt a roar come out of the hall. In my gut, I knew something significant had happened. I later read Obama's speech from that day and was surprised that I felt so touched by a politician's words.

Fast forward to 2008. I was smitten by the hope and sheer positivity of the Obama campaign. I had become fascinated by the process we call government. Feeling a call to engage for the first time, I felt participation mattered. I sensed something new on the horizon. I committed to doing everything I could to elect Obama so that I could face myself the morning after Election Day.

I took a few months off work and set up a phone bank in Lenox where hundreds of Berkshireites made calls, many participating like me for the first time in the political process. I knew little beyond the fact that I wanted to engage others. It was a success on many levels and it whet my appetite for more.

I've since attended the Women's Fund of Western Mass Leadership Institute and the Yale Women's Campaign School. I now know a little more about what I'm doing, and this current election season fills and fuels my every moment.

I've had the wonderful opportunity to be trained by the Obama for America campaign and to be assigned as the regional lead for the Berkshires. I've been meeting so many neighbors in the county, all devoted to engaging with the political process.

Imagine my thrill when I got a call a few days ago that I was invited to greet the president on the tarmac when he arrived at Logan International Airport. This was the campaign's way of thanking me for my efforts.

I was the lone Berkshire County resident invited to the airport.

I tell you, working in this sphere of positivity is its own reward. Being surrounded by folks dedicated to taking part in the creation of a better country and world is a great fulfillment. But stepping onto the tarmac Monday, seeing Air Force One roll toward me, standing at the bottom of the stairs he descended -- it all filled me with awe and gratitude.

The chance to shake the hand of this courageous man, to hear him say ‘thank you' for my hard work, to be able to express my gratitude and respect, and then to have a hug -- wow.

This is a moment I will never forget, a moment that will fuel my every moment from now through Election Day on Nov. 6.

Susan Olshuff is a Lenox resident. For information about how to get involved in the 2012 presidential election, contact her at


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