Lessons of a door knocker

By Pearl Benjamin | Nov 08, 2018

Today I’m writing with more than a light sense of anxiety. By the time this column is released, election day will have already illuminated the path our country is headed down. If you’re reading this, you’re either relieved and elated, or terribly, terribly depressed. Either way, I think it’s important to recognize the significance of these midterm elections. It wasn’t really election day that made a huge overall difference — it was the exhausting and relentless work that occurred over the past two years. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the so-called “resistance” in my country, to watch role models young and old rise up and bring people together in ways I never thought possible. I’ve learned about the government, legislation, and political maneuvering. I’ve learned how to raise funds and rally vocally-empowered troops. I’ve learned about some truly incredible people, and how each of them has made a difference for my country.

I didn’t even know I could write a speech until a year ago. I had no idea my voice held power until I heard others; other voices that called for change, for revolution, for peace and acceptance. I was inspired by my own family members, by the survivors of the Parkland shooting, by the thousands of hopeful and angry voices at the very first Women’s March. Because of these people, I realized I could write, and I could talk, and I could shout. I used these new-found abilities to bring others in, to add their own voices and stories to mine. Together, we made trips to the State House in Augusta to talk to our representatives about legislation. I watched bills get passed and stood by one of my closest friends as she testified in support of a law that would help prevent suicide by firearm.

My friends and I used our interest in (and frustration with) political action to form our own teen advocacy group. We helped organize protests which turned into demonstrations which turned into full-blown political events like our gubernatorial debate before the primary elections. I still can’t believe how effective a little group of kids with strong opinions can be and we’re just getting started. In the weeks leading up to this midterm election, my friends and I learned how to canvass and advocate for our causes by getting out there and talking to people, even with those who have opposing views.

I now know that every conversation, every knock on every door in every town, matters. I also know, by watching all the other people working hard to have those conversations, learn about the issues and advocate for others, that making change can sometimes feel exhausting and endless, but the process of doing the work is what strengthens our membership in this democracy.

To me, my part in this election seems meager compared to the political action I’ve seen come from others. The heroes in this fight are the ones you’ll never read about in the paper — people like my own mother, who gave up a profession and any moment of rest or leisure to found a powerful state-wide resistance group and work tirelessly to inform the public on issues like civil rights, gun reform, immigration and much more. My mom, who happens to be a far better writer than I am, put her skills into a payless operation that wound up educating and inspiring thousands. Watching her change her own lifestyle to fight for a noble cause was what truly made me understand my own responsibility as a human in a crisis like this.

My mom canvassed constantly in the weeks leading up to this election. Almost every day she’d be knocking on new doors and helping to organize information for her preferred candidates. She took being “politically active” to a new extreme, and I have no idea how. I hope to one day be able to join her and absorb what she’s learned about taking responsibility for our country.

I’m not saying I think everyone should go out and break their backs for justice like my mom does. In fact, I think we’d all be a little too exhausted and overwhelmed to function properly if that were the case. It’s OK for there to be a few heroes who go above and beyond everyone else. But these heroes should be recognized, and their efforts must not go to waste. If you voted Tuesday, you helped people like my mom succeed, and I’m eternally grateful for that. If you voted Tuesday, you made every door-knock and every sidewalk conversation worth it, and I thank you for that.

Personally, I can’t vote –– I’m only seventeen, so it’ll be another two years for me. Although all the political work I do isn’t quite as valuable as voting, I like to think of it as my way of compensating for it. I’m envious of anyone who can vote, because that action is the most powerful tool for change that any citizen has. So if you did vote Tuesday, know that you voted on my behalf, and on behalf of all the teens and kids in our town.

Regardless of how the elections played out, what I’ve learned during the year leading up to them is irreversible. I not only found my own voice, but I also learned how much louder and more powerful it is when it joins with others. And we know that putting the best people in power is where change starts, not where it ends.  The fight has only just begun, and there’s far more door-knocking to do.

 

Pearl Benjamin is an 11th-grade student at the Watershed School.

 

Comments (3)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Nov 12, 2018 07:01

Well read and well said, indeed.  Young people like this give me hope, something we'll all need in the days to come.



Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Nov 08, 2018 15:30

Well read and well said. If only all of our children had parents to set the example!



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Nov 08, 2018 08:56

After hearing yesterday what the Maine Teen Advocacy Coalition has been up to was hoping you would write an article and here it is! Our future is in good hands.



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