The Root's Talented Ten: Yohannes Abraham
Assistant to the Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs
Though he was often the youngest person in the room, Yohannes Abraham rose through the ranks of the Obama campaign hierarchy to become Field Director of his native Virginia—a key tipping point state in the general election. After Obama's big win in the Old Dominion, Abraham is back in the beltway, working to make the president's legislative dreams a reality.
Hometown: Springfield, Va.
Campaign Positions: Field Organizer, Regional Political Director, Field Director—Virginia
Campaign Turf: Iowa, South Carolina, Ohio, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia
New Washington Gig: Assistant to the Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs
Days after graduating from Yale University in 2007, Yohannes Abraham decamped to Iowa, where he would spend the next seven months helping to build the now-famous ground organization that gave Obama a pivotal victory in the caucuses. Then, just days after his 22nd birthday, came the worst gift an Obama organizer could imagine: a stunning loss in the New Hampshire primary. “All of us thought we’d have the nomination wrapped up in January,” he recalls. “Thankfully, a lot of our bosses realized that would not be the case.”
He quickly regrouped, and as the coast became a grind, he rose to the occasion, proving his leadership abilities in a string of primary states, including South Carolina, Mississippi and Ohio, before being given the high-profile job of field director in the key swing state of Virginia, where he grew up.
Abraham won big in Virginia on Nov. 4. He says similar opportunities for young black organizers were everywhere: “The campaign did a great job of attracting a really diverse staff in 50 states.” Even in a field of young campaign workers, Abraham, who was born in Alexandria to Ethiopian parents, was often the youngest person in the room. Luckily, he said, that didn’t matter. “They rewarded performance and they didn’t necessarily reward the length of a résumé,” he says. “You had 22-year-old regional directors with 50-year-old field organizers.”
In his new job in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, Abraham is helping to steer Obama’s agenda through the complex maze of congressional politics. The best thing about his gig in the West Wing? “Helping get stuff done.”
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