By the time freshman Mike Phillips woke up Monday morning, President Barack Obama had already launched his 2012 election campaign, complete with a video of five supporters explaining why they are “in” to re-elect the president.
It wasn’t until Phillips’ phone kept buzzing that the freshman learned millions had heard why the New York native was planning to cast his first presidential vote for Obama.
“I had about 20 texts and 50 Facebook notifications when I woke up at 10 a.m. I hadn’t really been in anything like this before,” Phillips, 19, said. “I had no idea I was going to be in the first video the campaign launched.”
In the two-minute video, which was sent to at least 13 million people on the Organizing For America’s e-mail listserv and republished across the Internet, “Mike from New York” is the face of a key demographic for the president’s re-election hopes: the new voter.
“This wasn’t some profound essay contest. I don’t know why I was picked. I just know I was registered [in the Organizing for America database] from volunteering in the last election, and I guess they knew I was going to college in D.C. and couldn’t vote last time,” Phillips said. “I guess it was just luck. “
A three-man production team from Organizing for America – the organizing arm of the Obama campaign – filmed Phillips in his room in West Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus two weeks ago, asking him about his time volunteering during the 2008 campaign.
“They called me and they wanted to know if I was a GW student, and how living in the city is. And anyone who lives on the Vern is kind of embarrassed to live there, so I didn’t really tell them I lived on the Vern until the end of the conversation when they asked my address,” Phillips said. “It didn’t seem to turn them off at all, which was cool. They loved the room because the layouts in West Hall are gorgeous.”
And why did they pick Phillips? Even he doesn’t know.
He has never rubbed elbows with Obama. He helped put up posters and answer calls in phone banks, but he did not play any major campaign role in his hometown of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
Organizing for America video director Stephen Muller said, “We’re happy to just let Mike speak for himself.”
After enthusiastic responses from family and friends on both coasts, and his fraternity members in Beta Theta Pi, which initiated him last week, Phillips was excited for the opportunity.
“It was only 10 seconds, I was having a bad hair day, and I laughed a little too much, but everyone’s going to be critical of their own performance,” Phillips, who is majoring in international affairs, said. “Thankfully I don’t think I made myself sound stupid.”