I recently completed the Sorensen Institute’s Candidate Training Program designed to prepare future candidates interested in running for office. During the intensive course, we were each asked the same question, “What is your earliest memory of political interest?”
Listening to a wide array of personal and political leanings, I found the common thread is this — at some point, we each had an experience that made making a difference a personal mission.
A retired military officer recounted encountering the excitement of children seeing an American soldier. A police officer who was impacted by a mother that had been killed by a boyfriend. An immigrant attorney who had been detained by ICE and the fear she felt during her experience. And, for me, a personal experience that propelled me to get active and work to change a law.
Hearing those stories cemented what I had always thought, that the strongest and most effective candidate, activist or volunteer knows that, at heart, all politics are personal.
While I’ve always been politically aware, I’m especially aware of issues that directly impact women and children.
In 2014, I crossed that line where it became personal, and I became active. I worked tirelessly for two years, and, in 2016, I helped write and advocate for a new law that was passed.
This law focused on guardianship reform that put in place more safeguards to protect our elderly and protect families for our rights to visit our loved ones. I did that. I also had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I just knew a change was needed, and someone had to do it.
I contacted my legislators and found one who would sponsor my bill. I testified on the Senate floor, lobbied to have other legislators co-sponsor the bill, and partnered with national advocate, Kerri Kasem from KasemCares. I also saw legislators trying to block my bill, reduce its effectiveness and vote no. The bill ultimately passed, but not in the form that we had submitted. One lesson I learned is that change is incremental.
However, not to be deterred, we went back this year to strengthen it. It was killed, but we’ll try again in 2019.
Now, it’s your turn. Find an issue or political philosophy you are passionate about and get involved. How?
► Volunteer. Whether it be at a school, foodbank, animal shelter or any other organization that you care about, they need your help!
► Learn who your legislators are, reach out and tell them what’s important to you. What district do you live in? Who’s on the School Board? City Council?
► Ready to step up your game? The Grassroots Groups have never been more exciting or stronger than now. These groups really are “the boots on the ground” for targeted social change on issues.
► Really fired up? Find a candidate – or be the candidate – to create change that will make positive impact for you and your fellow citizens.
► Join us. I can be reached at email@example.com. We have many opportunities to get active in issues that you care about, whether it be local, state or national interests for all ages. We will be starting our “Summer of Action” next month to support candidates in local and national elections.
As a citizen government it’s our responsibility, our duty, to be active. This really is our country, and we the people can be the difference and we have to be.
Democracy is not a spectator sport.
Hesseltine is the chairperson of the Virginia Beach Democratic Committee. Reach her directly via firstname.lastname@example.org, or find out more about the party online at vbdemocrats.org.
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