Last year I was affiliated with a nonprofit and our country was in the middle of an election so I limited my sharing of my work with Bernie Sanders, but since both of those things are no longer retraints I wanted to share this with you… #JustBecause!
I met Bernie’s Flint campaign HQ manager a year ago this week when I was filming in Flint.
It’s a bit longer story and I may take the time to elaborate later, but the semi-short version is that Timothy, the clerk at the hotel where I was staying (the Holiday Inn Express near downtown) with my camera man (Jesse) in Flint told me at about 10 p.m. on the night of February 7th that Bernie Sanders had just opened a pop-up campaign office down the street.
Jesse and I were both Bernie supporters and together we went down to this new campaign office and peeked in the window. There were still a couple of guys there setting things up (as they were just moving in) and we popped in to say hi and see what was going on. It turned out that one of them was a guy we had seen and filmed earlier in the day handing out free water by the case to Flint families near city hall. #SmallWorld!
We waited around a bit chatting and then Ryan (Bernie’s Michigan campaign manager) – a tall handsome young man from Boston dressed in D.C. appropriate political attire (decidedly out of place for the funky/ hippie of Flint!) arrived.
Ryan and I chatted for a long time at the Flint HQ (well past midnight) about what could be done to help Flint and how we might be able to collaborate on bringing resources and attention to the issue (using the attention focused on the election as a conduit to actually help people by bringing tangible resources to families in Flint.)
I told him about the filming (and free water testing) we had been doing in Flint earlier that day (and over the previous couple of days) and said I would really love to meet Bernie in person and tell him more about the issue and my thoughts (and the thoughts of my other Michigan area lead poisoning prevention advocate friends) for channeling federal emergency funding into potential collaborative efforts with small local community businesses and local citizens that could help solve some of the issues facing Flint.
Ryan said “No, I don’t think there’s any chance you can arrange a meeting with Bernie, he’s too busy… but I’ll keep in touch and let you know if an opportunity comes up.” Around then I found out about the NH event the next day and instead of flying home from Flint in the morning, decided to fly out to try and meet Bernie at the New Hampshire rally – even though I was told it was next to impossible that I would have the chance to meet him!
As luck would have it, there was a massive snow storm in New Hampshire—and as this was one of the earlier rallies (the very first with the Secret Service involved, in fact), it was actually pretty quiet. I volunteered to be an usher in the stands and to help out. I felt like a true #MamaBear, as all of the volunteers were young kids my sons age (college kids in their early 20s and some even younger!) We waited around for hours with the snow storm and the secret service screening (folks didn’t know they wouldn’t have access to snacks and water) and these kids were HUNGRY and THIRSTY – so I made a round or two of the stands delivering hot dogs and bottled water to anyone who wanted some… my #JewishMamaBear coming out in full force!
…and … in the end, after hanging out for something like 6 or 8 hours and ushering and getting to know people and taking lots of pictures I did have the opportunity to meet Bernie (and thanks to an introduction by a friend, I also met his wife Jane)! We spoke at length about the issue of childhood lead poisoning and I was thrilled for the opportunity.
I took this selfie and immediately texted it to Ryan in Michigan! ….with a “Hey, look who I met!” kind of caption!
This is why I used the hashtag #90PercentOfLifeIsJustShowingUp on my Facebook post last year!
Gloria Steinem had also just said (earlier in that week – prior to this rally) that young women were “just going to these political rallies to meet boys” (one of the most sexist things I’ve ever heard actually – especially coming from her!) … which is why I used the other hashtag #LookGloriaIMetABoyAtTheRally!
This was just of taste of what was to come down the pike over the next couple of weeks (last year!)
Meeting Bernie Sanders (our paths were to cross again later in February…) was a highlight of my year, if not one of the top highlights of my life! He is a truly rare commodity in politics—an honest-to-goodness what-you-see-is-what-you-get good guy. We need a lot more of those!
Most important: They listened (both Jane and Bernie.) They truly listened in an honest and genuine way … to my concerns for Flint, to my concerns for our country, to my concerns as a parent of lead poisoned children, to my ideas for moving forward – I really felt heard as a voter and as an advocate for children’s health.
I’m still a bit personally heartbroken that he didn’t win the nomination.