EPISODE 4: Special Guest Dr. Jill Biden: Education and Grassroots Organizing
JULIE PARKER: We are so thrilled to have on the podcast today educator, author and former Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden as well as Kurt Bagley who is the national organizing director for the campaign. Thank you both for joining us. We appreciate you so much.
DR. BIDEN: Thank you!
ARIANNA Wyndham: Yes Welcome! JULIE: Yeah!
KURT Bagley: Glad to be here.
JULIE: So, yeah thanks Kurt! Um when we decided to launch this podcast one of the things that we knew we wanted to do was an episode where we talked about education and of course Dr. Biden you immediately came to mind as a lifelong educator so no doubt you have some incredible insight from your many years of teaching.
DR. BIDEN: Yep!
JULIE: And I know that you’ve said teaching is not just your profession but it’s who you are and I think that is just so great. I feel like students of teachers who have that perspective and look at it that way are just really so fortunate because that is a teacher who really cares about and advocates for their students. So I’m wondering what made you decide to be an educator? Was there like a pivotal moment for you? Just wondering about that.
DR. BIDEN: Well thank you Julie and um you know I would like to say teaching isn’t what I do, it is who I am and I think..you know I grew up with a grandmother who was a teacher. I grew up absolutely loving reading and um so I just…and I saw so many kids actually who could not read and who didn’t love reading and I just wanted to develop number one the ability to read and number two develop their love of reading like I loved it. So when I was a young girl I mean my grandmother grew up teaching in a literal one room schoolhouse where they had the rows of desks, you know?
DR. BIDEN: I remember it would be third grade and then fourth grade and then fifth grade and she use to take me to school with her and so I used to love that part of my childhood and my grandmother had a really great voice and was a really great reader. So anyway I grew up um in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania it’s like outside of Philadelphia and um I have four sisters so there were five of us girls growing up and uh so you know I knew that I wanted two things out of life. I knew that I wanted a marriage like my parents. I grew up in this very 1950’s idyllic…truly idyllic neighborhood and I was listening…it was funny…to kids who can’t go to camp now and I was
thinking my God we didn’t even have camps growing up. My mother said “get out the door and come back when the streetlamps come on” and that was like my summer and you know what we didn’t think a thing about it. So we ran out and we took our sandwiches and we literally did not come back until the streetlights came back on.
So anyway I just…my parents had a great marriage I mean they got married young. They actually eloped and so you know I waitressed at the shore to save money for college when I was in high school and so I knew I wanted a marriage like my parents but I also wanted a career.
DR. BIDEN: And I knew I wanted to go to college, so I went and I first went for fashion merchandising, but like three months into the semester I said, “This is not for me” you know and so I switched and I went into English and I became an English teacher. So I have to tell ya I was at the University of Delaware and I was in my senior year and it was a Saturday and out of the blue, literally, out of the blue I get a phone call and it was Joe. Now I don’t think I had ever met him but he had seen a picture of me from a friend and he called and said he was in town and if I wanted to go out and…actually I already had a date and I said, “I’m sorry I already have a date tonight.”
DR. BIDEN: So he said “do you think you could break it” and I thought, “Wow” and I said, “Well I don’t know” I said, “Call me back in an hour.” So I broke my date never…by the way…heard from that guy again. Yeah and so I thought well I like to tell the story that you know this was the seventies and you know everybody wore clogs and tie dye shirts and love beads and Vietnam and um and honest to God Joe showed up at my door…with honestly…a perfect suit and leather loafers.
DR. BIDEN: And I I took one look at him and I thought, “Thank God this is only one date.” JULIE: [Laughs]
DR. BIDEN: And you know I never expected it to go any further than that I thought, “I am never going to have anything in common with this guy,” but you know surprisingly he was very interesting and fun and funny and the one thing I have to say that hooked me right that first night was he brought me home and you know how…well you don’t…but I’m just going I’m going to tell you because you know like you know the seventies and the guys were like oh “free love” and you know trying to push you through the front door and he didn’t do that. He stopped at the front
door and he said, “Jill I’d really like to see you again” and he put out his hand and he shook my hand goodnight.
