Have you ever felt overwhelmed or frustrated by politics? Our Head of Giving Circles Melissa Walker did. But then she heard something that changed how she approached activism, and went on to create real change that improved lives. In this episode of Stand Up! With Pete Dominick, she shares her story and how you can have the same impact.
Read a snippet of their conversation and listen to the full episode below!
Pete Dominick: Before we dive in, I want to learn a little more about you and the work you’re doing. How did you get involved with this?
Melissa Walker: I have a strange path to involvement here. I am someone who comes from publishing — I write young adult and middle grade novels — and that is what I was doing in the fall of 2016 when I suddenly felt the urge to do something else and get really involved. So I attended a publishing holiday party in December of that year where I heard then-New York State Senator Daniel Squadron speak. And that was the thing that turned everything around for me and got me involved in state legislatures, specifically.
Pete Dominick: What was it that he said? Whenever I hear someone say I saw this talk, or you should watch this because it really affected me, I’m always very interested in what that thing was. How do you activate someone that way?
Melissa Walker: We were in a room, there were probably 50 or 60 of us there, and he said, “This room, this room that we’re in right now, could raise the resources and bring the attention to change the balance of power in a state chamber this year.”
And I was like, what does he mean? Number one, how is that possible? And number two, to be honest, I was kind of like what’s a state chamber? Because I realized as I rode home in the cab that evening, when I looked up who my state senator was and who my state assemblyperson was in New York, that I had never heard of them.
I started to understand that this was an area where I hadn’t been looking, and where things he talked about that night made me want to look. Because that night, he talked about how everything we were all worried about and everything we cared about that might happen under a Trump presidency were all being decided in state capitols, not in Washington DC.
He talked about healthcare, and education, and environmental work, choice, and of course — the very core of our democracy — voting rights, and gerrymandering. I started to connect the dots and realize that I should have my eyes on Albany, and maybe I should start to understand how the rest of these state capitols work and what they’re actually doing.