By Melanie Sachs, Emerge Maine Class of 2013
Hey Guys –
Harder to imagine a weirder time for the two of you, starting high school and middle school with your mom’s name (and thus yours) plastered all over town in campaign signs! As I go through this campaign, I realized that all three of us are in unfamiliar territory, of sorts. Here are the top 5 lessons I have learned on the campaign trail which might help you too:
1. Say “I don’t know”. It is hard, in your teenage years, to admit you don’t know something. Guess what? It is hard for many adults too. I was knocking on doors one day when a fisherman named George asked me if I knew about the new rope regulations that had just passed in the Legislature. It might be tempting as a candidate, to fudge a bit and say “Sure I do!” Instead, I said I wasn’t aware of them, and George was happy to fill me in. Saying “I don’t know” is not an admission of ignorance – it is an invitation. It invites to the other person to provide their own knowledge, it resonates because it is authentic, and it is an opportunity for your own growth.
2. Be yourself. I know, I know, this is the same lesson that you have read in every story book, heard in every cheesy Disney channel show, and learned in every health class in school - but it’s true. As a political candidate, or a teenager, it might be tempting to try and be all things to all people. You can’t, even if that means that not every person will like you (or vote for you). But it is hard enough to navigate the political (or public school) waters without knowing your true compass. Be yourself, know what you value and what you stand for, and everything else will fall into place.
3. Wear comfortable shoes. You might think I mean something really deep, such as “Support comes in many forms” or offering this as a metaphor for being comfortable in your own skin. Nope, I mean wear comfortable shoes. Hard to do anything when your feet hurt!
4. Listen. People will tell you what is important to them, if you just ask. I was nervous at first to drive into a stranger’s yard, knock on her door, and introduce myself. Overwhelmingly, though, people are kind, and appreciate the opportunity to tell you what is important to them. You just have to take the time to ask, and then genuinely listen to the answer. This is the same whether you are in the classroom, at a community event, or on the campaign trail.
5. Build a great team. I am continually amazed that people I did not know before this campaign have offered to paint signs, drive me around while I knock on doors, write letters, and talk with their friends about the campaign. I have forged new bonds with our neighbors, and met new friends all around the state (particularly from that awesome program I am in called Emerge!) The hardest part was accepting help, and realizing I didn’t have it to do this alone. You don’t either. If it ever seems too big out there, just ask for help, especially from me.
Which leads me to the last point – I couldn’t have done this without you. Thank you for being my biggest fans, and greatest supporters. I know that, among your many sacrifices, you have to be picked up from school in a minivan that sports a HUGE red campaign sign on it announcing your mom’s candidacy. I have watched with pride as you explained to your friends the difference between a caucus and a primary, appreciated your help when your fingers were tired from stuffing envelopes for the mailing that HAD to go out the next day, and marveled at your poise when fielding questions from friends and adults about your mom’s campaign. Thank you for being there for me, and for each other.
Now let’s get back to those envelopes…