As an intern during the 2008 election cycle, I learned a great deal about the ability to educate and persuade. My work consisted of calling and canvassing potential voters throughout the day to ensure that each and every one had the right information they needed to support then-Senator Obama. During last week’s summer organizer training, however, I became acquainted with another art form—one-on-one meetings.
“Tell me a little about yourself. What makes you, you?”
Shaking in my chair, nervous about holding my first one-on-one meeting, it took a good amount of effort to put that simple sentence together. Persuading individuals is one thing, but relationship-building is in a world of its own.
“Well, my name’s Lynette and I moved to Las Vegas after living in Hawaii for five years.”
“Hawaii? One of my close friends at Columbia is from there.”
As summer organizers, we are taught to look at each person who walks into the office not as just another volunteer but as someone who can make a difference. Our stories and experiences as volunteers and organizers make up the fabric of our grassroots organization. In these one-on-one conversations, we’re not only finding out more about each other, but also why we've both uttered the words: “I’m in.”
I spent an hour speaking with Lynette about how she could get involved. We soon started thinking about how best to engage the Hawaiian community of Las Vegas. It turns out she knows local Hawaiian radio DJs and a member of the Hawaiian Civic Club of Las Vegas. With one connection, I may have just made dozens more.
“Tell your friend you live on Hawaii’s ‘Ninth Island’," Lynette said as we were leaving. "It’s what Hawaiians call Las Vegas.”
Community organizing at its finest.