While a majority of my high school peers boasted “Feel the Bern” baseball caps, tee shirts, and pins during the Democratic primaries, we Hillary Clinton supporters receded into the background of left-wing enthusiasm. Speaking for Clinton was often perceived as an attack on the liberal agenda and thus, few spoke. Criticism of Clinton continued to overshadow a discussion of her merits even after she won the Democratic nomination, with students reluctantly supporting her in the face of her Republican opposition. Yet for all of the complaints that I have heard--from my fellow Democrats and Republicans, alike--about Clinton being “all words and no action,” my experience volunteering at the Hillary for America (HFA) Brooklyn headquarters has shown me quite a different perspective. Here, I have discovered what I most admire about Clinton: not just that she is a change maker, but that she inspires so many others to join her campaign for change.
The first time I walked into the Brooklyn headquarters at HFA, I felt that awkward blend of excitement and nerves that leaves you feeling the carsick kind of nauseous. I fretted over being “too young” as I couldn’t vote, and of being perceived as uninformed and ignorant amongst those who had spent decades in the political sphere. To my surprise, I was immediately integrated into a team of volunteers bursting with enthusiasm. Everyone was friendly and willing to help out a newbie. Making calls for the campaign to strangers across the country became easier with each day I volunteered and I discussed politics with many supporters from vastly different walks of life. Soon, I realized that I was engaged not only in a political campaign, but also in a Democratic community. Through volunteering, I have befriended other high school and college students, older political activists--many of who canvassed for Obama--and politicians rallying to promote Clinton in anticipation of November 8th. This community of change makers is not just an emblem of the local democratic processes that underlie the national presidential elections, but is reflective of Clinton as a candidate. She represents a diverse group of Americans that are united in their support for her candidacy and in their vision of a nation in which we are all “stronger together.”
Despite the many stumbles in her campaign, all of the supporters I have known from that volunteer office have stuck by her side, providing me with an intimate glimpse of the fierce loyalty Clinton’s candidacy inspires. Yet the liberals I have been surrounded with everywhere outside of the office--in my school and neighborhood--still tend to lack enthusiasm for Clinton’s candidacy, only days before Election Day. In light of F.B.I. Director James B. Comey’s recent decision to investigate newly discovered emails from Clinton’s private email server--and to share his doing so with the public--such support has continued to wane, reflected in Hillary’s thinning margin of victory in many polls. Even without solid proof of any criminal wrongdoing on Clinton’s part, the ubiquity of the narrative around “crooked Hillary” seems to be enough to push many--particularly, youth leftists--away.
I cannot even count the number of times I have heard students in my school say that their vote does not matter. This excuse, used to justify not voting, falls completely flat in my mind. Even in New York, a blue state, turnout matters not just in terms of deciding who will win this election, but also of what comes after. If Democrats fail to unite, the pressures of a majority Republican Senate, the qualms of disgruntled Trump supporters, and the narrow-minded pursuit of the email investigation by James Comey will easily crush Clinton’s ability to effect the change she seeks if she assumes the presidency. Her success hinges on our strength and our unity, in the determination of the people to elect a president who does not criticize entire swaths of our country but rather, has dedicated her career to building a brighter future for its children. I want a President who can inspire a national coalition of volunteers to fight for her every day and who believe in her with every fiber of their being. This is the President I see in Madame Secretary.
This year, as us millennials either approach or reach voting age, we are experiencing a uniquely tumultuous presidential election, one in which our voices truly matter. In the votes that a portion of us will cast, the hours we spend volunteering, the amount of engagement we have in the political election, millennials--now the most popular generation--are shaping our nation’s political future. If we want a more liberal system, founded upon true democracy and justice, then we know which candidate we should throw our support behind.
If you have the constitutional right to vote, I urge you to make good use of it on November 8th. But regardless of having that right, we all have a voice that can make a difference. I know how I will use mine.