When you're a Democrat, knocking doors in a deep-Republican area like Lynchburg, Virginia, can throw more challenges in your direction than you'd expect. It wasn't unheard of to receive death threats when trying to persuade voters to support a candidate. More than one homeowner threatened to let their dogs out to get us "liberal canvassers" off their property. One woman told me that she would never vote for "that n***** Obama." I walked away from that door as fast as I possibly could.
But when you are a volunteer, that's what you do: knock on doors. Volunteers knock on doors in the rain, in the snow, and in 100-degree weather. Canvassing, also known as "the ground game," is an essential part of any campaign. But no one had warned me how dangerous the doors I was knocking could be.
I do it because I love being involved in causes that will make America a better place. In college, I attended the first PowerShift youth climate conference in 2007 and came away an activist. Back at school I helped organize petition drives against mountaintop coal removal, held screenings of environmental films, and led town-hall events.
By 2008, my door-knocking career had begun. I volunteered for the historic Obama campaign and for the campaign of Senator Mark Warner. My fellow volunteers and I were determined to elect a progressive president and senator, and we knocked on as many doors as we had to in order to win that election — the issues at stake were way too important to give up. On election night, November 4, 2008, we were victorious — both Obama and Warner had won! For many of us, this was the first campaign we had volunteered on, and we knew the town halls, phone banks, and doors we knocked on had helped them win.
I stayed active after that. In 2012, I volunteered for the Obama campaign again. Later in the fall, I was an organizer for the League of Conservation Voters, persuading its members to volunteer on the Obama campaign, Senator Tim Kaine's campaign in Virginia, and Krysten Sinema's congressional campaign in Arizona. I phone-banked voters for days on end and, yes, knocked on doors asking people to volunteer and vote.
And now, after all that time knocking on doors — for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, and again for Hillary Clinton this past year — I am attending the Democratic National Convention as a delegate from my congressional district. It's a big step up from my previous work, and I can't wait.
I decided to volunteer for the Hillary Clinton campaign early this year because she is the most qualified Democratic candidate. I loved her plans on repairing the Voting Rights Act and installing universal, automatic voter registration. For my big issue, the environment, Hillary understands that we need to take action on climate change. Her goal is for the United States to generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America, have half a billion solar panels installed by 2020, reduce oil consumption and energy waste, cut billions of oil and gas subsidies, and protect public lands. I was especially excited for her plan to develop an environmental-and-climate-justice task force, to eliminate lead poisoning within five years, and to expand solar and energy-efficiency solutions in low-income communities. I knew she'd inspire a new generation of women to break through the glass ceiling. So I've been doing my thing — I volunteered in Iowa, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and made thousands of phone calls to get out the vote. I planned canvasses, maintained a volunteer listserv, planned precinct operations in my city for Primary Day, where we had a presence at EVERY polling place, and recruited dozens of volunteers.