Over the last three years, Planned Parenthood has changed my life by giving me the opportunity to help make change happen on a local and national level. During my time as an intern at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England I worked to draw connections between reproductive and environmental justice. As the President of my Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood chapter I was able to lead my peers in fundraising, sexual health awareness, and advocacy efforts that supported choice in our community. With the Young Leaders Advisory Council I worked with peers to teach young people about the value of using communications as a tool in the movement. These experiences, among many more, made me the person who I am today and inspired me to make social justice issues my life’s work.
Recently, Planned Parenthood gave me and several other young people from across the country the opportunity to travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and participate in a GOTV Boot Camp for the Scott Walker Recall Election. I learned a lot from my time in Wisconsin, and since I promised a post about it before I left, now seemed the time to deliver:
1. Every election is a learning opportunity. Learn from everything and everyone you encounter.
Elections give organizers and activists a chance to put all their skill sets into practice, and to develop new tools to better work in our communities. Never pass up the chance to work on one when you can. The skills you learn here, especially when you are young, can be used for the rest of your life.
The people I had the chance to speak to through phone banking and canvassing taught me just as much. I learned that for every angry anti-choicer out there, there is a pro-choice advocate happy to answer the door or pick up the phone. They will thank you for the work you are doing, for the time you put into the causes you believe in, and maybe even tell you a bit about how they came to be pro-choice. Those are the conversations that make it worthwhile.
2. Do not doubt that a few can make a big difference.
The final numbers for what the Planned Paretood staff and volunteers at the GOTV weekend were able to accomplish was follows: We knocked on 10,300 doors and made over 37,000 phone calls to voters across the state. A few people can make a huge difference, and that week was just one example of what we can accomplish when we believe in a cause and work together for it.
3. Even in defeat, recognize your successes.
We may not have won the fight for Wisconsin, but the War on Social Justice (I prefer this term to the War on Women,) is far from over. With the Presidential Election just months away, the lessons we learned here will be more important than ever.
It is easy to get burnt out doing advocacy and activism work, and concentrating on defeats is one way to get there fast. Recognizing the successes, even in moments of defeat, can make all of the difference. When I think back on the time I spent at the GOTV Boot Camp, I do not think about how we lost the election. I think about all the people we spoke to, the people whose mind’s we were able to change, the lasting impact we made simply by getting out there and interacting with the community, and of course making sure the community knew that their voices mattered. That is what makes activism worth it.
Last but not least…
4. Don’t forget to take pictures.