What I Learned in Iowa

I sat in the airport in Dallas. We just missed a connecting flight. We found out we were redirected to Omaha and would have a two-hour drive awaiting us to reach our final destination of Des Moines. I had one thought running through my head -- this better be worth it. I can admit this shameful inner monologue now because my trip to Iowa to help campaign for Hillary Clinton was in fact very, very worth it.

I had never been to Iowa before but as I sat in the car, gazing out at the flat fields of land I couldn't help but be excited. I very quickly remembered the importance of this state and its people in the presidential election -- they are the first primary. When we stepped into the first room of supporters I took a look around -- all shapes, sizes, colors and genders stared back. And thanks to some of these people, within my first hour in Des Moines I learned about the crazy, passionate and frankly medieval political process of caucusing. I was fascinated. "So you literally just stand in the corner of the room assigned to your candidate?", I asked. "Yep," they responded. "And then you try to convince people over to your side?" "Yep." It's like picking teams for kickball in 6th grade PE class -- except that the future of our country is on the line.

When I was 18 I voted in my first election for the young senator named Barack Obama. I knew I liked him but, admittedly, I wasn't totally sure why. I listened to the news and heard sound bytes but I didn't really do my homework. As young people, it's easy to be apathetic, it's easy to worry about starting a career or being in a relationship. Life in your twenties is tough -- trust me, I know. But as I made my way through rooms and rooms of young Hillary supporters it dawned on me -- yes, it is easy to be apathetic, but it is just as easy to care. I was taken back with admiration at some of the so-called selfish/lazy/greedy Millennials I talked with. I met a guy around my age (25) who makes 200 phone calls a day in the name of environmental conservation. Next to him were two post-college girls who worked in social media strategy and stressed the sheer power of a Facebook post in this campaign. I met a field hockey player who had just graduated from Dartmouth who told me that campaigning for Hillary was the most exciting thing she could be doing with her life right now. She and another young campaign organizer drove miles and miles through northern Iowa (read: the middle of nowhere), where it can take up to half an hour to simply reach the next driveway, pushing people to come out and caucus. I spent a lot of time with a girl who just moved to Iowa, was experiencing her first caucus, and had boldly volunteer to lead her precinct, a huge responsibility. And I met one high school student who spent hours canvassing for Hillary in the pouring rain, talking to strangers and getting them to commit, because he knows how gravely important this election is.

And it is that -- gravely important. I am not a politician, I am not an expert, but I am a young person who does in fact care and can see that we are at a huge turning point. As we traveled through Iowa, I learned about the issues I've always taken to heart from the people they have affected first-hand. I spoke with a Planned Parenthood staff member about how all of the important work she and her organization do is at stake. I met a retired pediatrician who worked on national health policy for decades and stressed the fragile state of our country's health care laws if they fall into the wrong hands. I heard the story of a woman who, because of Obamacare (which Hillary intends to amend and improve as opposed to simply throw away), was able to go to the doctor when she felt like something was wrong and she found a pre-cancerous tumor. This same woman comes from a mixed Muslim and Christian family and she asked me, "What would Trump do? Throw out a husband but let the wife stay?"

In Iowa, there is the caucus. This sets the stage for how the election will play out - and Iowan's know this. They are aware of their responsibility and take it extremely seriously. The caucus is inspiring because it really pushes people to learn about why they feel the way they do. It stresses community building and lets ideas flourish instead of arbitrary, uninformed statements. But, people must get out of bed and take the couple hours out of their day and let their voice be heard. Some have to find sitters for their kids, others have to forfeit a couple hours of pay. They must commit. Now I am not an Iowan, I have never caucused (although I one day hope to go watch one because it sounds incredible), but the commitment of the people of Iowa was infectious.

One night, some Hillary supporters welcomed us into their home. In Iowa it is very common to have house parties to talk about issues and give people the information they need (remember that community building?). I stood patiently as I watched my dad (who I was following studiously) give his short speech about why he so fervently supports Hillary. Then, one of the hosts turned to me and asked me to speak about why I support Hillary. I blushed, my palms were sweaty, all eyes turned to me, I wasn't expecting this. But, I gathered some thoughts and this is what I had to say:

Frankly, I am scared. I am scared that the country I will raise my future family in will not be the country I had always envisioned. We are on the brink of crisis both within our country and outside our borders and I want someone averting that crisis that I can trust. For me, that is Hillary. As a young writer I spend a lot of time picking the brains of older, more seasoned writers and try to internalize their advice. The message that I always get is: there is no match for experience. In my eyes, from my research, Hillary is the candidate with that experience. She has been prominently on the national and international stage with resounding success. However I, the social-media-addicted Millennial, see posts and videos about Bernie and the revolution he plans to have our country partake in. At first glance, this sounds great. But while I am an optimist, I am also a realist. Personally, when I have goals I want to know how I can accomplish them. When I hear Bernie's goals and I read about how he wants to accomplish them, I am left totally puzzled -- will that really work in our extremely politically divided government? No. Does Hillary know how to work over those political lines and get things done? Yes -- because she has, time and time again. I do not want to be naïve because as far as I can tell, naïveté doesn't do very well in politics. So when I think about that country I want to raise my family in, when I mull over the people and issues I encountered in Iowa, there is only one sensible answer -- Hillary.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Without these opinions there would be no progress. All I can hope is that our opinions are informed and thoughtful because there is simply too much on the chopping block this time around.