JULIE: Aww what a gentleman!
DR. BIDEN: Yeah and I ran up the steps of my townhouse, I called my mother at one o’clock in the morning.
JULIE: Oh my!
DR. BIDEN: And I said, “Mom I finally met a gentleman.”
JULIE: Aww that’s great!
DR. BIDEN: Yeah and that’s that hooked me into going out with him. So as you may know I mean Joe had lost his first wife and he lost his daughter in a car accident.
DR. BIDEN: And his two sons our two sons Beau and Hunter were badly injured and they were in the hospital oh my gosh for months you know.
JULIE: Oh wow
DR. BIDEN: But um you know I didn’t know him really, I knew of him but I didn’t know him during that period. So actually when we started dating I mean he really is a true family man and there weren’t like a lot of candlelit dinners between me and Joe. I mean it was like me and Beau and Hunter and Joe and we’d go to the movies together and um I mean it just happened and it was so natural and so easy. You know I didn’t think anything about it I mean it was always the four of us. We always did things together and go on vacation together and so anyway that was the start of this life together and of course I also tell the story of how he had to ask me five times to marry him.
JULIE: Oh my [Laughs] he was persistent!
DR. BIDEN: Oh yeah he’s persistent um which is a good trait I guess.
DR. BIDEN: Uh but you know I had to be absolutely sure that the marriage was going to work because…
JULIE: Of course
DR. BIDEN: Because the boys had already lost one mother and I…I loved them so much I couldn’t bear the thought that they would lose another mother through divorce and I had to…so it had to…it had to be forever. This marriage had to be forever and here we are for God’s sake one hundred years later.
DR. BIDEN: Actually it’s only forty two but um…but you know…and I taught I think most of that time that we were married then uh we had a daughter Ashley, and she’s gosh thirty eight now. So for fifteen years I literally went to grad school and I got…going back to that love of reading…I got a masters in remedial reading…
DR. BIDEN: I became a reading specialist because I thought “I have to give kids this love of reading” and I taught reading in the high schools. I’ll tell ya if kids don’t get it in the beginning it is really really tough for them to catch up. So then I then I went and got a masters in English and then I said, “Heck I’m going for the doctorate.” So for fifteen years literally of our married life I mean I went to school. I was in some grad school, so you know I think my kids they were all very supportive of me. Even at the end of each semester when I got really grouchy because I had finals and you know exams…
DR. BIDEN: And so I know what my students go through. Anyway it was totally worth it just totally worth it. So I taught in the high schools and then in a psychiatric hospital because it was the 80’s and there were a lot of kids into drugs, into cutting, a lot of suicides and so they came to me and said “Jill would you teach…would you start a program in this local psychiatric hospital? Would you teach English and History and then we will hire one teacher for math and science” and I said, “Sure.” So I taught there for five years…
DR. BIDEN: And it was very interesting I learned a lot about mental health and problems that kids have, but then after five years I just wanted to go back to the high schools, which I did, and you know those kids that were in the psychiatric hospital were just the same kids in my classroom dealing with the same sorts of things it’s just the kids in the psychiatric hospital had tried to commit suicide so that was…that was the difference. But you know kids are dealing with so much and that’s why I feel as strongly as I do at this moment during this pandemic when I see that kids will be at home and all the things that they’re going to deal with like anxiety, or food insecurity, or domestic violence, and then they’re going to have to go back into the classroom hopefully in the fall. But do you see like what all of our teachers are going to have to
deal with? Just not their subject matter, but with all these kids and their problems because I mean…I’m sure you learn this through Chasten I mean our kids trust us. Our students trust us.
DR. BIDEN: And they bring us their problems and their hopes and their dreams and…and their failures and their successes and they want us you know to mentor them through life which I think is such a major part of who one is as a teacher.
DR. BIDEN: So then I went into community college and you know I’ve been there ever since.
JULIE: Sure, well I think what you’ve said about kind of your path to becoming an educator and the things that you’ve thought about in that process certainly…I’m sure has been attributed to community college and how dedicated of an advocate you’ve been for that. I know during your time in the White House you and the Vice President really showed a light on community colleges and have really continued that work. I know for myself I went to a community college…
DR. BIDEN: Good for you!
