My father has always used a phrase borrowed from Pericles: “Just because you do not take an interest in politics, does not mean politics does not take an interest in you.” Politics is any activity that is connected to governing a country or other area, dealing heavily with conflict and debate between opposing parties. My childhood circled around the world of politics, as my father works as a political organizations professional. From the monthly meetings my father took me to at our local Democratic Party headquarters to phone banking for one candidate or another to freezing my butt off mid-winter knocking on doors to the dinner conversations that circled around the news, I was involved.
As a child it all seemed endless. The phone calls, the fundraisers, the parades, the hang ups, the slammed doors, the political promises that never seemed real, the trips to our state capitol. My first memory of politics is when I was around three years old. My dad took me to a church where some politician was announcing he was running for the United States Senate. The politician was married with two daughters of his own; one was a little older than me and the other was a little younger. I remember running around the church with the youngest daughter as her father gave his speech. That politician was Barack Obama and my playmate for the day was Sasha Obama.
As a young child, my father had me making phone calls, walking parades and attending events. I have several memories where I’m hiding in my father’s coat at some speech because it was bitterly cold out. I remember watching as my father worked on campaign after campaign, from our local state senator, to United States senator, governor, to the presidential campaign in 2007-2008. He left for months at a time during that campaign as he worked hard to get Obama elected, going to Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and finally Minnesota. I spent several afternoons after school helping my father in the downtown Chicago Obama ’08 office.
There’s a script every phone banker uses, and I’ve gone through it so many times that I can state it from beginning to end out of the blue. A stuffed animal I have to this day; Wolfie, was given to me by a staffer there. Later, my parents got invited to the inauguration, and my fourth-grade class watched it on television. I remember scanning the screen over and over again looking for a glimpse of my parents in the large crowd. I never did find them, but I didn’t stop looking because my parents were there, and my father helped make this happen.
For as long as I can remember, my father has taken me to the Illinois state fair for my birthday in August on either Governor’s Day or Democrat’s day if we had a Republican governor at the time. Year after year, I found myself pulling him towards the same exhibits. We would always go see the butter cow, get some ice cream, and finish with eating pork-on-a-stick before driving home again. Now I’m no longer a ten-year-old girl dragging her father around the fair, but instead a twenty-year-old woman accompanying her father to a couple days in Springfield.
These days, we go the day before and stay in a hotel in town. We still do the same things, but the butter cow isn’t my favorite part anymore. The evening before, we network. We go to different fundraisers around town and talk to different politicians, both currently in office and those who are looking at getting elected. In these past couple years, I have been trying to start to branch out during these events. As someone who is looking at becoming a lawyer I have found myself seeking out Kwame Raoul, the Illinois Attorney General.
Whenever I felt like I got out of the realm of politics, somehow I was pulled back in. A parade, a meeting, helping to elect an official I thought could change the world, an internship I couldn’t refuse. As a child, I would tell anyone that would listen that I had no interest in politics and the job I would pursue as an adult would be far from politics. I went through several desired professions: detective, teacher, firefighter, police officer, fairy princess. For reasons, some more obvious than others, I never became any of those.
Somewhere in my quest for an anti-political life I hit a wall and turned around and started coming back. I started looking around the world I lived in and realized that blissful ignorance wasn’t something I could afford anymore. I started attending Democratic Party meetings with my father and actually paying attention. The summer after my freshman year, I was an intern at the JB Pritzker for Governor campaign in Illinois. I started to do my own networking and standing on my own two feet politically. As an adult I stopped running away and started embracing the culture of politics. Just as politics took an interest in me, I took an interest in politics.