I’m assuming I don’t need to go into detail about what transpired this past week in American history. Everyone’s talking about it everywhere. Horrified whispers in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, fifteen paragraph diatribes on Facebook, and Snapchat filtered rants. I’ve tried to avoid talking about it on here. For the most part, I try to keep things neutral. I think everything has its time and place, and, in my opinion, this is not the place for politics.
Except I was wrong about something. I should have been more proactive about encouraging people to vote. I was naive and thought that it was an assumed task in every adult’s life, like paying taxes. I really thought most people did vote. Then the day of the election happened, and I saw a lot of posts on Facebook about sitting out this election, Instagrams proclaiming this was their first time voting (despite being in their 30s), and the polls which show that nearly half of the country didn’t vote.
Voting, and having a say in politics both locally and nationally, is an incredible privilege. People have marched, protested, and fought for your right to vote. To not is a shame. Voter efficacy can be a challenge. I understand how it can feel like your vote doesn’t “really” matter. But I like to think of it as a choir. Yes, if one person doesn’t sing, it’s not noticeable; the rest of the choir bolsters the song. But what happens when everyone thinks their voice doesn’t matter? If half the choir sits out a song, the performance surely suffers. If only the sopranos sing, the song is not complete, and if only the altos sing, the song is not complete. I believe it’s the same for participating with voting.
This election proves that votes do matter, even if you don’t live in a “swing” state. You never know what it’s going to come down to.
Even if you missed last week’s election, go ahead and register now to check it off your list.
And there’s something else that I was wrong about.
Even though I haven’t mentioned it at all on here, I’ve been watching this election like crazy. Ever since high school, I have been extremely interested in politics. I think it has something to do with the fact that I can be kind of bossy and I never shy away from sharing my opinion. I have never been afraid of standing by what I believed and I would get into all kinds of crazy debates with my high school friends. (It was great though– it always pushed all of our beliefs and we did it in good spirits.)
I never could quite figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up and had a few plans (endocrinologist, editor in chief of a magazine, etc.). The one that I had for the longest was to go to law school and eventually become a judge. One Christmas, all I wanted was the “JUDGE for Yourself” board game, which I got and forced all my friends to play with me. Secretly, I also wanted to run, and become, the president. I’d calculate the election year I’d be old enough (2024) and write drafts of speeches I’d surely want to give on scraps of paper.
Two future Georgetown students and a Harvard student in that group… not really surprising. We did a student leadership retreat with other YIG members in Florida.
In high school, I was very involved in Youth in Government. I think most of the kids were doing it to look good on their college resumes, but I genuinely loved everything about it. The year that my bill (about making helmets on motorcycles mandatory) was voted to be second on the docket was a huge accomplishment and something I was so proud of.
My friends in Tallahassee for the 2006 State Assembly– can’t believe that was a decade ago!!!
Making calls during my internship!
I loved YIG so much that I even interned for one of the candidates in the 2008 election the summer before my freshman year at Georgetown. It was an exciting summer. Sitting in a room making calls to registered voters while the news played on five giant televisions constantly… I felt like I was making a difference. However, I also witnessed some things that made me uncomfortable. Not necessarily anything illegal, but I saw rules bent or creatively circumvented. My passion and fire for politics started to fade just a little bit. I started to think, “Maybe this isn’t for me.”
It’s not an exaggeration to say that 25% of American students at Georgetown secretly (or not so secretly) dream of becoming president. It felt a little bit like a competition. The person living in Bill Clinton’s old dorm room definitely had a competitive edge, we thought. No photos with red cups, ever. (Much easier back when we still used Blackberries.) Who was taking the right classes? What organizations were going to look the best for a political career?
Unfortunately, my first semester was riddled with mental health problems. It was definitely in the back of my mind of how I would hide this if, as I hoped, I did run for president eventually. And then there was this guy. He walked around campus in a blazer most days, an American flag pinned to his lapel without question. It was so obvious that he had presidential aspirations. After some party (in which he undoubtedly dodged any red cup controversies), we ended up back in my dorm room and I’ll never forget what he said to me. “You spent a night in the hospital, I could never marry you.” Once I got over the initial shock that he was talking about marriage after knowing each other for a few hours, I realized what he really meant. He was saying I could never be First Lady (guys, this is so Georgetown, by the way) and I was thinking that he was right about one thing: I could never run for president now.
After that, I let my White House dreams go, even though they’d creep back in every now and then.
This week, after this election, was the first time where I realized just how wrong I was. Both about voting, but also that I didn’t belong in politics.
I’ve seen a number of posts and talked to a few of my friends where the conversations circle around, “What can I do to be more involved?” I saw pledges to donate money to campaigns and organizations; I saw promises to work on campaigns in the future; I saw commitments to volunteering in communities.
But what I didn’t see was anyone saying that they themselves would run for some kind of position. Most of my audience on here is women. Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton were the only women who took the stage during any of the main debates this election. Those odds are not good. We need more women involved in politics. From local communities right on up to Washington, DC.
I was so turned off by what I saw when I interned that I thought it wasn’t for me, instead of thinking, “I need to be involved so it doesn’t look like this.” I forgot about my own political efficacy, beyond just my vote. It seems impossible, but like that choir, every voice does matter.
Growing up, I was surrounded by so many incredible adults who were running and campaigning. My friends’ parents were involved in state campaigns and we’d scooter around door to door dropping off pamphlets in neighborhoods during our weekends. A friend’s mom was even our mayor. I saw people (men and women) that I knew involved in politics and it’s only now that I realize that’s not the case for everyone. I never doubted that a woman could run for president or will be president because of the community I was raised in.
It’s so easy to think that there needs to be diversity, that there needs to be more voices heard… I agree. And I think we all have the opportunity to bring that diversity to the table and to let our voices be heard. It starts from the ground up. I think we all have to do what we can. If you’re a teacher, that might be starting a Youth in Government program or getting involved with an existing one. Students joining their student governments and interning with campaigns. Parents having open and positive (!!!) conversations about politics and what’s going on in current events with their kids. Volunteering as a Big Sister in your community. Getting involved with local elections and knowing about local issues. Voting is the bare minimum… but I think if you really want to make a change, particularly if you don’t like what’s happening, you have to roll up your sleeves and get in there.
In full disclosure, I don’t know what getting involved looks like for me just yet. I’m doing some soul searching and will be reaching out to my network to learn more and dip my toe in the water. It’s too important to think you don’t deserve to or can’t have a seat in the room where it happens.