By Mansoor Al Akkas and Faisal Al Essaa, Summer Times Staff Writers
The race for the Democratic Presidential nomination came to the Academy on July 18 when 23 students participated in a scramble for votes in a phone bank in Jeremiah Smith Hall.
The phone bank, from 6 to 8 p.m., promoted three main candidates: Cory Booker, Kamila Harris, and Elizabeth Warren.
The activity began with the students splitting into three groups. The students based their choices of the candidate they supported on a background presentation presented by the representatives of the candidates a week prior. As they students separated, the representatives distributed sheets of scripts and phone numbers.
Rehearsals came first. It wasn’t as easy as it looked. There was the student who would stutter or who would talk fast. But as they practiced they got better at being natural, so they began to make phone calls.
The phone sheets provided numbers, names, gender and addresses. There were also check boxes that characterized the status of the phone calls that went through and didn’t. What students also noticed that they were landlines not mobile phones, since most numbers came in pairs, husband and wife with the corresponding numbers and addresses.
As calls were being made different people with different personalities would answer and reply in different ways. One of the volunteers, Lauren Khine, calling for Senator Kamila Harris, was surprised to have her phone answered by a man who seemed surprisingly cooperative — or just drunk.
Faisal, also calling for Senator Harris, reached someone who said, “if Mickey Mouse is running against Trump, I’d vote for him.”
As the students were dialing and talking on the phone, sticking to the scripts, they were given pizza. Of course all of them took the break and indulged in a few slices to indulge before getting back on the phone.
After the wonderful break, the students were ready to get back to their phones and start collecting more votes. Everyone interacted with people whom they don’t know and tried convincing them to vote. Mansoor went through 10 phone sheets, each phone sheet with 10 to 12 numbers on it. He sat there for 2 hours and none of the people on those phone sheets answered. Either they didn’t answer, or the line was busy. But he learned that representatives work so hard and take hours and hours just to collect 5 votes. People underestimate, criticize representatives. But they have a tough job, and it’s not easy to collect over a thousand votes.
The time was almost over and the representatives were so happy with the students’ performance. Jackie Weatherspoon rewarded the 11th and 12th graders with a letter of recommendation for participating in this particular event.
At 8 p.m., time was up and students began shaking the hands of the representatives and Ms. Weatherspoon. Taking what was left of the pizza and going back to their dorms, some were thrilled and some were disappointed, but they all had a fantastic time at the phone bank. Most of the 23 students who attended the phone bank was their first experience with grassroots politics. They were all taught how to communicate with people while using a script, and how to improvise in tough spots.