JULIE: And I appreciated…yeah and I did it later in life as an adult… DR. BIDEN: Uh huh
JULIE: So I didn’t…it wasn’t right out of high school so…and I just remember being a student how much I appreciated the dedication and passion for teaching that I witnessed in the teachers that were there. So I think it is so wonderful that you’ve become such an advocate for community college. I think it is really valuable and I know that the Vice President’s plan for education um after high school really just has so many great components. You know like giving students the option of no cost community college or an apprentice program that’s going to enable them to secure better paying jobs and I think that is so fantastic. One of the things that I’m just really excited about with that plan is the fact that it would include you know adults. Which as a person who went back to school as an adult I identify with, but also for Dreamers. Which I think it wonderful…
DR. BIDEN: Yes! Yep!
JULIE: So people who hadn’t had a chance to pursue higher education um and maybe want to learn knew skills um and I know in having conversations with Arianna about this you know she’s…she’s definitely been really excited about that aspect as well.
DR. BIDEN: Well I really feel like the magic happens at a community college. You know my students come to school. A lot of them are working maybe…some of them two and three jobs. They have kids. You know they are going to school. You know they are doing so much and uh we started the idea of free community college in the Obama-Biden administration and it was so funny. It was part of the Recovery Act and it just happened that there I was teaching in a community college. So President Obama said, “Jill will you become the face of community colleges and sort of lead this effort” which I loved because we worked really hard and we got free community college in over forty different communities throughout the United States.
JULIE: That’s amazing
DR. BIDEN: And so students I mean I think it is so smart to start education at universal pre-k meaning that all kids start at the exact same level and work their way up and go to free community college. I mean you went there Julie so you know that we are training the nurses and the truck drivers and the people in green energy and we’re teaching…it’s just the people…the nurses…the people who are needed in communities. So of course my students when they get out of school they get jobs. I mean it’s all about what the community needs and um…and then if they decide you know they want to go on to a four year degree they can easily slip into a four year college. So I think it is one of the best things that America has to offer and if we can give free community college to all students I mean what a gift to help them make a better life for themselves and their families and…so I’ve been there oh my gosh I don’t know how many years I’ve been there.
JULIE: [Laughs] That’s amazing! Well I don’t…you obviously don’t know this but Ari our co-host is uh herself a Dreamer um and…
DR. BIDEN: Oh no!
JULIE: Yeah and we had some pretty amazing conversations about the opportunities you know that are present for those also.
DR. BIDEN: Yeah! Yep!
ARIANNA: Yeah I would totally go back to school. I’m twenty nine years old. We have three kids and I got pregnant the night after I graduated high school and after that I was accepted into college and music school with a small sponsorship but I wasn’t really interested in putting my family in debt for the rest of my life.
DR. BIDEN: Uh huh of course.
ARIANNA: Because I would have been paying for out of state tuition…
DR. BIDEN: Yeah sure
ARIANNA: And possibly you know housing and all that stuff, but yeah I ended up not going and sometimes I do think about yeah oh I would still be doing this or maybe I would be doing something else but this is where I am now and it’s great but I would totally…
DR. BIDEN: I know but I want you to go back! I want you to go back to school! I want you to start. I want you to start thinking about starting in the fall. Just start small! Just take one course. Get that under your belt and you’re going to love it because you’re going to love the learning aspect of it and you know what? You deserve protection on the pathway to citizenship. I mean Joe will make that happen. So look at all you have ahead of you. So I hope that you can just sort of dream big…no pun intended…um
JULIE: [Laughs] Sorry!
DR. BIDEN: They have a…they have a ton of community colleges all over the country so you could find one. Just start! Just try it! Would you think about it? WOuld you think about it?
ARIANNA: I’m definitely interested in going back to school at some point. I’m not sure when with all the kids and stuff.
