Saratoga County

Skidmore student from India working on Obama campaign

When Ritika Singh campaigns for Barack Obama, few people ask her whether she’s voting for him.


When Ritika Singh campaigns for Barack Obama, few people ask her whether she’s voting for him.

But if they did ask, they might be surprised — Singh, 18, doesn’t plan to cast a ballot for the Illinois senator she so admires.

The Skidmore College sophomore, who speaks flawless English, is an Indian citizen.

“It affects me even though I’m not going to be voting,” Singh said of the next U.S. president. “Even though I can’t directly influence [the election’s outcome], I can indirectly influence it as much as I can.”

Singh came to the United States last year as a Skidmore freshman.

She’ll spend up to 30 hours a week before the election on campaign activities, mostly fundraising and organizing events for Obama supporters. Singh is one of a handful of field organizers in the Obama Saratoga campaign who spend extra time campaigning above what most volunteers are willing to put forth.

“It’s a huge commitment, but I’m fine with it,” Singh said during a break between her classes and going to organize a debate-watching party Thursday.

She makes fundraising calls to potential donors and is organizing fundraising events, which the campaign hopes to have once a week until the election. Singh is also helping to plan a rally for college students at Skidmore, the University at Albany, Union College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the College of Saint Rose in Albany the Saturday before the election.

Elliott Masie, who heads up the local campaign effort that aims to raise $100,000 for Obama, did ask Singh about her nationality before she started volunteering, she said. But it wasn’t an issue.

The main thing, Masie said, is that Singh is a hard worker, a good leader and very assertive.

“She goes to a meeting and she’s got her notebook open and she’s taking notes. At the end of the meeting, she goes and asks for everyone’s e-mail,” he said.

Her outsider’s view is refreshing, Masie said. “She’s also very curious. She has a ton of questions for me and others.”

An international affairs and government double major, Singh said she learns something new every day about the American political process.

Her family and friends are very supportive of her work on the campaign, she said.

“They’re big Obama supporters.”

Although she calls Bangalore, India, her home, Singh lived most of her life in Bangkok, Thailand, where her father owns a business. Her family in India and Muslim friends in Bangkok are hoping Obama wins the presidency because John McCain doesn’t appeal to them, she said.

That’s largely because of McCain’s support of President George W. Bush’s policies and decision to go to war in Iraq.

“A lot of people are very, very upset about it and the way it’s going,” Singh said of the war.

Also, the people she knows dislike McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin, a conservative Christian who opposes abortion and gay marriage.

Singh points out that what happens in the United States affects people in other countries, too.

The U.S. economic crisis has affected people overseas who own American stocks, for example.

She said she believes Obama can strengthen the United States.

“He’s a true diplomat. He talks about revamping America’s image to the outside world,” Singh said.

Singh said she may like to remain in the United States after she graduates from Skidmore. Her dream is to work for a non-governmental organization in New York City or with the United Nations.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply