Andre Richardson, field director for the campaign, and Lauren Bierman, the campaign manager, emphasized that the volunteer base is broad and diverse and noted that there has been a unique word of mouth element to the high number of young volunteers.
“A lot of college students are here because they want to be involved … Recruitment has come from word of mouth, and a lot of them bring their friends along,” Mr. Richardson said.
Ms. Bierman agreed, “If they hear about us, they bring their friends.”
Among the volunteers were several graduates or attendees from top-tier schools—Columbia, Brown, Yale and three of the campaign volunteers went to the tony St. Ann’s school in Brooklyn Heights together.
In a corner of the office, 19-year-old Emma Janger moved from task to task in her blue sundress with precision and assertiveness, dispensing instructions on how to purchase more cell phones for today’s intense phone banking and juggling other tasks as we chatted. She’s involved with the College Democrats at Yale, where she will be a sophomore in the fall, and is currently living with her parents in Brooklyn Heights.
After she graduates, Ms. Janger says she wants to pursue politics, though she’s not sure in what capacity yet—all she knows is she’s going to buck the trend of her Boomerang Generation. “I love Brooklyn, there’s no reason not to be here—anything I want to do I can do it here … It’s a debate with my parents right now. I do want to return, but I refuse to move home.” (She’s got a bit of Girls’s Hannah Horvath in her.)
A truly seasoned campaign volunteer, Tiffany Bryant, had set up shop in the back of the office, where we spoke. Ms. Bryant, since she graduated with a degree in political science from Columbia in 2008, has held a series of research and policy jobs. The Obama campaign was her first, and she made a point to do her volunteering in a swing state.
“Senior year of college, I [volunteered for Obama] in Pennsylvania and Ohio and then spent the summer and election in Florida, in Broward County. After 2000, I said, I have to be in Florida for 2008,” she said. “It was very exciting to be in a swing state for the election.”
Brendan Flynn, a Gowanus resident with side-swept bangs, is studying political science at the CUNY Graduate Center and working on his dissertation (the subject: “agriculture policy, sort of?”) and leading a fantasy basketball league (the most hipster of all fantasy sports endeavors), when he’s not spending eight-hour days at the Jeffries office coordinating volunteers. Mr. Flynn told us he too worked on the Obama campaign, canvassing in Philadelphia on election day.
It is not just these young people who note the similarities to Mr. Obama’s run. The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, The New York Daily News and The Washington Post, to name just a few outlets, have also drawn comparisons. Perhaps the connective tissue is reductive (one Jeffries volunteer winced when we suggested the comparison, noting that these comparisons are only made for politicians of color or female politicians), but bear with us: both attended and excelled at law school (Obama at Harvard, Jeffries at NYU), did time as associates at white-shoe law firms, ultimately left the lucrative private sector for the public one to work on issues of importance in ultra-local politics, and both are family men with two young children. And though he and his handlers downplay this comparison, Mr. Jeffries accepted the president’s tacit support, posing for a photo-op with the him at the Waldorf, and conceded to The Washington Post (in an article headlined: “Hakeem Jeffries: Brooklyn’s Barack Obama?”) that, yes, he and Mr. Obama share a birthday.