Name: Michael Blake
Job title: National Operation Vote Deputy Director
Hometown: The Bronx, New York
Based in: Chicago, Illinois
Q1. What does a day at work look like to you?
Lots of meetings! Our team’s job is to think about every possible way we can reach voters across the country, so we have 8:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 9:40 a.m., and 11:00 a.m. meetings every day on different things. Throughout the day my job is to help our team, and help the states with whatever they need. There really is no down time—you wake up looking at your phone to figure out what email you may have missed and you go to sleep with your phone right next to you.
The days range from meetings about registering voters in the African-American community versus the Latino community, what are we doing to reach high school students versus college students versus those who aren’t in school at all, what are we doing for the Jewish community, how we’re talking to people of faith about the President’s values—we’re having a meeting today with women’s leaders about the policies the President has been pushing to support women. I’m lucky if I get out of here at 9:00 p.m., but you’re never really off. The one thing about this job is time is always against you. It’s one of the few jobs you have where there’s a very clear end date, so even when you walk out of here you’re never done. But it’s worth it. I’ve been with President Obama for 6 1/2 years now and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.
Q2. How did you first come to the campaign?
I used to be a sports producer here in Chicago, but I felt I was going to be one of three things, ever since I was little: I was going to be in politics, I was going to be a preacher, or I was going to go into journalism. So I went to school for broadcast journalism, but I felt like I needed to do more. In 2005 I started interning with a state senator, and a woman walked in and said: “If you all don’t help me, I’m going to lose my home.” We helped her, and that was a sign for me that it was the right thing to do—that I needed to be in politics full-time.
In January of 2006, I went to D.C. for a one-week training. I met Senator Obama and it changed my life forever. I learned how to run campaigns, and got sent to Michigan to run a few state races. And I was in Iowa the next year, on March 4th, 2007, first day. The President was there for a trip that weekend, and we’ve been going ever since. I went to the White House and directed our African-American and minority-business outreach, but last August it was time to jump back in, and I haven’t looked back.
Q3. What’s your favorite part of your job?
Every day is different, and every day I’m thinking about helping all our communities in different ways. I’m never bored, that’s for sure. And when you go out to the states and see what’s happening on the ground and see how excited people are, it makes everything worth it. The airport and I have become close friends!
Q4. What's the most unexpected part of your job?
Even when you know it’s going to be crazy, it’s crazier than you thought. It’s always changing—always changing.
Q5. Tell us a fun fact about yourself:
When I was younger I was pretty involved in karate. I think I got to an orange belt … it was a long time ago! And this comes to mind, maybe it was foreshadowing: My family is from Jamaica, and my full name is Michael Alexander Blake. Michael comes from Michael Manley, who was arguably the most famous prime minister there, and Alexander comes from Alexander Bustamante, a prominent Jamaican labor leader. So in some ways, it’s fascinating that I took on this name and took on this personality. It was always there.