Berkeley grad, musician volunteers for political change |

Berkeley grad, musician volunteers for political change

Earlier this year Neal Morgan, a 29-year-old graduate of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and drummer for popular harpist Joanna Newsom, made what would become a life-changing decision.

Morgan who had had no prior experience in politics or grass roots organization, felt compelled to get involved in the political process and become a volunteer for the Barack Obama presidential campaign.

During the primary he went door to door speaking to residents in Creston, Iowa, Abilene, Texas, Portland, Ore., Reno and his hometown of Nevada City.

This is what he had to say about his experiences out in the field.

What prompted you to become to volunteer for the Obama campaign?

We finally had a candidate to support at a time when our country so badly needs a new direction and the involvement of its citizens. I couldn’t not work for him (Obama).

What sort of things were you doing?

I decided to be part of Get Out the Vote or Get Out the Caucus, which is the last major push to mobilize voters.

My day consisted of going door to door from 10 a.m. ’til dark, than coming back to headquarters to make phone calls till 9 p.m. Staff worked over 12 hours a day; and volunteers, depending on what they were doing, put in 10-11 hours.

What were the other volunteers like?

It was different in every city. Most volunteers were out of state and 30 or younger.

There were also baby boomers and folks older, of all ethnicities and economic backgrounds.

What seemed like the overwhelming issues effecting the people you spoke with either going door to door or over the telephone?

During the primary, the issues were health care, the economy and the war in Iraq.

Traveling around the world as the drummer for Joanna Newsom, you’ve had the opportunity to meet so many different kinds of people.

How do you think having that unique perspective of people and the world has changed your outlook on politics and grassroots organization?

It has helped me realize just how small the world actually is and the degree of interconnectedness between nations.

People in Australia, Japan, and Europe were so well informed about American politics and policies.

Even before I started touring with Joanna, I traveled oversees in 2003 and there was this feeling of embarrassment about the foreign policy decisions of the Bush administration.

That experience definitely galvanized in me the idea that we are moving in unhealthy and unwise directions, not just in terms of foreign policy but with our economy that is horrifyingly out of balance.


Read the entire interview online at

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