My first real experience with politics was during the 2000 election cycle. I watched all three debates and on Election Day, I stayed up all night, waiting in vain to hear a definitive result. No such result came, and the election was instead ultimately decided by the United States Supreme Court.
I knew, immediately, that something had happened that simply wasn’t supposed to happen. President Bush ended up being far worse than even many of his critics predicted, and in 2004, I helped phonebank for Senator John Kerry’s 2004 Presidential bid. After that election, I obviously remained troubled, but not discouraged. There were a few bright spots to that election, and Barack Obama’s resounding victory was one of them. I am proud to have supported him and to have worked for the campaign during and after the primary season.
One particular line that Obama often says has really impacted me. “You don’t just want to be against something, you want to be for something.” It is not enough to simply be against big oil interests and progress-blocking politicians. We must be in favor of alternative, clean energy resources, new environmental protections, human rights, and a brighter future for our children. Perhaps most importantly, we must create and inspire public awareness and consensus about these issues so that people become mobilized to take action. These issues – protecting our planet, safeguarding human rights, ensuring the future – are beyond any one group of people or any one political party. They are bigger than any single campaign or any single election cycle. They are more than responsibilities; they are duties that we share to our fellow men and women and to the Earth.
I have volunteered for several political campaigns. In 2004, I helped organize get out the vote efforts in key states. I called individuals who signed up to help out, told them where and when the canvass would meet. Before calling someone, I would look up a map of the city the person lived and find the campaign office so that if someone needed directions, I would be able to assist them.
In January, was the co-chair of the group “UCI students for Barack Obama.” I was engaged in distributing campaign literature, registering new voters, recruiting and training new members, and phone banking. Every day, I got up early and helped set up a “UCI for Obama” booth on campus. The booth served as a hub to facilitate distributing campaign literature and also gave us the opportunity to answer questions directly from people who were interested in Senator Obama’s campaign.
In June, I was accepted into the Barack Obama Fellowship program, where I travelled to a swing state (Nevada) and worked for the campaign full time. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.