Howard W. Hewitt – Jeremy Bird called his work in the Barack Obama campaign ‘incredibly fulfilling.”
Bird, a field organizer and key leader in campaign work, spent Tuesday on campus. His evening speech drew approximately 40 students, staff and faculty members.
Looking around the Korb Classroom there had to be staff and faculty members who share a feeling of fulfillment.
Bird talked about growing up near St. Louis and listening in the laundry room as his parents talked politics – really about economics. He talked about his path to Wabash and then following Professor Bill Placher’s advice and going to Harvard Divinity School.
Bird’s interests shifted to politics and he got involved in community organizing. He shared his first organizing experiences with inner-city school kids fighting for better schools in Boston. He worked for Howard Dean, John Kerry and Democratic National Committee.
He outlined, in some detail, the work he did in the South Carolina primary earlier this year propelling Obama to front-runner status. He talked about chairing the general election campaign’s effort in Ohio, and the work he is leading now to categorize best campaign practices, and trying to figure out how to best use the enormous staff and volunteer base that helped elect the Illinois Senator president.
He talked to a class for Professor David Hadley and joined a lunch meeting with Bachelor staffers. He shared the skills he’s picked up along the way which include managing a multi-million dollar budget in Ohio with a paid staff of more than 500.
Bird reflected on how Wabash helped him every step of the way. He laughed in several of those presentations when noting he never had a single political science class at Wabash. He was a religion major.
But he talked passionately about the freedom at Wabash to “do things.” Bird wrote columns for the Bachelor, started the school’s lacrosse team, and engaged himself abroad and across campus.
He talked about the thinking skills he learned while here and the ability to write – all skills which transfer no matter what you do in life.
He talked about Bill Placher and classes with Warren Rosenberg, who was in the audience.
But while he shared his accomplishments, many listening had to marvel at the maturation and success of this young man. And that we get to watch this miracle happen time and time again.
I got to know Bird when he was a student. He wrote for the Crawfordsville Journal Review while I was editor.
I went to Philadelphia in April and spent three days with him to see his campaign work first hand. That story is in the newest issue of Wabash Magazine and now online.
Jeremy is 30 years old and a 2000 graduate. He’s learned and experienced so much in such a short period of time. Certainly Rosenberg and Melissa Butler, who was at Bird’s presentation but never had him in class, must feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment when listening to a story like Bird’s. Those veteran professors must feel that fulfillment often.
The students had to see a young man from very humble beginnings who wasn’t afraid to grasp the changes in his life and capitalize on opportunities.
My personal reflection is one of progression. He was a talented, if not smart-mouthed kid in 2000. He now is one of the top political operatives in the country. He’ll most likely end up working in the Obama administration or for the Democratic National Committee.
Jeremy Bird has a heck of a story. It’s his story, and others like it, that get us out of bed to come to work each morning.
It’s “incredibly fulfilling.”
Photos by Alex Moseman ’11