KENMORE, NY - It could be a critical role in President Obama's re-election bid, and a man with Western New York roots has been tapped to fill it.
As the faith community plays a larger role in national politics, the Obama re-election campaign has chosen Michael Wear, a 2006 graduate of Kenmore East High School, as its new religious outreach director. As such, it is expected he will serve as a primary liaison between the campaign and those all important faith based voters.
In some regard it could prove to be a challenging task, after the President's highly-publicized battle with the Catholic Church over mandated health care coverage for birth control, and his more recent support for same-sex marriage.
However, those who know Wear, who will turn 24 on Wednesday, have every bit of faith he can handle the job, despite his age.
"I think his age defies his experience. He has been working in politics at a pretty high level for about four years now," said Chris Knab, a teacher of Wear's at Kenmore East, while noting that Wear has already served in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Knab taught Wear when he was a student in Knab's advanced placement course on American Government and Politics, and supervises Kenmore East's Model UN Club, in which Wear also participated.
"As a 17 or 18 year old, he knew more about what was going on in the federal government...he knew things like, who was the congressional representative in Arizona's 7th district....things that nobody his age would ever know anything about," recalled Knab, who says he was "not surprised at all" to hear of Wear's latest appointment.
"His goals are to marry his faith with civic participation. That's what he's always wanted. He's deeply religious, and he's deeply committed to American civic participation."
Also not surprised at Wear's latest appointment, was his guidance counselor John Vogt, who also directed Wear in the High School play.
"This is in a way almost his dream plan. And we talked quite a bit about him going into politics and it seemed like such a natural fit for him," Vogt said.
Added Knab; "I recognized pretty early, as did John, that Michael was destined for something bigger."
The reality of that really struck them when Wear, after interning with the Obama campaign four years ago, was offered a job at the White House, and when both were contacted by federal agents seeking to do a background check.
"I was in Savannah, Georgia in line at a restaurant and I got a phone call from the FBI that said they wanted to speak with me," recalled Knab.
Vogt remembers being rather startled when an agent showed up at school. "My secretary came to my office door and said, 'John the FBI is here to see you'. And after my initial panic she told me, 'don't worry it's not about you, it's about Michael Wear'. He asked me a number of questions and then asked if I could see any reason why they should have any concern about him and I said, 'absolutely not he's one of the best kids I ever worked with"."
Both men remain close to Wear, and even attended his wedding to fellow Kenmore East graduate Melissa Rossman. They also both predicted Wear will excel in his new role.
"Michael is a great uniter, and he always was," said Vogt. "He was a great leader...he could very simply get people in his court, and I see him reaching out to communities...and engaging people in dialogue, which he's so incredibly skilled at."
"He has pretty much taken all the steps you need to take in the most honest and ethical ways to become what he's become today," said Knab. "He will only become more successful."
One person not talking about all this is Wear himself, who when reached by phone politely declined comment, until he officially takes on his new duties next week.
However, on his twitter page, he notes that he remains a big fan of both the Sabres and Bills...perhaps suggesting that when it comes to faith, he has plenty to go around.
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