When you get the chance to learn about communication and citizen engagement from White House officials, those lessons tend to stick.
Two months after my visit to the White House for a White House Tweetup (#WHTweetup), what I learned has not only stayed firmly planted in my head. It’s blossomed in ways I hadn’t imagined it might.
Some of that is the perspective of time, I suppose, which I chatted about recently with my fellow Tweetup attendee, Joy Cook.
But I think it’s more than that. That’s because the most important thing I brought home was this ideal: Never underestimate the power of the American people to make change happen.
The principle that every one of us can make a difference is something I’ve always believed in. But hearing it from senior White House officials made me more determined than ever to live by this philosophy. Every day.
I began by finding ways to communicate with even greater clarity and purpose about what’s at stake in the upcoming election. I look to the White House and the Obama 2012 campaign (for which I am a volunteer) for guidance in what to say and the best ways to say it. With every Tweet, Facebook status update or blog post I write about the President’s accomplishments and goals, I can educate and inform people on the facts. Equally important, I can share positive energy and optimism.
Personal interactions are no different. With every conversation I have about current issues or the President’s vision for the country, I can change someone’s mind. I realize I won’t influence everyone’s opinion, but at least I can give people points to think about as they evaluate the candidates. I’ve learned to be prepared for these conversations, because they often happen spontaneously while you’re chatting with a friend or handing money to a cashier.
It can be as simple as making sure people are registered to vote and urging them to cast their ballot. That can open the door to talking about where the candidates stand and their records. People often don’t know about the many benefits of healthcare reform (“Obamacare“), or they don’t see how Detroit has come back since the auto rescue. Sharing facts can open people’s eyes and, maybe, their minds.
When I make phone calls to recruit volunteers, if people are too busy to give much time I remind them that they can do their part just by having these kinds of conversations with their friends and neighbors. They’re usually eager to know where they can get more information, which may motivate them to become volunteers in the coming months.
No question, my faith in the power of the people is stronger than ever since my visit to the White House. And everything I learned that day has heightened my awareness of ways to put that power to good use. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas — and they’re not hard to find.
I’m motivated by the dedication of the people I met at the White House and the work they do every day to engage with citizens online and in person. I take inspiration from First Lady Michelle Obama, who speaks with volunteers on conference calls and reminds us how much she and the President value our efforts — and underscores their shared belief that each one of us can make a difference. Mrs. Obama’s passion for the importance of individual participation is so genuine it’s impossible not to want to do more.
It’s a passion she shares with President Obama, which is one of the reasons I hold him in such high esteem. He has always made me feel like my voice matters, that everyone’s voice counts. The President reinforced this ideal during the first Obama 2012 campaign rallies in early May, when he reminded all of us about the difference we can make in the future of our country. A future that still holds the promise of hope and change that’s all about helping every American lead the best life possible.
I’ve had few days as meaningful as the one I spent at the White House. I can only imagine how incredible it must be to work there. But you don’t have to work at the White House to make a difference in this country. You just have to use your talent and your voice to help bring about the change you believe in.