DR. BIDEN: I know but that’s always like you know…I had three kids and I said…I said, “I’m doing this” so you can’t say “oh I have three kids” because then you’ll say “I have this” and “I have that.” It’s sort of like getting pregnant you know it’s like you just have to do it.
ARIANNA: Yeah like anybody is ready [Laughs]
DR. BIDEN: Because there’s no real [Laughs] there’s no real “right time.” So if you just try it and listen I’m an English teacher so if you need me to help you edit your papers or proofread you can send them to me and uh and I’ll help you.
JULIE: [Laughs] There you go! There you go Ari!
DR. BIDEN: I’ll be your mentor. I’ll be your mentor because can I tell you at my college I saw so many women just like yourself come back to school and they got…and they said, “We don’t know technology, we’re scared of math…we have math anxiety. We don’t know…what should I do? How do I sign up for courses?” all this stuff and so I said, “Wow we need a women’s mentoring group” and so I started one and I had seventy faculty members who said, “We’ll help you” and they all took on like three and four and five mentee’s, and I’m still mentoring, and they help them not just through the problems in academia but through life. I mean my students come to me with all kinds of stuff I mean you know one had her car stolen, one needed childcare, I mean all kinds of problems. So if you think of it in those terms you will…you will not be alone because there…you will meet so many other women who are just like you who are raising
children and going back to school and trying hard to just get a degree. Because if I can tell you you never know what life will bring ever and life can change for you in a moment and I don’t want to be a downer but you know our own son died and there was my daughter in law who is raising two children now by herself. You never know. You never know. You have to be prepared and that’s what I have always tried to tell my own daughter Ashley. I said, “Ashley you’ve got to be independent you have to be an independent woman, have your own money,” because if anything happens in life whether it’s a divorce, whether it’s a death, or look at this pandemic. You must be prepared to raise your children. That’s your primary responsibility as a mother and so you need the tools to do that so why not while you’re young you know start. Start now. Like I said one course. It’ll be one night a week. One course.
ARIANNA: Well yeah I need to.
JULIE: I think that’s so great and so generous of you um you know I know when Ari and I were kind of talking about this you know one of the things we were touching on was the financial barrier is obviously there for people but one of the really…I think…great things about Joe’s plan is that it also going to provide financial support for things beyond tuition and fees.
DR. BIDEN: Yes!
JULIE: Like transportation or childcare things that are also barriers for people. Kind of to your point about those being a barrier for people so I think it’s a very well rounded plan and we’re really just so impressed with it and I’m so excited at the thought of Joe becoming president and appointing a Secretary of Education who’s actually been in a classroom!
DR. BIDEN: In a classroom! Absolutely! Oh my gosh! Yes
JULIE: And I’m sure the president having a first lady by his side who’s an educator is fantastic for him.
DR. BIDEN: Yeah and I would love to stay in the classroom. I mean I know I couldn’t do it full time but if I could just keep my…you know…sort of foot in the door…because I think it would be such a great thing to lift up teachers and lift up their profiles. This…I think this pandemic has lifted up teachers and celebrates teachers in a much…of course…different way. But parents are finally saying like “hey this is really like a tough job” what we were saying about our kids teachers like “oh they get ot go home at three.” I mean you know a teacher never…I mean it’s a lifestyle…it’s something you live twenty four hours a day. You’re thinking about your students, how to make things better. I mean I talked to a teacher last week who was telling me “Jill I teach all day long. I teach my classes but I have one student…one student who cannot get access to a computer until after four thirty in the afternoon” and do you know that that teacher gets back online again and teaches that one student the exact same lesson that she taught the entire class.
JULIE: That’s commitment
ARIANNA: So sweet
DR. BIDEN: I mean that’s dedication right?
DR. BIDEN: And that’s what teachers are and that’s why you know I’m so excited about Joe’s plan because you know I’ve travelled the country. I I talk to teachers and said “what do you need, what do you want, how can we make things better” and I love that you know…that you are supporting Joe and Joe’s plans because I realize it’s not easy because you’ve put all of your love and you’re commitment and your energy into the candidate you believe in and then when that candidate has to pull out of the race I mean that is devastating and I’ve gone through it so I can tell you exactly how I felt and I…honestly for a month I was kind of shell shocked, but I mean look what Pete did. I mean how incredible that the same day…I mean it was like when Amy pulled out and then Pete…and then right away…right away they said, “Hey Joe Biden you’re the one that has come out ahead” which of course is not the way it was in Iowa and New Hampshire.
