Why I Volunteer

By Dr. Rosa Colquitt,PhD, Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon

Over the past decade I have used a singular quote from civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as the tag line for all email communications and my personal Facebook header. Fully written into the depths of my heart are his inspiring words about serving others, that for me, have turned into a lifetime of volunteerism. 

“Everybody can be great because ANYBODY CAN SERVE.
You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. 
You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree.
You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Reflecting back on 2008, the year I first worked with neighbors and friends to start a community group of volunteers to campaign for the election of Senator Barack Obama, as the nation’s first African American President, I learned first-hand the power of committed, energized volunteers. We later formally named ourselves the “Tigard Obamanators.” Although I was employed full time, upwards of 45-50 hours weekly as an academician and researcher at OHSU, the most rewarding hours of the evenings and weekends were talking with neighbors, canvassing for votes, and building an even larger cadre of volunteers for Oregon and nationally. Our time, working together as volunteers, was filled with excitement and joy, accompanied by the cutest dressed-up mascots imaginable: Knia, the golden retriever and Mr. Ubu, my little Eskimo-Bishon mix. It was only later that a large group of us became Washington County precinct committee persons (PCPs), even better equipped with online tools such as turfs and walk-sheets. 

Today as I think about the upcoming Election 2022 in Multnomah County, across cities and counties throughout Oregon, and even nationally, I am all the more reminded of some of the economic and social crises we face, and the urgency and power of grassroots volunteers. In fact, it is through the power of individual volunteers, building strong teams, that we become the frontline of protecting our communities and achieving Democratic victories. 

Rosa Colquitt at Juneteenth
Oregon Democrats in action: (left to right): Cynthia Harris, US Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Rosa Colquitt and State Representative Travis Nelson gather at the 2019 Juneteenth celebration in Portland. Photo courtesy of Rosa Colquitt.

The year 2008 was just one of the early years for me to organize friends and neighbors to become volunteers. As Dr. King taught us, through his life of service and sacrifice, ANYBODY CAN SERVE. There are so many important ways we can help through becoming committed volunteers. Whatever time a volunteer can expend to knock on doors and pass out voter slate cards, or call or text voters in Oregon and nationally — especially in voter suppression states– or to engage in voter registration at public events, or to use one’s unique tech or media skills to spread the word, or to speak out from a heart of passion about the issues that are important to you, you become a part of the “democratic legacy” dedicated to social and economic justice for all. I urge you to become a volunteer TODAY! 

As First Lady Michelle Obama says in her book Becoming, “Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?”

Dr. Colquitt won the Volunteer of the Year (2020-21) award at the recent Democratic Party of Oregon (DPO) summit. She is Vice Chair of the DPO as well as chair of the Black Caucus and R.E.A.L. the special committee on Racial Equity, Accountability and Leadership. She was also Chair of the DPO Budget Committee during 2019-2020 and 2021-2022. See also her 2021 article about Juneteenth on the MultDems blog.

Find out more about volunteer opportunities with Multnomah County Democrats by visiting the Get Involved page.