My Journey Into Politics

  • Oct 12, 2012
  • meredith
By Vanessa Bell, Emerge Maine Class of 2013
If you would have asked me 10 years ago to join Emerge, I would have looked at you like you were crazy! I didn’t really follow politics, and, until recently, I was honestly not that interested in it. However, back in college, being curious about protesting in general, I did protest George W. when he came to campus. There I was, in the front line of protesters, when I first noticed the cop eyeing me down. Curious, I looked around the cop, and moved to the side to look around him when he menacingly said, “Go ahead, take one more step! Do it!” I wasn’t being violent.  I was just standing there.  Yet I could see in the officer’s eyes that he wanted to take me down.  At that time Pittsburgh PD had a rep for being the “black and blue” police force, so I stood down fairly quickly.  I momentarily flirted with the idea of taking another step forward, but honestly feared what he would do to me.  I also feared that it would somehow ruin a future career that I hadn’t even chosen yet.  I hated every bit of those feelings.  
In a very real way, this officer instilled in me a hatred towards politics.  Somehow, he reinforced my feelings that it was all about money, lies and power.  Now, keep in mind that I was barely eligible to vote when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.  I was ashamed of our President.  To me, a great President is supposed to be a role model for all; a leader who leads by example.  As a child of divorce, Clinton’s actions infuriated me.  So, between Clinton’s actions and that officer threatening to beat me, I felt very adverse towards politics.  It certainly didn’t help that I also thought I would never see a great President in my life time.  I was the generation John Mayer sang about in his song, Waiting on the World to Change.   I felt helpless.  I felt I had no business being in politics.  However, being an optimist I did have hope that, “one day our generation [was] gonna rule the population” and politics would get better.
Hope. Change.  “Change we can believe in.”  In 2008, those words made me look at the TV twice.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  Every time I heard then-Senator Barack Obama speak, he fired me up and made me cry.  (I had my first child in the fall of 2007, so I was still in the joyful crying phase!)  He connected to me; not in a formal press speech, but via my email and live streaming from the White House on the web.  Finally, a politician that really did want to reach everyone!  I was pretty tied up with my new child and full time work, but I truly wanted then-Senator Obama to win, so I had to at least do something.  I started talking about politics, researching candidates and reaching out to others.  At the time I worked in policy on the local level, so I looked for ways to connect those local issues for which I was passionate to the national level. For me, a passion had been ignited. I was on the edge of my seat election night and nearly cried when the final results were announced.   
Fast forward to today and here I am writing as a student of Emerge and using my spare time to help local Dems and President Obama get re-elected.  I’m even Chair of the Topsham Democrats too! What a difference a little bit of hope can make…