By Chloe Coffman, NYU Florence student
Last night NYU Florence students and Florentines alike gathered in Villa Sassetti to hear Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, give what would be an insightful look into the campaign he ran and the man behind it. Jim comes from Montana where he began his political career running campaigns, but in 2009 his life was changed forever when he received a phone call from Barack Obama who asked him, “Hey Messina, do you want to change the world?” Messina accepted the job offer after asking his mom, who told him, “If you don’t take this job, you’re out of the will.”
He served as the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for 2 years until Obama took him out of the office and handed him the reigns of his 2012 re-election campaign. As Messina spoke about the re-election, and the difficulties it experienced, the strongest theme that came through was his obvious respect for the young people who made the campaign what it was. It was as if he was thanking each and every Obama supporter in the room personally, and humbly admitting that without each of them, Obama would not have another term ahead of him. He spoke of the unbelievable dedication of the volunteers and students who knocked on doors and spoke passionately about Obama to their friends and family, which Messina credits with being the number one factor in the election. However, he spoke of no one with more respect than President Obama himself– of his lack of interest in the political game, and his unwavering intent to always do the right thing.
In the end, that is why Obama won, not because he spent enough money or said the ‘right’ thing, but because “Obama had the right vision for the future.” After his talk he gathered in Sala Bolognese in Villa Sassetti to speak with only NYU Florence students, a truly extraordinary opportunity.
As a friend of Ellyn Toscano, the students were really the reason he had agreed to take time from his post-campaign Italian vacation to come to NYU Florence and speak, and so appropriately, he ended his talk with advice to the students who had come. He told them, “If you are passionate about something, make that your career.” Fitting words for students ending their “break” from reality and heading back to America next week, perhaps now with a better idea of what those passions are, and what exactly they want to do when they grow up.