Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been hyperly-political.
(I mean, I grew up watching The Colbert Report while my classmates were watching Disney shows, if that doesn’t say it all.)
Since a very young age, I’ve been following the news and caring about what happens to my country and the world. But it wasn’t until I was 14-years-old, this past summer, when I finally became politically active.
I’ll never forget the first day I walked into my local democratic campaign office. It was the July before the election, and after watching the inspiring Democratic Convention on TV, I was fired up to volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The campaign office was packed, and I was quickly ushered by staff members into a crowded room where (squished between what seemed like a million other volunteers) I made my very first political phone call.
The next week, I was back at the office to knock on doors. The week after that, I made some more phone calls. And then, I couldn’t wait a week anymore: I was back only a few days later, ready to knock on doors again. I became a “regular” at the campaign office. The staffers learned my name, and I learned theirs.
Soon, I signed on as an intern for one of the field organizers, and I progressively began spending more and more time at my state’s Democratic headquarters. The office became my home away from home. When I had a day off from school, I went to the campaign office, and worked a full 7 hours. On weekends? I turned down my friends invitations to hang out and worked at the office. After school? I was at the campaign office.
I worked my butt off, canvassing, training volunteers, making phone calls (taking the abuse of grumpy old guys who weren’t very happy to get campaign calls), organizing, handling an out-of-state voter intimidation case over the phone (don’t ask), painstakingly entering data into the computer system, and even publishing an Op-Ed about the election in my local newspaper.
Amazing things began to happen.
Hillary Clinton herself made a surprise appearance at the office. I was also able to volunteer at a Chelsea Clinton Town Hall and was even the first at the event to ask a question. I was passionate about Hillary’s campaign, and so excited for what seemed like certain victory and then… well, you all know what went down on November 8th.
On election night, my world shattered, as I know it did for so many others. I said my goodbyes to the campaign staffers and interns with whom I’d become so close. But they weren’t final goodbyes. Many of us marched together on January 21st.
After the election, I was heartbroken, and rock-bottom depressed. Even today when I see the news, I have to pinch myself to remember that this whole ordeal isn’t some crappy joke or a deranged nightmare I’ll eventually wake up from. But despite what happened on election night, being an Intern for Hillary’s campaign has transformed my life for the better. It opened the door to the world of civic and political engagement. And now that the door is open, I’m never going back.
Today, I’m channeling all that passion I had for Hillary Clinton’s campaign into environmental activism, and fighting for my future. It’s so important to me as a teenager that I have a livable environment to grow up in. The months since the election have been full of trips to my state capital, lobbying, speaking up at every town hall I can get in to, contacting my representatives in every way possible, and organizing my tail off. I’m fighting back against the Trump administration’s attacks on the environment, doing my best to be a resistance-machine.
I’ll be back on the campaign trail again in 2018 and beyond. And eventually, I will be campaigning, not as an intern for someone else’s campaign, but as a candidate myself.