We all know that political nerds are the coolest people you will ever meet (even if the rest of the world may not admit it), and this means that we have some pretty fantastic experiences. Although my fellow bloggers are much more well versed in political life than I am, as a young person in politics (even as a relative neophyte), I have already had some amazing opportunities. Some of my political experiences that come to mind are scrutineering on election night, my experiences with CJPAC, voicing my opinions at riding association meetings, and, of course, meeting so many incredible people along the way.
You’ll often hear it said in politics that as long as you always say “yes” and never “no” you will go far. While most people mean this in the sense of advancing in the political pecking order, I think this can also apply to making sure you get the best experience possible out of any given opportunity.
Illustrating this point, I was recently presented with an opportunity where answering in the affirmative left me with a plethora of memories and new friends and, ultimately, has become one of the coolest political experiences of my life thus far.
This past summer, I was invited by a Liberal friend of mine to attend a Democrats Abroad meeting as a guest. There, I heard about a group called Canadians 4 Obama, a fantastic amalgamation of people from many different backgrounds who wanted to help President Obama win reelection. As a strong supporter of the President myself, and as an over-keen politically involved teen (the coolest kind), I was intrigued. I signed up, and before I knew it I found myself on my way down south.
Upon my arrival in Raleigh, I was greeted warmly by campaign staff and local volunteers, and was assigned to a Field Organizer who I worked alongside for the week. What was perhaps the most interesting aspect of the campaign for me was getting an inside look at the Obama Campaign structure and seeing how it was run. One of the first few things I noticed was that volunteers were treated with a great amount of respect and that the structure of the campaign on the ground, particularly how Field Organizers manage their volunteers, differed greatly from what I had seen in Canadian campaign offices. Another impressive aspect of the campaign itself was the use of electronic data entry programs – technology that the Canadian Liberal Party is now using. The emphasis on the exact “numbers” each team brought in as well as accounting properly for every miniscule aspect of the data, isn’t something you see on Canadian campaigns (at least to the same degree), and was highly effective.
During my week in Raleigh, I registered voters (something we, in Canada, do not have to do), canvassed door-to-door, made persuasion calls, and did data entry. I worked hard and always felt that even the tiniest bit of help I could offer the campaign was largely appreciated. This appreciation further motivated me to work even harder and to contribute everything I could.
Besides the work itself, what may have been the coolest part of this experience was getting to meet so many different people from incredibly diverse backgrounds. Canadians 4 Obama was able to bring people together to work towards a common goal, whether they were Conservative, NDP, Liberal, or identified with another party. We had university graduates, graduate students, undergraduate students, and even a couple of high school students, like me, who all were working towards a common goal. Additionally, what stood out to me from this experience was that in Raleigh, many of the Field Organizers were women, and 80% of Canadians 4 Obama’s leadership positions (including committee chairs, campus captains, and provincial chairs) were held by women. What better sign is there of a progressive campaign than a progressive group of volunteers?
I’ll end this post about my coolest political moment with a word of advice to any young people with a desire to get involved in politics: never underestimate how important your contribution can be or the merit of making yourself invaluable to a campaign. This advice comes from one of my political mentors who once told me that I should never let myself be tokenized. Following this advice, I have frequently felt that because I work hard and show passion for the causes I’m involved with, I am rarely treated as a youth, but rather as an important part of the team. Living by this mantra, I have continuously found myself in exciting situations like the Canadians 4 Obama campaign where the groups I have been a part of have defied party lines, gender stereotypes and age, and have come together to work towards a common goal.
For this reason among many others, I count this experience as my coolest political one to date and the reason I will continue saying ‘yes’ when opportunity knocks!
Blogger Bio Greta Hoaken is a high school senior, currently studying at The Bishop Strachan School in Toronto. In addition to serving as the Youth Director of the Eglinton-Lawrence Federal Liberal Riding Association, she is an active participant in Model United Nations, a debater, and unashamed history nerd. This past summer, Greta worked at The Globe and Mail in Toronto and volunteered with the Obama campaign in North Carolina. Since first getting involved in politics as a Liberal at the age of fifteen, Greta has become increasingly more interested in Canadian politics, namely the rebuilding and redefining of the Liberal Party of Canada. She plans to pursue a career in Canadian politics and the Foreign Service.
**Disclaimer: At CJPAC, we strive to encourage debate and discussion – as they say, 2 Jews, 3 opinions. We have provided this forum as an opportunity for members of the Jewish and pro-Israel community to express their unique points of view. The opinions in this article are those of the author, and may not reflect the views of CJPAC, its staff or its officers.