DR. BIDEN: And they came out I mean that says so much about their character. That’s why I love the people who ran beside Joe because they joined him in this effort and that has to be our goal I mean we have to beat this president because of all the negative things that are happening in our country and we have to turn the corner and we have to start building on things that the Democrats believe in. Like climate change and a good education policy and keeping our schools safe and I mean there’s so much we have to do. But you know what? That got all of us…all of the candidates, all of the candidates’ spouses, and their supporters like you guys. We all came together for one common goal and I think that that is truly a beautiful thing that that happened. That we all came together and joined forces.
JULIE:: We agree. I…I absolutely you know…to your point about kind of having that period of time after your candidate decides to suspend and just kind of the process that you go through as a supporter. Um but I think as Barnstormers I think a lot of us as we were going through that…I know I speak for myself…are looking at this as you know…we are joining mayor Pete in his support of Joe’s campaign. Pete would not be supporting Joe if he did not fully believe that he was the best for the job and he said this time and again…I was watching an interview just the other day where he was talking about all of the kind of interactions that he had had with Joe on the campaign trail and just really as he was identifying the fact that he was going to need to leave his campaign behind and the things that he was focused on in terms of Joe’s campaign and how much of what Joe’s positions were aligned with the values that he had in his campaign.
DR. BIDEN: I know we so admire him really. You know like I said it’s just honestly it’s a gift. Because politics…it doesn’t usually happen this way but this was like a moment in history.
JULIE:: Absolutely yeah
DR. BIDEN: Oh guess what! Kurt is supposed to be speaking!
JULIE:: I was actually…I was actually going to go into that um… KURT: That’s okay that’s okay!
JULIE:: As Barnstormers we feel like grassroots organizing really helps make politics more accessible to people because it opens a door for them to get involved and we’ve heard from so many people who joined Barnstormers in the beginning “this is the first time that I’ve volunteered for a campaign,” “I’ve never done anything but vote up to this point”
DR. BIDEN: Wow!
JULIE:: Really how in the course of that you know there’s kind of been a learning opportunity for people who haven’t been involved before to understand a little bit more about the process and become more civically minded and so we just think that’s great and that was kind of what I was going to get to with Kurt…thank you for joining us Kurt.
DR. BIDEN: [Laughs]
JULIE:: And um I just wanted to know if you and/or Dr. Biden had talked a little bit about what your experience has been this past year, you know both on the trail and of course with the pandemic it’s become digital and virtual and as you’re engaging volunteers and voters and just a little bit about the experiences that you’ve had in that process.
DR. BIDEN: Go ahead Kurt I’ve taken a lot of time talking.
KURT: Sure I would like to. I would love to and no this has been such a fun conversation to be listening to and and thank you Dr. Biden and thank you Julie and Arianna for having us on and for all of the founders and uh all the Barnstormers together thank you we’re really excited to be working with you all and yeah I would love to talk a little bit about how the last year has gone through our lens and the organizing side and…and you know I think initially would love to just take a step back and talk about how I think about civic engagement generally and organizing generally. Um you know and…and you know to me I think civic engagement is you know really about regular people coming together and taking actions that help determine how our country and how our communities are led and governed. I really see our role as organizers to help facilitate that. Whether it’s in the campaign sense or a broader sense. So that’s kind of how I see civic engagement and you know I…I got started doing organizing back in 2012 um I was on the Obama Biden reelection campaign in Colorado and that was honestly just some of the most
fun I’ve ever had in life because I was learning about civic engagement at the time and meanwhile I got to go to Colorado and talk with students every single day about why they needed to vote.
JULIE:: That’s great!
