By Christiana Ho ’15
When I graduated from Scripps in 2015, I felt prepared to take on anything and was optimistic about my professional future. But, at the same time, I was uncertain. What did I want to do? I felt an urgency to do something “meaningful” but didn’t know how I could impact the world. After applying to countless jobs in a variety of fields, I found little success. So I turned to mentors, friends, and family for advice on how to navigate the professional world.
A mentor told me about an internship with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. At the time, I had never considered a career in politics, but I applied anyway, and I went to work under the director of Asian American outreach. Though it was incredibly exciting to work in the headquarters of a presidential campaign, I felt disconnected from voters and thought I could be doing more to have a direct impact on the outcome of the election. When I asked for advice on what paid campaign positions to pursue, both to make a difference and to pursue a career in politics, the overwhelming answer from staff was, “Go work as a field organizer in a state.” I did exactly that: after two months as an intern, I moved to Las Vegas to be a field organizer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and I haven’t looked back since.
After two months as an intern, I moved to Las Vegas to be a field organizer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and I haven’t looked back since.
During the recent 2020 primary cycle, I had the opportunity to be the Nevada organizing director for Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign. It was the honor of a lifetime to work for Senator Harris. As the only Black, Indian American, and multiracial woman running for president, her candidacy was historic, and her ability to connect with a diverse range of people made organizing for her one of the most rewarding such experiences I’ve had to date. We engaged so many new people—people who had never been active in politics before, people who had been left without a seat at the table. Senator Harris’s vision for America, her record of fighting for all people, and her commitment to inclusivity throughout her career and campaign allowed so many people to see themselves in her and in a Kamala Harris presidency.
While the outcomes in 2016 and 2019 weren’t what I had hoped for, I have known since I first started organizing that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and I’m in it for the long haul.
On the campaign trail, Senator Harris often said that when you work to elect candidates who are from underrepresented groups—like women, women of color, Black or Indigenous people of color, and gender nonconforming and nonbinary people, among others—you’re asking people to believe in something that has never been done before. It can be hard work, but it’s critical work because representation matters. When our representatives are people who can personally relate to our lived experiences, they will do a better job of keeping our interests in mind. Representation matters to me because it shows young people that anything is possible.
Throughout my career, I have learned that while a candidate can be inspiring, fight tirelessly for causes I believe in, and be from an underrepresented group, that candidate must also run their campaign in a way that aligns with the values they claim to hold. Candidates also need to hire and empower the people they claim to want to represent.
I work tirelessly to lead with my values and empower underrepresented people to raise their voices, and my education and experiences at Scripps are major reasons why: the emphasis on critical thinking in classes, the love and encouragement from friends to be true to myself, and the high standard of excellence to which we were held. Two of my most influential mentors were Associate Professor of Writing Kim Drake and Professor of Dance Ronnie Brosterman. They believed in me and never doubted that I could achieve my goals. This kind of confidence is not something I had as an incoming first year at Scripps, but it is certainly something I developed over my four years and that I have carried with me since.
I work tirelessly to lead with my values and empower underrepresented people to raise their voices.
The 2020 election is on the horizon, and more than just candidates are on the ballot. It is more important than ever to challenge ourselves and to take action, to put real work into electing candidates who represent our values of integrity and inclusive representation and who uplift the voices of those who have historically been left out. Winning the election alone is not going to solve America’s problems. Voting alone is not going to eliminate the institutional basis of systemic racism or white supremacy, but we must continue these fights. And in order to win, we must vote. I look forward to having you join me and seeing you on the campaign trail!