I have never considered myself political, as it was always something that failed to interest me because it felt messy and bitter. The thought of people hiding behind a political mask — claiming they are fighting for our rights and promising unrealistic policies — makes me sick to my stomach. In these past two years, we have seen candidates rise from all walks of life: candidates who are public figures, senators or state representatives, who have experience in politics. There was one candidate with a nonpolitical background who rarely got media coverage or was taken seriously and yet, he was the one that I paid the most attention to. I started obsessively researching his policies, watching his interviews and listening to podcasts. I couldn’t stop thinking about how everything that he talked about made sense.
Discovering Andrew Yang completely changed my view of politics. I found that he was a candidate who wanted to vastly improve America by bringing people together with forward thinking, despite their political beliefs, race or background. The movement of his campaign was unique — we were identifying and fighting for the real issues that no one wanted to address. The movement is the embodiment of “Humanity First,” a motto that’s meant to embrace every individual and frame the issues within our country. While other candidates frame issues in terms of Us vs. Them (Us vs. Millionaires, Us vs. Corporations, Us vs. Republicans), Yang framed issues in terms of Us vs. Our Challenges. He drew attention to deeper structural issues within our society and economy without blaming any single group of people.
I became so passionate about the movement that I packed my bags and flew to Iowa on three separate occasions to volunteer my time on the ground. I was door-knocking in negative-degree weather with groups of people who flew in from all over the world. I had the honor of meeting some of the most resilient, passionate and hard-working people who have completely changed my life. Their kindness and warmth inspire me and I can forever say that they are still a big part of my life. One special person comes to mind — one who I met in Iowa, who has shown me courage, happiness, love, patience, strength and every cliche descriptive word in between. I quickly started developing feelings for him and this special person made me want to actually pursue a romantic relationship again.
The third time I went to Iowa, I was asked to be a precinct captain for the Iowa caucus, a meeting where local residents cast an in-person vote for their preferred candidate. This role entailed representing my candidate by persuading voters to “be in my corner” and giving them a one-minute speech. I was also allowed to walk around and talk to voters about the options that they were considering and their concerns, tailored to their state. In my precinct, everyone who walked through the door had already decided on their preferred candidate — not leaving much room for their minds to be changed. Instead, I decided to plant seeds in people’s minds by speaking about Yang’s three main policies and the larger impact they can have.
Besides Iowa, I have been heavily involved in the development of “Not Left, Not Right, Forward,” a club that mobilizes students behind Yang’s vision of Humanity First, through policies such as the Freedom Dividend (a universal basic income), Human-Centered Capitalism and Medicare for All. The club was moving fast and eventually, I became the vice president and canvassing captain using what I learned in Iowa to try and persuade students to join our movement. I have spent hours tabling and phone-banking and attending marketing, leadership and general meetings. I spoke with people that I never would have connected with otherwise — sacrificing and working hard along the way. My passion and energy for this campaign has been fierce.
On Feb. 11, Yang announced that he was withdrawing from the presidential race as he realized that the polling numbers were lower than expected. We gathered that most people just didn’t understand how his policies and implementations could actually move the country forward because, after all, Yang was mostly a complete unknown before deciding to run. While hearing the news broke my heart, I knew that our movement didn’t stop there. My club continues to be in full motion, switching gears to incorporate his policies with volunteer and outreach work, to help give Berkeley the opportunities and resources to grow. Through Yang’s run, the conversation on politics has shifted — other presidential candidates are now doing their own research and trying to implement his policies. In these past two years, we helped fundraise for 13 families to have a Universal Basic Income for one year and have funded Yang to be on the debate stage, where he discussed our abiding problems and provided solutions to them. Best of all, we have strengthened and brought together our diverse community. Andrew Yang is someone who I’ve had the honor to meet and work with, one who has helped me understand how our communities are being rapidly impacted by automation and poverty.
As a 19-year-old daughter of an immigrant who is struggling in the lower class and has been a victim of abuse, I have always dreamed and fought for world change. I have realized that we need to start at the roots and build an America that grants opportunity, freedom and equality for all.
Contact Gisselle Reyes at [email protected] .