KURT: And you know young folks…yeah it was you know truly an amazing experience and you know I was still learning about civic engagement myself at that time and campaigning as well and I thought it was such a neat experience to be on campus and just kind of mixing it up with students everyday and you know hearing people’s opinions and having deep conversations and you know as volunteers as a new volunteer or as somebody who gets involved with this kind of work for the first time. Those conversations might be scary but you know I think that they’re…If you can kind of get over the hump that they’re really scary and think about how um…how important those discussions are and hearing people’s opinions and and what they’re side of the story is and what they are looking for in a leader I think those are really important and empowering conversations and enable you to work together you know to kind of create a better community and a better society if you can work together on that front.
KURT: So you know I…I…you know so I thought that was a really amazing time and um I point at a lot that experience because I think it was really an informative experience for me but also it made a big impact on the campaign because we registered several hundreds of thousands of voters in the state of Colorado and we won by like one hundred thousand votes and so you know I…i saw it both as a really amazing opportunity to get people engaged in voting, get people engaged in volunteering um and organizing. But also a way that you know we can make sure that we have the right leaders in office and that’s why I fell in love with organizing and civic engagement. So yeah that was the beginning for me and um…you know I’ve had some really really you know terrific experiences since but you know I think that this cycle as Dr. Biden was saying…this has been a really really impressive cycle.
Um in just the amount of activism and engagement that you know we’ve seen not just from our campaign but from every single primary candidate. It was really really impressive and you know the Barnstormers group was very impressive and really uh you know all…every candidate was able to activate you know a lot of really great…a lot of really great activists and bring a lot of people into the pool of civic engagement and some of those new volunteers you were talking about. I think that’s you know really important because a lot of people right now are taking that first step and they’re saying you know, “I want to take action”.
I want to do something that is going to help our country get back on track” and um you know…it was so cool to see that in the beginning of the primary and it was really cool to see you know all the primary candidates and kind of all the organizing operations that they built and all of the grassroots groups that kind of popped up and uh you know I was on the ground in Iowa for the
last little bit and I just wanted to tell you guys that the day after the caucus I actually got on a plane and was flying to Las Vegas from Des Moines the day after the caucus and I was going to Nevada for that caucus and the plane was full of campaign supporters of you know…basically every campaign and that was such a cool and neat experience.
But I was sitting in uh the middle seat, it was a Southwest flight, and the fellow next to me engaged in a conversation with me and he just started talking and he actually was a barnstormer. His name was George he was form the bay area.
JULIE:: George [Indistinguishable] [Laughs] He is going to be tickled pink that you have talked about him. He’s one of our most…he’s just so full of energy and life and I’m sure you witnessed that yourself so.
KURT: Oh absolutely it was actually you know one of the best experiences I’ve had in organizing meeting him because he was so excited about the caucus, he was so excited about um Mayor Pete. He pulled out his phone and was showing me pictures of all of the work he was doing and you know I think that that just speaks volumes to what uh what the Barnstormers have done and um and you know the kind of folks that that you know were activating across the board and so that was such a great experience and I had to share that with you all.
JULIE:: Thank you
KURT: Yeah and so to Dr. Biden’s point you know one of the most amazing things is that a lot of these folks who have been getting engaged and involved for the first time no matter what candidate they were initially supporting. You know we have seen an overwhelming amount of support from folks like you and people who are supporting other campaigns as well and just saying “het I want to get involved, I want to be a part of this” and you know, “We’re behind Vice President Biden” and and you know the amount of support that we’ve gotten and the amount of folks that have signed up and wanted to be a part of this campaign has been really really incredible. And you know we can’t do this without you all and we can’t do this without you know all of them you know and we’re encouraging folks to join our campaign you know and would love to talk a little about how we’re thinking about organizing right now and what we’ve been doing you know since…we’ve moved over into the kind of the shelter in place policies that all of the states have passed um and you know that has forced us to think about how we can campaign a little bit differently and how we organize just a little bit differently.
KURT: And you know frankly you know that things you know podcasts like this are really great ways to reach people and we’re learning all sorts of different ways that we can reach people and so it just forces us to take a step back but you know rewinding to that period of time when you know this all started we had just finished Super Tuesday and in the March 10 states and you know we had an overwhelming amount of sign ups and enthusiasm and people saying that they wanted to get involved and then everybody had to go shelter in place and you know that
was a pretty scary time for everybody. Americans across the board and you know everyone around the world.
