Students on the Trail

Angela C. Li

“I think we’re definitely going the wrong way,” Daniel R. Ki ’15 says, examining the MapQuest printout of Rochester, N.H. He pulls out his phone to double check the location, shifting the device so his partner can see their blue dot moving in the opposite direction of Lincoln Ave. “The real question is how people were able to canvass before iPhones,” he jokes as the pair turns around, doubling back down Main St. towards their designated canvassing area.

The first house on the list is 9 Lincoln, a voter named Deborah. Ki knocks on the door to no response.

“Deborah does not seem to be here,” Ki says. Two figures are visible in the second-floor window, pulling their barking dog away from the open screen. He turns and heads down the street.

The woman at the last house on the block must be in her early seventies. She wraps her head around the door before emerging, as Ki asks enthusiastically if she plans to vote.

“I have every intention of it,” she nods, slowly.

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“Would you mind telling me if you plan on supporting the President this year?” Ki asks politely.

“I wouldn’t count on anything,” the woman says, shaking her head. “I’m still weighing it.”

“Well, I’ll tell you why I’m supporting the President,” Ki begins, sticking to the script he practiced earlier. He mentions education, healthcare, Obama’s commitment to expanding Pell Grants—a 30-second speech. “That’s why I’m supporting the President,” he finishes, ending where he started.

“You can afford to. You’re young. I’m old. How much longer am I gonna be around?” she says, laughing a little. “The best I can tell you is that I’m gonna vote,” she finally offers.

“Thanks for your time. Have a nice day,” Ki says, still smiling as he steps off of the porch. He makes a mark on his canvassing packet and consults the map again. Twenty-seven more houses to go.

~

“The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, I can’t even remember what I’ve done—it’s been great!” says Aditi Ghai ’14, laughing breathlessly. The sound of beeping cars and surrounding traffic mingle with her voice as she navigates the busy road, driving back from an impromptu work conference. Though based in Boston at the Romney headquarters, she has also been anywhere and everywhere else, recently returning from out of state handing a campaign situation.

The last few weeks—indeed, months—have been a blur for Ghai, who has taken the semester off to work as a full-time Romney campaign staffer. Even her summer work as a Romney intern has merged into her current job. “I don’t even remember, I couldn’t even tell you when summer technically ended,” she says.

For students off campus, working full-time in campaigns is an all-encompassing experience that does not leave much time for reflection. It is such a large process with so many moving parts, that it is hard to find the place of the individual cog within the bigger machinery.

“How can we in this campaign, as a part of a larger machine, make a difference?,” asks Jason Hirschhorn ’14, as he nears the end of his Virginia-based campaign work for former Governor and senatorial candidate Tim Kaine. “Had we not been here, there probably would have been someone else in our place, so what can we do to make a difference? To be creative? More efficient?” Jason pursues the question further—an issue as much personal as it is philosophical.

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