Happy New Year! As a new member of the Fort Wayne community, I am so excited to be kicking off the new year in a place that has been so welcoming and with people who are so engaged.
For better or worse, 2020 is a presidential election year. I know some of you just rolled your eyes, others emitted huge sighs and some even let out a resounding cheer.
As divisive as politics has become, I would like to remind each of you that we are in this together. Democracy only works when we work. So perhaps your New Year's resolution could be ... dare I say ... politically focused?
Please do not take this to mean that you need to become a keyboard warrior, losing friends and spreading disinformation on all forms of social media. Quite the opposite, in fact. In 2020, let's make a resolution to be more politically engaged, bipartisan and kind. Here are a few ideas to do just that.
1) Every month, read a book written by someone from a marginalized group and discuss. Talk about that person's perspective, how it differs from your own, what can be learned, and share that work.
2) Diversify your media sources. Make a pledge to understand where your news is coming from, whether it is legitimate journalism or propaganda, and get news from multiple sources. We must begin to think critically about the information that is in front of us.
3) Call or write your elected officials (at any level – local, state and federal). This is especially important before big votes or after major news breaks. Elected officials are in office to serve the people they represent. Make sure they are representing you.
4) Volunteer! Fort Wayne is full of amazing initiatives you can be a part of. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, organize a baby shower for underprivileged families who are expecting, spend a few hours working at your local polling place. Whatever your interests or areas of expertise, non-profits can always use an extra set of hands from people who are passionate about making a difference.
5) Vote! I cannot stress this point enough. Register and figure out how to get to your polling place for the primary and general elections. It matters!
Finally, consider running for office or becoming involved in the political process through campaigns. Not sure whether this is for you or where to start? Begin with your local party. Figure out how you can be useful (i.e., helping to set up for events, writing opeds, attending meetings, etc.) and spend some time getting to know the people. Let them know you are interested in running for office but maybe have some questions or reservations. They are there to help you make informed decisions and give you the best shot at winning if you decide to run.
Ultimately, you have to do your homework. I encourage each of you interested in running to make the investment in yourself and attend a campaign school.
I was lucky enough to attend the Women's Campaign School at Yale in 2016. That experience helped me understand how to calculate the winning number of votes needed in any race, hone my public image and speaking skills, work across party lines to lobby and legislate effectively, and grow my network of amazing women from around the world with whom I continue to be in contact.
It also helped me to understand that I was not ready to run. But as I settle into life in Fort Wayne, I know I am getting closer.
The Women's Campaign School at Yale is a week-long intensive experience that is incredibly competitive. Not everyone has the time or resources to be able to go to New Haven. However, there is a campaign institute right here in Fort Wayne.
If you are tired of the divisiveness, have a real interest in making your community a better place and have ideas about how to make it happen, I encourage you to look into a campaign institute. Your voice matters and we need you!
Emily Carroll, a Fort Wayne resident, is an alumna of the Women's Campaign School at Yale.