Lessons from the Campaign

by Ambika Bist '15

Ambika Bist and Meg Whitman

“Meg will ruin our state.”

I reply, “Can I put you on hold?”

After a deep breath: “Sir, I’m sorry that you feel that way. Do you have a question I can answer?”

Talking to people and reasoning with them during the year I served in the Meg Whitman for Governor campaign assured me that I had committed myself to an important task. These conversations were different from the work I would normally do in the back of the campaign office. I worked in the political department, crunching numbers, trying to get endorsements and reading speeches to give them a youthful perspective. Politics had become a part of me, just like school.

I would take work home with me and go to phone banks on the weekends. On the Whitman campaign, I was exposed to brilliant political minds, opinions I did not always agree with, and tasks I was not used to. Each day was a new adventure—whether it was learning how to vet a list or calling San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ personal telephone line.

Being the only staffer under 25 and at times managing interns—all older than I—was an unexpected challenge. I was not old enough to vote, but I knew how important it was to choose the right leader. In a couple of years, that person, whose policies at the time seemed promising to me, might actually be helping California by cutting government spending, improving its economy, fixing our state’s education system, and creating jobs—all things that would eventually impact me directly.

I was called to sit in on important policy strategy meetings and stood behind Meg at her homecoming rally after she received the Republican Party’s nomination, and then again when she gave her campaign’s final speech.

When Meg Whitman was ultimately defeated in California, the disappointment I felt was crushing. Yet failure is often a greater teacher than success. Working on the campaign for 16 months helped me crystallize my personal political views, honed my communication skills, and made me realize—to my surprise—that I, too, was ready to steer myself into a role as a public servant.

Meg said: “I’m a big believer in the power of many. What we can do together, none of us can do alone.”

Hearing those words, I realized I am ready to be part of the political “we” of my country.

Ambika Bist’s many activities at Scripps include SAS faculty-staff relations chair, student representative on the Board of Trustees Finance Committee, secretary of the Economic Society, treasurer of Scripps’ Mock Trial, Student Investment Club member, program associate for the Malott Commons, and secretary for the Claremont Colleges Republicans.

Above: Ambika Bist with Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for Governor of California in 2010.


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