Before COVID-19 took over our lives, the 2020 presidential campaign was taking over news outlets and social media. Within the GDS community, students were arguing about who would be the best Democratic candidate to take on Trump and who would drop out next. After months of rallies and debates (and let’s not forget the tweets) we finally have an answer. On November 3, 2020, Joe Biden will be the Democratic candidate to take on Donald Trump.
In early January, I went to visit my family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. During this time, Democratic candidates were campaigning in Iowa, gaining local support before the Iowa caucuses. Unaware of the experience I was about to gain, I tagged along with my family to a nearby elementary school to hear Joe Biden speak.
During his speech, Biden talked about his views and plans for the country, topics including the environment, foreign policy, healthcare and the economy. He was calm, clear and crisp. However, he did not discuss the issue of gun violence—something that I am very passionate about.
After Biden finished his speech, he started making his way down the aisle, shaking hands, taking pictures, smiling and talking to people. He walked over to our family. I asked him, “I have a huge passion for gun reform. There is so much gun violence in our country and I along with so many people are scared for our lives. If you become president, what would you do to solve this issue?”
We had a long conversation about how big of an issue gun violence is in our country. Although it had been a long day for him, he enthusiastically invited me to speak about my concerns. He listened to everything I was saying with interest and was not in a rush to finish up our conversation. He validated my concerns as genuine and brought his past efforts to my attention. In 1993, he guided the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act through Congress, which established the background check system that has since kept more than 3 million firearms out of dangerous hands. In 1994, he secured the passage of 10-year bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He encouraged my interest in social justice and told me to keep fighting for the right cause. At the end of our conversation he said, “We’re going to get it [ending gun violence] done.”
After meeting Biden, I was struck by his kindness and empathy. I was going to support him to be our next president of the United States and decided to come back for the Iowa caucuses as a precinct captain in early February.
The weekend before the caucuses, I went door-knocking to campaign for Biden. I spoke to college students, a teacher, a mailman, a doctor, an artist and a furniture maker. I asked for and listened to their life stories. The youth and young parents talked about the high cost of college education, increasing prevalence of racism and their desire for financial security in old age. The elderly were more concerned about healthcare access and costs.
Ultimately, they all seemed to want a leader who would listen to them and help them meet their goals without having to worry about their future. This experience was transformative for me as someone who has always lived in a metropolitan area. Being able to listen to the voices of rural America gave me a better understanding of our country’s needs and what Americans wanted from their future president.
On the day of the caucuses, February 3, I was prepared with my data and talking points. The evening began with greeting people at the door and helping them register for the Democratic Party. The layout of the caucus was determined by the precincts of the candidates. After the first round of caucusing, Andrew Yang and Elizabeth Warren were disqualified because they did not win a viable number (15 percent) of votes in our precinct.
I took the opportunity to cross over to the other side and talk to their supporters. I listened to them, understood their priorities and shared with them why Joe Biden, with his experience and ideologies, would be the right candidate to advance their cause.
I told them, “As a liberal and a progressive-minded teenager it makes sense for me to choose someone like Buttigieg, who is also young and progressive. However, he is just launching his political career and has many years ahead of him to grow. The reason I think Joe Biden is the best presidential candidate and the future president because he truly cares about the American people and wants to become president to help others and not himself.” After speaking with a variety of people, I was able to convince some caucus-goers to join our side, helping us pass the threshold.
My experience with Joe Biden’s campaign has helped me grow not only as a student who is interested in politics, but as an American who is furthering my understanding and appreciation of my country and the people living in it.