Adventures in Government - My First Event
This race will be an adventure. Sometimes it will be pleasant, sometimes it will be soul-crushing, and most of the time it will simply be hard work without pay.
In any case, though, it will be interesting, so I've decided to start documenting the experience. Whether I win or lose, I think documenting this campaign will prove valuable, whether as an educational guide for someone running in the future, or simply as entertainment. My whole goal here is to demystify government, so I might as well start now, with the campaigning process.
Let me tell you about my first ever public event in my run for Congress.
After launching this website and getting some business cards made, I decided it was time to start holding public events. It's still very early to start campaigning for a 2018 election, but let's be honest here: I'm running with no political experience and no name recognition. I need all the time I can get.
So, I scheduled some time last weekend at a local library: the Martha Cooper Library, specifically. It's not too big, but it seems like a nice, active place.
I advertised the event a bit, but I didn't expect much. I prepared a speech just in case, but the goal was to get people together and get them talking--to start a conversation, listen, and moderate. I want to hear what the people of this district consider important, not tell them what I think is important.
Still, though I prepared for a group, I was also mentally prepared to have nobody show up at all. It would have been embarrassing, sure, especially since once your event is over you have to report to the librarians how many people showed up. Still, it seemed more likely I'd have zero attendees than a dozen.
I showed up at the library and checked into the room. The librarian who opened the room for me reminded me about reporting the number of attendees, and then left me alone with an empty room.
There were tables and stacks of chairs along the walls. No podium, no stage. Nothing here to make me feel grand. Which was good, since that would have made this whole thing even more awkward, but nonetheless I was a little disappointed that the reality didn't match the image in my head. It never does, and you'd think I'd have learned that by now, but I'm not sure I ever will. Fantasizing is just human nature.
I started pulling chairs off of the stacks and arranging them in what seemed to me like an appealing audience configuration. Judging by the number of people walking in (zero), I knew I wasn't going to need very many chairs. Still, I didn't want to make it look like I didn't expect anyone to show up. So, I used about fifteen chairs total, arranged so that people in back could still see past the people sitting in front of them. Not too close together, not too far apart. The room wasn't square; more of a wedge-shaped room, so I shifted and adjusted the chairs until they felt aesthetically pleasing in the odd-shaped space.
I put a sign on the door, letting people know what the event was about, and that they were welcome to come on in. I then sat at a table at the front of the room, took out my laptop, and waited.
To my mild surprise, someone actually walked in. At first I assumed he just saw the sign on the door and got curious, but soon I learned that he went there specifically to see me. He'd seen my website and everything.
Since we were the only people there, I abandoned my place at the front of the room and invited him to sit and talk a while. It was a good conversation. He works in education, which resonated with me a lot since, really, education is my top priority. As I told him, my focus on education isn't just about schools (though that's a significant part of it), but the constant process of learning as we as individuals, as a country, and as a species continue to make new discoveries and grow. In short, education doesn't end when we leave the classroom, and if I become a congressman I intend to use that position to make my time in Congress educational for everyone.
But enough of my budding stump speech.
We had a nice, long conversation, and when he left I felt this whole thing turned out to have been worthwhile. At the very least, I wouldn't have to report zero attendees when my time was up.
I still had a good half an hour left in that meeting room, though, so I continued to wait.
Eventually, another person dropped by: a lady waiting her turn to have her taxes done in the other meeting room. She walked by, saw my sign, and said, "Oh, you're running for Congress?"
"I sure am," I said, and invited her in to talk.
She was a retired dance teacher, and she is passionate about the National Endowment for the Arts. I liked her immediately. We spoke about many of the same subjects I discussed with my first visitor: Martha McSally, the Trump Administration, education, and so on. But the arts especially was where we bonded.
We continued talking, even as my time ran out and I began to stack the chairs back up and put them away. She kept me company as I closed up the meeting room, and I thanked her for speaking with me before we parted ways.
So, it was with inordinate pleasure that I announced to the librarian that I had two attendees to my event. The librarian, bemused, recorded that information and, as I walked away, she said, "Good luck!"
The "you'll need it" was implied.
Still, you have to start somewhere. Since that day, I've had more visitors to my website, and a few inquiries asking for clarification on my positions. Word of my candidacy is spreading, and I think I owe some of that to the people who came to talk to me at the library.
In many ways, I think this event was more successful than I could have hoped. I'm looking forward to planning my next one.