Obama's Back-up Singers

Here are details on the people who will be joining Barack Obama before he climbs to the podium at the Democratic National Convention. (drum roll please...)

Barb Sackman of Fallon, Montana
Barb is a teacher living in Fallon, Montana, a town of 150. She lives on her family's wheat and cattle farm, and rising fuel prices are making it hard to get by. She hopes Barack's plan for alternative bio-fuels will help the struggling economy in rural Montana. Barb volunteers for her church, sits on a hospital board, and organizes community events in Fallon. Barb says Barack "genuinely cares about the problems of people like me. We appreciate his continued trips to Montana to let us know that we are not forgotten." She will attend the convention with her husband.

Lenny Julius of Emerald Isle, North Carolina
Lenny is a retired naval officer who believes the Iraq War was a serious strategic mistake. He says that in 2000 he looked forward to seeing John McCain, a fellow shipmate, in the Oval Office, having known and served with him in Vietnam -- but no more. "Senator McCain has become a strong supporter of the Bush policies -- policies which have led to disaster both at home and abroad." He was won over by Barack's communication skills, leadership abilities, and intelligence. Lenny is an auto parts manager at AutoZone in Emerald Isle, a heavily Republican town where he says there are many "closet Barack supporters." Lenny remembers staying up late when he was young to watch John F. Kennedy accept the nomination at the last truly open convention in 1960. He will come to the convention this year with his wife.

Anne Rector of Indianapolis, Indiana
Anne is a retired budget analyst for the federal government. She says the first time she saw Barack at the 2004 convention, she thought, "This is Everyman. He is Kansan and he is Kenyan; he is African and he is Anglo-American; he is common sense and he is eloquence; he is dynamic and he is down to earth." Anne is an active volunteer for the campaign, as well as for a local animal protection group. She hosts a weekly local radio program named Art and Review, in which she reads to the blind. Anne strongly believes in the protection of our civil liberties. She will attend with a friend and fellow campaign supporter.

James T. Fondriest of Massillon, Ohio
James, a 22-year-old law student and graduate of Ohio State University, never thought he would vote for anyone other than a Republican. An active Bush-Cheney supporter in 2004, he became disillusioned with his state party and Republicans' handling of Iraq, health care, and education. "Barack Obama has inspired me to believe in politics again and, most importantly, the power of the ordinary citizen," he writes. "Although I still identify as a Republican and still stand for some conservative values, I finally feel like America has found a leader it can look up to and trust." Leading up to the Ohio primary, James made over 500 "Buckeyes for Obama" T-shirts and donated the profits to the campaign. He plans to bring his father with him to the convention.

John Volkmar of Boulder, Colorado
John served in the U.S. Army for 10 years. He says his two tours in Iraq with the 10th Special Forces Group opened his eyes to "the link between our country's lack of an effective energy policy and our flawed foreign policy." John believes changing this relationship is an essential step towards ensuring that our government works for the interest of the American people instead of special interest groups. He is now pursuing an MBA and hopes to work in the alternative energy industry. He is coming to Denver with his wife.

Marsha Shearer of Orlando, Florida
Marsha is a retired elementary school principal. She has phone banked and canvassed for Obama in Florida, and has been a supporter since even before Barack made the decision to run. Marsha believes that both the Iraq War and America's dependence on oil are negatively affecting the health of our economy. She supports Barack because he is not a typical politician. "He represents something above and beyond," she says. "I haven't felt so energized since McCarthy, trying to end the Vietnam War." She will bring her college-age granddaughter to the convention.

Trinace Johnson of Richmond, Virginia
Trinace is a single mother and disabled veteran who served overseas for the Iraq War. She currently works for the U.S. Army as a public affairs specialist. She has voted since the age of 18, but this is the first time she has actively been involved with a political campaign. Trinace is inspired by Senator Obama's message of change and his plans to address all of the issues that she cares deeply about: veterans' support, education, stopping the war, tax breaks for the middle class, gas prices and health care. Trinace became motivated to get involved when her neighborhood ran out of ballots in the primaries, and is determined to ensure access to voting in this election. "I wish I could be there in Denver," she wrote to Backstage with Barack. "I would love to be a part of this historical event. [It's] so long overdue." Trinace will attend the convention with her sister.

Eric Melder of Carlisle, Pennsylvania
Eric is a 59-year-old married father of three sons and a grandparent to seven grandchildren. A retired YMCA director, he has worked at Diakon Wilderness Center for the past 13 years counseling young men with drug, alcohol, and family problems. "The boys call me 'E-rock' and I do all I can to make a difference in their lives," writes Eric. A self-proclaimed "values voter" and evangelical Christian, Eric switched his allegiance from Mike Huckabee to Barack, convinced by Barack's ability to lead and build coalitions. Eric is bringing Anthony, a former student at the Wilderness Center, who overcame immense hardships, including an absent father and a drug-addicted mother, to ultimately become Program Director of the Center. "Barack needs to meet him," Eric says.

Holly Miowak Stebing of Anchorage, Alaska
Holly, a 20-year-old Alaska Native Inupiaq, is spending her summer break from Stanford University at the First Alaskans Organization interviewing native elders about their experiences with segregation. Holly is passionate about improving healthcare access for Native Americans, and protecting Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling. The 2008 presidential election is Holly's first as a voter. She says: "This was the first campaign I felt I needed to support. I don't have a lot of money, but I donate what I can because I believe in [Barack]." She will attend the convention with her mother who is the first Native American woman to pass the Alaska bar.

Kayla Whitaker of West Fargo, North Dakota
Kayla is a 20-year-old student and evangelical Christian who credits Barack for her newfound interest in the political process. "As a Christian, I have seen it repeated that evangelical Christians are 'required' to vote Republican. When I heard Barack's 'Call to Renewal' speech, I was surprised... This is change I can believe in and many other young, evangelical Christians can believe in, too. For the first time in my life, I got hooked on politics." She now plans to register to vote so that she can cast her ballot for Barack in November. Among Kayla's top concerns are health care, teacher pay, and the environment. In an effort to convince her mom to become involved in politics, she is bringing her to Denver.


What's really interesting? The West Coast and back-East big cities (New York, Chicago, etc.) sound bells of support for Obama. The mid-West (aka "The Heartland") is where they're still hanging signs like "Obama? Osama? What's the difference?" in front of Churches (way to follow the Bible, guys). Without accident, Barack Obama has selected people from this same grey area where the Obama locomotive could run out of steam.

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