More

How door-to-door political campaigning restored my faith in humanity.

"The truth is that the real work of politics, the stuff that wins elections, isn’t exciting."

How door-to-door political campaigning restored my faith in humanity.

I’ve seen a lot of elections, but I’ve never seen anything like 2016.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, chances are that your feelings about this race are strong.

Case in point: Protesters at a Donald Trump rally in San Diego getting in a massive fight in May. Photo by Mark Ralston/ AFP/ Getty.


With just 21 days left, I wanted to know what I could do to make sure my voice was heard. Of course, I would vote. But what else? Not everyone can donate money. And because social networks like Facebook are engineered to show you opinions they think you’ll agree with, posting isn’t always making a huge impact, either.

The race has been so negative at times, it’s hard to not feel cynical.

But because the choices feel so stark to me, I knew that couldn’t stop me. I kept asking myself this question: "How can I help?" So I decided to try volunteering for a candidate.

Volunteers have been the difference in winning and losing a lot of elections. Barack Obama would have lost Florida and North Carolina if it weren’t for his volunteers. People who cared enough to get involved turned the tide of the election, and I wanted to be one of those people.

That’s how I found myself going door to door in New Hampshire, talking to people I’d never met about politics and policies.

I want you to know that personally, I support Hillary Clinton, but that doesn’t matter much for this story. What I learned was that it’s important to get involved in the things you believe in, not to suggest who others should vote for.

Because Massachusetts is a blue state, I decided to drive to a nearby swing state where my time ringing doorbells would have the biggest impact.

Photo via iStock.

I arrived at Hillary’s campaign headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire, on a Saturday. It’s a quiet New England city, the kind you see in postcards. The people are friendly, but the economic analysis shows this is an important election for the city. Wages have been stagnant for the last decade, and child care costs are among the highest in the nation. The decision about our next leader will strongly affect Manchester.

Walking in the door of the headquarters was hugely encouraging.

It was packed with millennial volunteers, which seemed like a stark contrast to the “millennials are apathetic” commentary I’ve been hearing on the news. After a rallying speech, we were given a quick orientation session, handed packets with addresses, and dispatched to go knock on doors.

I was paired up with Josh Query, a friendly ceramics major in his 20s.

World, meet Josh. Photo by me, used with permission.

Josh was an experienced canvasser, and he said he loves volunteering because he’s made so many friends. He says there’s a place for anyone to get involved in a campaign.

“Phone banking is one of the most valuable contributions if you don’t want to go face to face,” he told me as he led me down the street to our assigned neighborhood.

Canvassing is not the place for a hard sell. Lecturing people about who to vote for can feel both rude and ineffective.

I learned, instead, that the secret to all of this was in listening more than I talked. Canvassing neighborhoods showed me how much (or little) interest people have in politics. I was surprised that the majority of people I talked to didn’t have strong preferences, and they were shy in voicing them.

My husband, Frank, and our new BFF, Josh, after a nice conversation with a nice person. Photo by me, used with permission.

Quinn Rose, a Boston college student who was volunteering with us in New Hampshire that day, echoed my sentiments. “I was surprised by how nice everyone was, even when they disagreed with me. So it ended up being a really interesting and positive experience,” she said.

In the end, I was most surprised at the civility of people, even when we disagreed.

One house I canvassed had a gorgeous golden retriever that playfully barked at me as I knocked on the door. Over the fence, I could see a father playing in the backyard with his two blond daughters. It was one of those heartwarming moments where you could tell he loved being a dad.

“Sorry! I’m on the Trump train,” he told me. “Thanks though, and good luck with the election!”

“You, too!” I returned.

In the middle of a presidential cycle that increasingly feels like an apocalypse, it was an amazing moment. I probably don’t agree with that man on much, but ultimately, he just wants what’s best for his family.

It’s a good reminder that through all the acrimony of the election, there are real people on the other side.  

Of course, I had weird conversations, too. But despite all that, it was an immensely gratifying day.  As my husband and I were finishing up the last few streets of our second canvassing packet, we heard music in the distance. Like a reward for our hard work, an ice cream truck pulled up. Frank and I devoured ice cream, and then drove back to Boston.

