Clinton's Manifesto of Fighters
By Gabriella Canal (University of Miami Graduate)
Somewhere in the heart of Florida City, in front of the first house I was going to canvass, I hesitated in front of a door half open. The green paint was peeling, trash and needles littered the street, eyes questioned me from all around. After knocking for a second time, a shirtless man with yellow eyes opened brashly. I asked for a Ms. Something-or-Other. “She doesn’t live here anymore,” he said harshly as he pushed away at the kids hiding behind his legs. “Oh, alright,” I said. But I wanted to reach out to as many people as I could so I responded determinedly, “Well, sir, have you voted yet, or do you have any questions about the voting process?” His face softened. “I can’t vote.” Naively, I had asked why, to which he answered: “I’m a convict. Seven times.” Something like sympathy washed over me and in a moment of absolute sincerity I asked him if he would like to vote. “More than anything,” he said, “I can’t afford to see this man become president.” It was then in that moment, under the heat of the Florida sun, at the front door of this American who would never be able to cast his vote that this election became real.
When I think of November 8, 2016 frantic images of knocking on doors and flying through disorderly packets pass through my mind’s eye. November 8th I associate with hope, a time of uncertainty, excitement, a final push. It was the brink of changes for those whose concerns had been long dismissed, whose voices long silenced, whose struggles long endured.
November 9, 2016: Even now, I scramble for the right words to describe this day. My eyes drooped with the heaviness of defeat, my realities were shattered. Cities stood in silence, beds were not left, voices whispered questions that no one could answer. For many, it was a day of disappointment. For many, November 9th will become a question of where one was, added to those other profound dates of upset and tragedy.
Five months before, I was packing up the last of my belongings from my childhood home in Orlando and heading for the big city in a noble effort to help inspire change, to make a stand in the face of ignorance and hatred. I was on my way to an internship with the Latino Vote Department at the Hillary for America Headquarters in Brooklyn.
Headquarters was everything I could imagine and more. Inspirational speeches and exciting guest appearances; bean bags and colorful posters; people who shared my values and a team that became family. There was a beautiful effort every day to bring together leaders from the forefront of our biggest issues, of small and big communities alike, to gather in a grand effort to elect Secretary Clinton as the champion of our nation, a nation in dire need of her expertise, resilience and patience. Whether they were pastors or TV personalities, women in politics or small business owners, mayors or activists, people from all trades for their own reasons, dedicated their time and efforts to carve her a path to the White House. A path wide enough for everyone to walk down.
As the countdown became increasingly unfathomable, the tasks weaned and campaign staffers dwindled, I switched gears and went to work in the field.
I was told I would have to knock on hundreds of doors. I was told I would have to make 400 calls a day, scheduling a minimum of 20 shifts between 9 a.m. and 12 a.m. Timed lunch breaks, no weekends, an under-resourced and under-staffed office and no pay. “Difficult” would begin to describe life outside of the headquarters as a field organizer in one of the Miami offices. At the end of the day, what inspired me to keep on going those two and a half weeks were the voters and volunteers I met and the stories they shared with me.
Jordi Isaac Quevedo-Valls, a 19-year-old college student, was a frequent at our region’s sleepy, convenient-store-turned-field-office. Every Saturday morning, at 8:30 a.m. I would find Jordi ready to sign out his pile of turf packets, always with a smile on his face. This is not your average college student.
“I view her as a role model to all people, not just women,” he commented on Secretary Clinton. “She has been a dedicated public servant for 30 years and counting. That is what inspired me. I will admit, I don't agree with every thing she says. . .But that's okay. It brings a healthy argument into the discussion.”
Quevedo-Valls was born in a small town called Washington, in Iowa, to immigrant parents. He grew up in a town nearby named Fairfield and moved to Maputo, Mozambique when he was 10 because of his parents’ work in public healthcare. At 16, he moved to Pretoria, South Africa for a couple of years until ending up in Florida to attend Miami Dade College.
Quevedo-Valls explains, “The issue that motivated me the most was college education. Students loans are becoming quite scary to the point it could be the next economic bubble burst. I felt Hillary understood the issue at hand and had the correct solution to it.”
Among Secretary Clinton’s platform was a comprehensive plan to put higher education within reach for all Americans, and take on the crisis of student debt. Included in this plan, all community colleges would offer free tuition. By 2021, families with a yearly income up to $125,000 would have paid no tuition at in-state four-year public colleges and universities. And from the beginning, every student from a family making $85,000 a year or less would have been able to go to an in-state four-year public college or university without paying tuition.
“This election meant a lot to me for a variety of reasons. It was the first presidential race I had voted in,” he reminisced. “We could have elected the first female leader of the free world and remember this forever. . .At the end of the day, we are all Americans, who just want better change and prosperity for future generations to come. That is what I think.”
Then there was Mira Borggreen, 33, from Odense, Denmark. I met Borggreen when I staffed an event for Bill Clinton in Florida City — the first U.S. president to ever speak there. The long
line outside of the youth center began to form in the pounding heat of the early morning. Borggreen and her organization, Danes for Hillary (DFH), had stood patiently at the front of it for hours.
She formed DFH on June 5, 2014 in order to give Danes a chance to follow the election and show their support for Hillary on social media. She worked on a volunteer basis on DFH in addition to her full time job for two and a half years. Finally, in October of 2016, 17 DFH members took time off from work and without any contribution from sponsors, travelled to Miami for two weeks to volunteer. Her organization knocked on about 10,000 doors throughout Miami-Dade County.
“Hillary has been an inspiration to me since her Beijing trip as First Lady and her statement about women's rights,” she said excitedly, “and I have followed her closely since her political career began with her Senate race.”
Denmark has one of the longest, uninterrupted diplomatic ties of any country with the U.S. “The American election is always followed closely in Denmark,” said Borggreen, “. . .and Trump was also a strong reason as to why many Danes got involved in or followed the election this year.”
As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton oversaw significant accomplishments, from building a global coalition to imposing crippling sanctions against Iran, to brokering a ceasefire in Gaza and protecting Israel, to supporting President Obama’s decision to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. She has a strong record of defending America and its values, and of sticking with its allies who share the same vision.
“I have learned that the divide in the U.S. is bigger than I thought before going into the primary - and that the pattern seems to reflect what we see in Europe as well,” said Borggreen. “Populism is on the rise politically — Brexit, national elections in Europe, etc. — and politicians really need to understand and listen to the electorate on either side even more than before! I will never stop fighting for progress and right now I am looking into where I can make a difference in the world - at home as well as abroad - going forward!”
As the last of the votes came trickling in, I sat in the parking lot of our field office, head in my hands. There were yells, then tears, then silence — everyone was coping with the loss in their own ways. One of the directors looked at us that night and reminded us that perhaps with out this loss we would have sat comfortably in the backseat of progress.
So now is not the time to protest with our screams, our cries, our social media posts. The time for that has passed. Now is the time to gather our thoughts and dive into the next four years strategically and methodically. Now is not the time to disregard concerns or cast aside struggles. Now is the time to sit down with supporters from all sides of the table and to share with them our stories in an effort to make America greater than it ever was.