COLUMBIA — Close to 100 volunteers gathered around the staircase at the Barack Obama campaign headquarters downtown to hear Carole King speak Tuesday. Some of the crowd held King's Grammy award-winning "Tapestry" album, while others wore placards bearing one of King's song titles.
Tuesday was not King's first visit to Columbia. In 2004, she came to speak on behalf of the John Kerry campaign.
The four-time Grammy winner has been all over the country the last few weeks to support Barack Obama. Last week, King spoke in Iowa. Before that, it was Ohio, Indiana and Michigan — typical swing states in an election. Tomorrow she will go to Camdenton. King said that though she is a spokesperson for the campaign, she visits the states on her own accord. The people are motivation enough to keep going, she said.
"This is more grueling than my professional work, but I love doing it because I'm nourished by what I see in people's eyes," she said. "I see the hope. I see the inspiration. In some cases, I see the desperation for change."
King's speaking tour promotes the Obama campaign in rural areas not unlike her home community in Idaho. She also goes to campaign offices to encourage volunteers to continue the effort until election day. King said she has heard many stories of canvassing difficulties and the challenge of talking across party lines.
Campaign workers need to be respectful of the Republican or undecided voters, she said.
Throughout her speech, King cited Colin Powell as evidence that voting for Obama doesn't make you a Republican or a Democrat.
"You can stay a Republican and support Barack Obama," King said. "It's OK. In fact, it's the most courageous thing you can do. I tell them you can walk into that booth a Republican, but when you cast that ballot, you are an American, and then you can walk out a Republican again."
Darryl Douglas, a volunteer at the Obama campaign headquarters, said he was pleased with the turn out. That morning, only 22 volunteers were committed to attend. By 6 p.m., that number almost quadrupled.
"My celebrity probably attracts people to walk in the door, and then I have a message to them. My message is of a fellow American citizen. I have one vote like they do," King said.
Celebrity appearances are not uncommon in the Obama campaign. On Oct. 6, Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel and Aisha Tyler came to Columbia in support of the campaign. Don Cheadle also made an appearance at MU earlier this month.
While most of the volunteers had worked at the campaign office before, for some, King's appearance was the incentive they needed to join the campaign effort.
"I've been meaning to come out, and I heard she as going to be here, so I decided to come," Melissa Gephardt said.