By Yizhou Zhao, Outside Contributor
The air mingled the smell of pizzas and soda, and the enthusiasm of people eager for the phone bank when I stepped into the J.Smith Hall at 6 p.m. last Thursday. The organizers representing Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker smiled at me as I introduced myself to the other students. I was nervous yet excited.
Phone bank, or canvassing, is an important part of the presidential campaign — calling people identified as members of political parties to get their support and opinions. The information we used was collected during the 2016 election.
I chose to work for the organizer representing Ms. Gillibrand. I was given a script about what to say and four pages of telephone numbers of Democrats. Basically, we wanted to know whether they would vote for the candidate, whether they would like to have a meeting with the organizer and whether they would like to host an organizer in their house at some time.
I surely was expecting talks with numerous people and that I would possibly became thirsty in a short time. But this wasn’t the case. Nearly all the people I called were either not at home or registered the wrong number. Then I would put a tick in the box of NH ( not home ) or WN (wrong number). Dull and meaningless ringing was resonating in my ears and I realized it’s a rare chance to get someone actually answer the call.
“Hi I am a student at PEA and I am a volunteer in the presidential campaign of Kirsten Gillibrand. How are you doing today?” I said swiftly and excitedly as someone finally picked up a call. I gradually got used to answers like “not interested” and “please call me at another time.”
But there indeed were people who cared about what we were doing and were patient to hear what we had to say. Every person is unique so I didn’t pay much attention to the script but sincerely listened to their concerns and what issues matter the most to them.
If I’m lucky enough to know their political thoughts, I will need to mark their attitude on the paper, I thought: 1 is for “I will vote for Gillibrand absolutely;” 6 is for “I will vote for another candidate absolutely;” The last call I made during the 2-hour event was a kind man who said “I really appreciate what you are doing here”, and that really made my day.
I suppose the best part I got out of the phone bank is that I feel much more connected to the community around me. Maybe some of the people I called are those I met yesterday as all the numbers are New Hampshire numbers. Maybe a little more patience and confidence will make people feel the power and the virtue of my candidate. It was so real that every refusal was frustrating but it was also so real that every compliment and understanding was heartwarming.
Our school has fantastic opportunities for students who are interested in politics and I sincerely recommend every student to enthusiastically engage themselves in the political situations right now in America, domestic and international students alike. There are various voices and opinions, and getting to know all the people that are trying so hard to make this country a greater place is definitely a remarkable experience.