Crowds cheered, “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow” blared from the sound systems as relatively famous people gathered on stage. It was a rally gathering up support for then Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton’s presidential race in 1992. For being very young at the time, it certainly made an impression.
The rally tickled my curiosity for politics. I still remember my first time going with my father to the election poles. My mother (those of knew mom would be shocked) insisted he vote for Bill Clinton. Being a wonderful husband, he agreed to my mom’s demand. However, he ended up voting for George Bush. I told my mom. She didn’t love his choice.
The next morning, I watched the news & found out Bill Clinton was now our president. I still remember the excitement, I felt. As the years went by I traded in political science books for film theory.
Class consisted of analyzing the cinematic techniques of Federico Fellini & Francoise Truffaut. Heck, we didn’t even watch political films during my whole life as a film school nerd. A year after graduating from university, a wise friend offered me the opportunity to volunteer on a political campaign in Indiana.
Indiana is as random of a place one could ever travel to. However, I ended up in Hoosier land where cornfields meet racecar races. The beginning of my week consisted of knocking on doors in Portage, Indiana with more seasoned canvassers. At first, canvassing was intimidating. I let the other canvasser do all the talking.
From, the canvassers I learned the art of listening to the voters concerns. Not just channeling out, but really listening to what the voter’s concerns were. Their strategy was to relate to the voter & then explain how this candidate best suits their needs. Soon, I mustard the courage & became a canvassing machine.
From the voters, I also learned what most concerned them. Health care & union issues were the big topics of debate. Although, our candidate is a brilliant mind, she didn’t make it through the primaries. She still continues to be very influential in American politics.
Life took another interesting twist in New York City. Like any proper twenty-something, I lived on a tight budget. My life took many art forms. I learned the art of fitting a week’s worth of groceries in one brown Trader Joes bag. Eating out meant saving half of dinner for lunch the next day. Needless to say extra cash was crucial. I answered an ad to work on a political campaign & got the job on the spot.
My first position was canvassing Manhattan with a small yet culturally diverse group, which eventually grew. We traveled throughout the grand island of Manhattan, meeting voters. Utilizing the campaign tools I learned in Indiana, I headed into the opinionated land of NYC. We canvassed Stuy town, the projects in Harlem + large apartment developments in Chelsea & the Lower East Side. I met New Yorkers from all walks of life. Education was of top concern. Jobs & living costs were also prominent on voters’ minds. The lack of trans fats & keeping parks, a smoker’s paradise were on the quirkier side of concerned issues.
What I remember most vividly are the folks I met along the way. There were so many fascinating stories. New York is known as a tough town, but most everyone I met was very receptive to my spiel. Beyond canvassing, I also petitioned to have our candidate on the ballot, officially. I ventured to the Upper West Side, Union Square & Washington Square Park & had to ask for people’s signature. Of course, it was intimidating at first, but I eventually got the gist of it.
Toward the end of the campaign, I was promoted to canvassing group leader. However, I went beyond canvassing. I visited college campuses in the city, recruiting perspective canvassers. I also volunteered on our candidate’s LGBT outreach. Throughout the campaign, the same excitement remained. Getting on the subway with my group, going to our location & being like a performer on stage, trying to convince them to get out & vote for our candidate.
After a successful, but challenging get out the vote attempt, our candidate won his campaign. Myself & everyone else on the campaign felt overjoyed. Months of hard work & we won. We celebrated with a big victory party at a hotel.
I hold my political memories very dear. It was a time that exposed me to folks from walks of life that I would’ve never met. Recently, I changed my voter registration to California. I look forward to vote in the Golden State for the first time in eight years.
From riding around in an open window Chevy to riding the subway, working & volunteering in politics has opened my mind to what’s going on in the world. it has also demonstrated the importance of voting & having one’s voice being heard.