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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

From Middlebury to Midterms Organizing

Hannah: My sophomore year at Middlebury, I was sitting in Proctor thinking about the 2012 election. Growing up in Virginia, I had been involved in campaigns throughout high school, including the Obama campaign in 2008, but was involved in climate organizing in college and was feeling disillusioned by the political process and its ability to truly impact the things I cared about, like climate change. Then one of my friends said, “You know, none of the things you care about will pass if Mitt Romney is president. You have to fight for a candidate like Obama who we can push to be better on our issues.” And that principle has really stuck with me. I took a semester off from college and moved to New Hampshire to organize for Obama and have continued fighting to elect candidates we can push and then pushing them to be better ever since.

Teddy: The first door I ever knocked on was because of Hannah. She wrangled some funding to bring a group of students to Derry, New Hampshire, where she organized in 2012. She filled up a van, far too early on a Saturday morning and we knocked on doors three days before Election Day in a 35 degree “wintery mix.” All signs pointed towards a bad experience — instead, it was a ton of fun, made a difference and changed the trajectory of my life. 

Hannah: Through these experiences with student organizing, we realized how powerful young people are when we mobilize and turn out. After college we started working for NextGen in New Hampshire turning out young people to vote in the presidential primary. We both worked for several campaigns since then before coming back to NextGen to turn out the #youthvote in the midterms this year, using the skills and building off of the relationships we had developed organizing on campus at Middlebury.

Teddy: Young people make up a third of the electorate, but because we vote at only half the rate of older Americans, politicians ignore our needs. If we all turned out to vote on Nov. 6, politicians would have to listen to us, and we would be able to hold them accountable. The last two years have been terrible, as so many communities are under attack. We need to vote on Tuesday (and volunteer to turn out other voters) to ensure our leaders listen to us and build the future we deserve.

Editor’s note: Hannah Bristol ’14.5 is national organizing director for NextGen America, and Teddy Smyth ’15 is NextGen America’s New Hampshire state director.