“Steel Magnolias” star Alfre Woodard has been making a lot of headlines lately.
A four-time Emmy winner, Woodard, and her co-stars Phylicia Rashad, Queen Latifah Condola Rashad and Jill Scott, have been getting high marks from critics and fans alike for their performances in the Lifetime Network’s remake of the beloved 1989 classic, which aired Oct. 7, but Woodard doesn’t have time to bask in the afterglow. Instead, the mother of two is crisscrossing the nation, drumming up support for President Barack Obama.
Woodard, who in recent years has landed recurring roles in hit series like “True Blood” and “Desperate Housewives,” stopped by the Organizing for America headquarters on West Fourth Street on Oct. 10 as nearly three dozen volunteers took part in a “Seniors-to-Seniors” phone bank initiative.
“I am so excited to be here,” she told the group with a wide smile. “…I was on my way to New York and they said, ‘Can you come to North Carolina?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I can!’ …I know I’m preaching to the choir, but sometimes, the choir needs a little bit of a sermon,” she quipped.
Woodard’s enthusiasm for the campaign quickly transformed the staid atmosphere at the headquarters into rally mode.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m still fired up from the last time,” she said, referencing the historic ’08 election. “I’m eager to protect the progress that Mr. Obama has made on behalf of all Americans.”
Woodard told the predominantly female group that she supports the president because of the many things he has done for women, especially pushing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which guarantees equal pay for equal work.
“You’ve got to love a president whose every policy strives to promote, to protect, to uplift and to serve women,” she said. “This is a pivotal election in the life of the American woman.”
Woodard also touted the president’s support of small businesses, military families and increased access to higher education. She said the president has always strongly supported a woman’s right to choose.
“A woman’s ability to manage her own affairs is not a party situation,” Woodard said. “It is about women. It is interesting that the people who want smaller government, that little bit of government that they want, they want it in your business, they want it in your bedroom.”
She reminded the audience of the importance of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and what it means for everyday citizens.
“How can people say, ‘Are you better off today than you were four years ago?’ You can resoundingly say, ‘Yes,’” Woodard intoned. “We are better off because we have the Affordable Care Act, and all Americans benefit from that.”
The actress closed by reminding the volunteers how important their efforts to get out the vote truly are.
“Your one vote counts the same as (Sheldon) Adelson’s,” she said, referencing the billionaire Republican benefactor. “It doesn’t matter whether you have $100 or $100,000. Everybody’s vote is the same … that’s what makes America amazing.”
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native Dott Nicholson-Brown said Woodard’s words hit home.
“It was uplifting and I didn’t think I needed the uplifting,” confessed Nicholson-Brown, a Lewisville resident and grandmother of two. “It was so to-the-point, and I think she explained the healthcare act better than anybody I’ve ever heard. It was so clear – that was the best thing that she could’ve done to me.”
Nicholson-Brown, a retired property manager, is no stranger to phone banks. She’s been an active Obama supporter since his initial run in 2008. Her many hours on the phone have reinforced Nicholson-Brown’s gift with gab, and she said she rarely hears the word ‘no.’
“I love talking to people. I talk to them like they’re a long lost friend,” she related. “Out of three months of calling, I’ve only had one guy who said, ‘You’ll never get anybody in this house.’ Then his wife called back and said, ‘You’ve got me.’”
Organizing Fellow Barbara Lee served as the coordinator for the phone bank, which focused on encouraging early voting and identifying Obama supporters who are in need of transportation to the polls. Lee, a retired Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools educator for over 40 years, said she believed the concept of seniors contacting other seniors through the bank would be effective.
“When I talk to seniors, we get more enthusiasm from our seniors,” said the 69 year-old. “To me, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
For more information about Obama for America’s local volunteer efforts, visit http://www.barackobama.com/state/NC” or call 336-997-1355.