November 2018 – Activist and author Sam Daley-Harris is encouraged by the surge of voter interest and participation in the Congressional midterm election … to a point.
“I’m heartened by the increased engagement. I’ll be more heartened if it sticks around and doesn’t dissipate,” said Daley-Harris, speaking at Drew University. “Elections are over, but our jobs as citizens are not.”
More specifically, Daley-Harris noted that true advocacy goes well beyond signing an online petition to forging relationships, such as with congressional staffers, editorial page editors and local officials.
Also, as an alternative to the dichotomies of shouting and silence that characterize much of today’s politics, he suggested bipartisan cooperation. “Approach your political opponents with love and respect,” said Daley-Harris, the author of Reclaiming Our Democracy: Healing the Break Between People and Government.
Daley-Harris, the founder of anti-poverty group Results and advocacy training organization Civic Courage, further encouraged students to join groups that push them out of their comfort zones. What’s more, he urged them to banish resignation—a message that resonated with Malek Elsayyid C’19. “People in power want you to be cynical,” she said. “Optimism is a form of power.”
The activist spoke as a guest of Drew’s Center for Civic Engagement. Afterward, Center Director Amy Koritz noted a recent uptick in student interest in advocacy but wondered, “How do we keep that energy going?” Relationship building will likely be key. As Koritz put it, “Face-to-face, talking to real people–it takes time, it’s scary, you can get rejected, but it does work.”