We Are The Leaders We Seek: Your Mom’s Adventures in Activism
Tonight, we had a big election. On the ballot were all House seats, a lot of Senate seats, and the soul of America. Your dad wrote his own beautiful and poignant letter to you this morning, and I agree with all of it.
I have to be honest, the past two years have been excrutiating for me — for anyone with an ounce of empathy, really. We seem to have traded our humanity for political expediency, where putting children in cages and stripping people of their dignity is an election strategy. I hope history books will remember this as a very dark moment in our history — but also a moment of reckoning and hopefully an inflection point.
Speaking of infection points, last night I attended an election rally, at which our Senator Kamala Harris (hopefully President Harris by the time you read this letter :), delivered an inspirational speech:
“This moment at some point will pass. And years from now, our children and our grandchildren are going to look in our eyes and they will ask us “Where were you at that inflection point?” — and we’ll be able to tell them not just how we felt at this moment, but we will be able to tell them what we did.”
I want you to know that I was one of the many millions of people in this country who refused to accept an agenda of hate and fought for a better future. I knew you would want to know what I did at this moment in time — and I wanted you to be proud of me. I had to become the right person to do that — and this is the story of my transformation and a journey from a reluctant activist to someone who went for it full-bore. This is also a love letter to all the people I’ve met and seen step up to the plate when the country needed them.
I spent the better part of the past two years paralyzed with grief, fear and pain. I kept trying to keep myself busy and kept trying to be useful, but most of the actions I took felt like thrashing. I finally found my groove when I found an activist organization called Moms Demand Action. With its focus on preventing gun violence, it spoke to my desire to keep you safe and fight for your future. I hope it will be a distant memory by the time you read this letter, but right now we have a real problem with gun violence, because people with the power to enact change have abdicated their responsibility. So organizations like Moms Demand Action are showing up, speaking out, and holding our elected officials accountable by supporting candidates who will protect our interests, our safety, our children.
It is with Moms Demand Action that I started working on making an impact in tonight’s election. My first experience was joining hundreds of volunteers on a trip to Sacramento, California’s capital, to help pass a commonsense gun law. It was a pivotal moment for me, because at the time that I felt hopeless and despondent, I also started to feel momentum towards the good, and a sense of camaraderie with all these awesome, passionate volunteers, so deeply committed to changing the future.
In the months that followed, we shifted gears towards election work, advocating for Gun Sense candidates. We went door to door reminding people to vote, we made thousands of calls, and sent probably tens of thousands of text messages. As an introvert, knocking on doors of strangers was a personal victory for me. I conquered my discomfort and actually had a ton of fun getting out the message of hope and positivity. Two things kept me going: 1) knowing that I had to do it for you and that my country needed me, and 2) the support of other activists. We shared with each other our stories, photos and videos from the campaign trail. We encouraged each other to keep going. I learned stories of survivors, who have lost loved ones to gun violence. I also wanted to keep going for them, and to help prevent another tragedy.
Before long, those volunteer updates had become my favorite thing to look forward to every day. As our hate-mongering president turned up the volume on his agenda of cruelty and division, it didn’t consume me anymore, because I had found the antidode. My antidote was hope, it was action, it was deep, committed, passionate work — and it was community.
I started sharing what I was doing with my friends, hoping that they would take action too. Sometimes, I couldn’t tell if it was making an impact — but people started coming to me telling me about what they were doing and how they were inspired by my posts. I cried every time I heard that. If I could move just one more person to action, that was a good day.
I woke up today at 5 a.m. bone tired and unable to sleep because of the day ahead. The enormity of it weighed heavy on me. But there was also another emotion, the feeling of gratitude of having borne witness to the incredible leadership I’ve seen emerge from the ashes of the dumpster fire. The leadership came from everywhere — from the hundreds of thousands of volunteers working all around the country, opening their homes to other volunteers, to the people who stepped up to run for office. We’ve been inspired by the most amazing cadidates, who have emerged as a phoenix from the ashes, with their decorum and leadership in stark contrast to people in power now. Students marched for their lives after their friends were massacred, women spoke up against harrassment and walked out of their jobs. Perhaps we needed this wakeup call, in order to bring out the best in us. Perhaps the leader we were looking for was actually us all along.
After the 2016 election, I kept hoping that something would happen to change the outcome — that someone would swoop in and save us, maybe one of these magical electors, whose job it is to prevent something catastrophic from occurring. Or a recount. But no one came to save us. And no one was able to stop this speeding train from crashing into us. At first it was a devastating realization, which gave way to the freedom of knowing that it has to be us ourselves who saved us. It had to be all of us. It had to be me, buoyed by others and standing shoulder to shoulder with other people.
“Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” — Coretta Scott King
Why am I telling you this? Because regardless of what happens between today and the day you read this letter, there are many many more fights ahead. We will win some, and we will lose some. Some will feel devastating and unsurmountable. We won the House today, so we can start to bring accountability to our government, which is an excellent outcome — but we endured some painful losses too. There will be many more. When you experience losses like that, you find your tribe, and you keep going.
For two years, I have held my breath — at first, in terror and later, powering through the good fight. Tonight, I can fully exhale for the first time. I exhale so I can fill my lungs with more oxygen to steel myself for the next fight — alongside my tribe of activists. I will continue to fight for a brighter tomorrow for you, my son.