Obama and Young Voters: ‘Greater Together’

Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, the re-election campaign's national youth-vote director, tells why.

In October, President Obama’s re-election campaign launched the Greater Together initiative to rekindle the connection with young voters that helped fuel his successful bid in 2008, when he captured two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds who voted.

Greater Together is reaching out to young Americans via Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. It’s also targeting students on colleges and universities in key states. The program was launched at the University of Pennsylvania with a live Twitter feed and 84 participating colleges and universities across the country.

How’s it going so far? The Root caught up with Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, the re-election campaign’s national youth-vote director, to find out.

The Root: How are young Americans sharing their concerns with you?

Valeisha Butterfield-Jones: In several ways: We have a website that we are making more robust, which serves as a platform to interact with young people. Our plan is to replicate the program [that’s] at the University of Pennsylvania and to have summits at colleges and universities throughout the country, including HBCUs. As a proud graduate of Clark-Atlanta University, I understand the importance of including HBCUs in the overall strategy of reaching young voters.

We always want to make sure that young people have direct access to us. Through our digital strategy and digital program, we’ll be able to find people that may not normally be involved in the political process. We want to make sure we’re not talking at young people — that instead we’re talking with them.

TR: What issues are they telling you matter most to them?

VBJ: They are focused on education. Jobs are a priority, as are health care and school funding. It was great to hear and see how young people are interested in their futures. Young Americans are definitely thinking beyond today and focusing on tomorrow, which is promising.

TR: How are you planning to address the apathy that some young people are feeling because of the economy and unemployment?