Serendipitous ice cream! Photo by me, used with permission.

In a frustrating election like this, it felt really good to actually do something. I felt less helpless and more engaged in our actual democratic process. I felt like I had a say in what will happen to our country, even for just a day.

Query, my partner, agreed with me. “There are so many ways to help,” he said. “[People] can drive people if they have a car. They can open their homes for community events. 'I have work and school and you do, too, so let’s work together and do what we can to help out.'”

I know a lot of you might feel cynical about politics as this election drags on.

But the system wants you to be cynical because then you don’t get a voice, and the status quo continues.

The truth is that the real work of politics, the stuff that wins elections, isn’t exciting. It’s walking around. It’s registering people to vote. It’s knocking on doors. It’s listening to people. It’s mundane but deeply fulfilling. And it’s desperately important.

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
True

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

Keep Reading Show less
via Taber Andrew Bain / Flickr

The tiniest state with the longest name may soon just be the tiniest state after November 3. Rhode Island is voting on whether to change its official name from "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" to "The State of Rhode Island."

Lawmakers in the state would like to shorten the name because the term "plantations" has a historical connection to slavery in the United States.

This isn't the first time the state has attempted to remove "plantations" from its name. Rhode Island attempted the change ten years ago and 78% of voters opposed the idea.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo courtesy of Claudia Romo Edelman
True

When the novel coronavirus hit the United States, life as we knew it quickly changed. As many people holed up in their homes, some essential workers had to make the impossible choice of going to work or quitting their jobs— a choice they continue to make each day.

Because over 80 percent of working Hispanic adults provide essential services for the U.S. economy, the Hispanic community is disproportionately affected. Hispanic families are also much more likely to live in multigenerational households, carrying the extra risk of infecting the most vulnerable. In fact, Hispanics are 20 times more likely than other patients to test positive for COVID-19.

Claudia Romo Edelman saw a community in desperate need of guidance and support. And she created Hispanic Star, a non-profit designed to help Hispanic people in the U.S. pull together as a proud, unified group and overcome barriers — the most pressing of which is the effects of the pandemic.

Because the Hispanic community is so diverse, unification is, and was, an enormous challenge.

Photo credit: Hispanic Star

Keep Reading Show less

Electing Donald Trump to be president of the United States set an incredibly ugly example for the nation's youth.

We know how it's affected the national discourse of regular adults. But there's no denying the conduct of a president impacts how children around the world see the example being set for them. Every day for the past four years, children have been subjected to the behavior of a divisive figure that many of their parents chose to exalt to the most powerful office in the world.

Sure, adults can make excuses for him saying he's an "imperfect messenger" or that they "didn't vote for him to be reverend," but these are all just ways to rationalize voting for a man with zero character. What a message to send to children: Act awful and you'll be handsomely rewarded.

But what if you took away the "Trump" name and examined the character traits of him as an ordinary person? More specifically, what if your daughter came to you and said this was the kind of person she was planning to date? Well, one MAGA family found out and the results are funny, insightful and quite revealing about how we somehow hold our leaders to different and lower standards than we expect from ourselves in our day to day lives.

Keep Reading Show less
File:Delta Airlines - Boeing 767-300 - N185DN (Quintin Soloviev ...

Want to land yourself on a no-fly list? Refuse to wear a mask on an airplane. Delta is actually having to ban people from flights for not wearing masks. "As of this week, we've added 460 people to our no-fly list for refusing to comply with our mask requirement," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a message to employees per CNN. The number is up from 270 people in August. It's kinda nuts that people are so against covering their nose and mouth that they're actually willing to get kicked off an airline, but here we are.

We're a good seven months in to the pandemic, so having to wear some kind of protective covering isn't new anymore. Delta flights have been requiring face masks on flights since May 4th, and has been barring rule breakers from traveling since June. Delta is also one of two major U.S. airlines that keeps the middle seat open (at least until the end of 2020).

Keep Reading Show less