One year ago today I was working at my internship when I got a phone call that would change my life forever. After weeks of applying and interviewing, I was offered a job on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Within three hours, I dropped all my classes for the semester and went on leave from college. I knew that what I was about to do was far more important than graduating a semester early, but I could never have imagined how much this opportunity would change my life.
I knew that I would be taking myself out of my comfort zone by leaving DC and by moving to a part of my home state that I had visited maybe seven times in my life. I knew there would be long days and lots of hard work, but I knew I couldn’t just sit by and wait for Election Day to come. I knew I had to work for Hillary because she was one of the most dedicated public servants I have ever learned of.
So when I got the call offering me a job, I jumped and said yes. I knew I’d figure out the rest later, but I had already decided that I would do anything to work to get Hillary elected. Less than a week after the call, I had packed up my dorm room, moved my stuff home and started working on the campaign.
Over the course of the hundred days I spent on the campaign, I learned a lot about my state and myself. I expected to learn a lot but I didn’t expect that learning to continue after Election Day.
On November 9th, I woke up and didn’t recognize my country or state. As I watched Hillary’s concession speech, my heart broke. I watched as one of my role models had to concede an election that she got more votes in to a man who had mocked and bullied her for months. I wanted nothing more than to pull the covers back over my head and hide for the next four years, but that’s the exact opposite of what Hillary was telling me to do.
“This is painful and it will be for a long time, but I want you to remember this. Our campaign was never about one person or even one election, it was about the country we love and about building an America that’s hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted.”
I probably rolled my eyes when I heard her say this the first time, but it’s so incredibly true. Everything I worked on over the campaign wasn’t about getting Hillary elected, it was about making our country better and more inclusive. It was for moms like mine who had gone years without health insurance because feeding her children was more important. It was so people like my sister had access to treatment for opioid addiction. It was for the hope that all the little girls like my niece, Carter, never had to question whether they were equal to their male counterparts.
“Now — and let me add, our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear”
I could never have imagined what Hillary’s loss could have inspired so many people to take this to heart and get involved. Do I wish they would have gotten involved before November 8th? Yes. Am I going to hold it against them? Of course not. Being engaged in government and politics isn’t easy. I can’t tell you how many times since the election that I’ve deleted my news notifications instead of reading them because I needed a break from everything that’s happening. But I can tell you how proud I’ve been to see people who have never been involved before getting involved, something that never would have happened if Hillary was elected.
And to the young people in particular, I hope you will hear this. I have, as Tim said, spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks. Sometimes, really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your professional public and political careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too.
This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.
It is — it is worth it.
This quote is what’s kept me going since Election Day. I’ve had it set as my lock screen as a daily reminder to keep pushing through and keep fighting. Somehow it has helped.
Less than a month after Election Day, I went to New York with a friend to have fun. When I got home I could tell something was wrong because all the lights were on in our house. My mom informed me that my sister was missing and not responding to texts or calls.
The next day, our worst fear for the last four and a half years was confirmed: my sister died from an overdose. Emily was twenty-two years old and had a nine-month-old at the time of her death.
Again, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and hide.
The people in my campaign family were some of the first people to make sure I knew I was loved and cared about after my sister’s passing. They quickly helped me find the podcast my sister had done for the campaign to include on her memorial site and checked in on me to make sure I was as okay as I could be.
One day I was really missing my sister, I saw my lock screen with Hillary’s quote from her concession speech. I realized that I couldn’t hide forever and that when I was ready I’d have to push on and keep fighting. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but that I needed and wanted to help end this epidemic.
I thought about all the times Hillary had been knocked down but refused to give up. I thought about all the ways in which she kept fighting for what she knew to be best.
I knew I had to do the same.
Working on the campaign taught me a lot. It taught me how to listen to people and actually hear them. It taught me how to talk to people I don’t agree with on everything (or sometimes people I don’t really agree with on anything) in a civil and respectful way.
The campaign reaffirmed that I wanted to help other people with my work, but made me realize it’s okay if I don’t know how yet. It taught me how to put in the hours to the create the change I want to see.
More than anything the campaign helped me through the hardest time in my life. It made me realize that I wanted to help people who are dealing with substance use challenges and their families.
My time on the campaign was short compared to many others, but I know this last year has changed my life forever. A lot of that is due to this campaign.
I’m thankful that I still have two more semesters left at school so I can figure out what’s next, but I know that I’ll always have a campaign family to help me figure it out along the way.
I’m so incredibly thankful that my team was willing to take a chance and hire me. Being twenty on the campaign often made me feel like a little kid who was accidentally hired, but now I know I’m lucky because I have so many people to look to for advice and guidance. I know that the lessons we’ve all learned from Hillary and the campaign will guide us and bind us together forever.
In case I haven’t said this enough to the people I worked with: thank you. Thanks for taking a chance on me, for helping me on days that were hard, for fangirling with me on days I got to meet my public service and pop culture favorites, and most importantly for being there every day since the election. Thanks for helping me through the most rewarding and challenging year of my life.
And even though I’ve still never met you, thank you, Hillary, for giving me all of this and continuing to inspire me to keep fighting.