KURT: Very scary time and and you know we knew that in addition to figuring out how we’re campaigning you know first and foremost um we knew we needed to be intentional at that time and make sure that we’re showing up for our supporters first and the American people first and you know so the first thing that we wanted to do was we wanted to start with Vice President Biden’s empathy and extending that as far and wide as we could.
JULIE:: Of course
KURT: And um I think everybody…I think everybody knows that he is an incredibly empathetic human and and we all admire that…and so we geared our organizing effort to…you know we were really trying to make sure that we were extending the Vice President’s empathy and you know to all of our supporters and so we spent time with our organizers um really just focusing them on touching base and having conversations with our supporters um that were not overtly political but you know just really check and calls to see how people were doing and um and uh during the you know during the time of COVID and how they were adjusting and and you know if they needed local resources we could point them to those to the best of our ability or you know if they had questions about COVID. Pointing them to information the CDC had put out but…
KURT: But really just showing up for our supporters and taking some time to have a conversation with them and really connect with them on a deeper level without you know immediately putting it back into the work of politics. So you know that’s….what we what we started doing in in…you know March and you know we we we…you know really wanted to make this community focused, supporter focused and we have been encouraging efforts like um community service and following um the lead of local activists and great things that they’ve been doing like sewing masks and you know how can we plug into the great work that is already happening in communities and sometimes it’s more impactful to follow the communities’ lead instead of showing up and saying “hey this is what we’re going to do.”
So you know we’ve been plugging into you know community service actions like that and um we organized a day called “Soul of the Nation Saturday” where we…and you all played part in it…uh
JULIE:: Yes it was fantastic!
KURT: [Laughs] Thank you yeah and thank you all for your help there. But you know for folks who didn’t hear about it or weren’t able to participate we had tens of thousands of people taking of tens of thousands of actions to thank first responders and um local heroes and um that was a
really great opportunity. So you know we’ve been doing things like that. Um we’ve been doing virtual travel trips and organizing in that way and you know so moving forward you know we’re going to be building infrastructure in both key states and and national in a kind of distributed way. We know that we’re going to need to do the tactics of persuasion, turnout, and voter registration and we know that there’s going to be a lot of voter education that is going to be needed because you know people are going to be confused about how to vote. And so those are…those are key things that we’re going to need to do and um you know the mediums might change for how we do it. We might not be able to do a regular door knock you know um we might…we’re going to have to think about what are all of the mediums available for us to communicate with voters. So you know we would love you know the Barnstormers and everyone to be a part of this. We need everybody in and so my ask for folks is if you want to join the campaign please text “organize” to 30330 and that’s the entry point you can sign up um contact an organizer, make calls, um download our app and join our team from there but again text “organize” to 30330. That’s the best way to get involved. So that’s what we’ve been doing and how we’re kind of aiming going forward…and yeah.
JULIE:: Well that’s so fantastic you know what I really love about what you were saying is uh how closely aligned the plans for Barnstormers you know when we…you guys did your digital summit we had…a couple weeks earlier we had talked about putting together like a digital core team um and you guys did the digital summit and everyone was so excited about it because you know it was so closely aligned with what we had kind of been talking about already in terms of supporting Joe and um so I think everybody was sort of excited about that and I know people are really engaged at this point and you know we’re really excited to be able to support the campaign and oh my gosh it’s just so important this election. We need Joe in the White House. Absolutely
JULIE:: It’s been such a pleasure having both of you joining us today! Barnstormers are working hard to support the campaign and you know work to get Joe in the White House and I have to say it’s going to be so incredible Dr. Biden to have you as our First Lady we’re really so excited for that and thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today.
JOE BIDEN: Is this the Barnstormers? JULIE:: It is!
JOE: This is Joe, this is Jill’s husband. EVERYONE: [Laughs]
ARIANNA: Hi Joe!
JOE: No no no! We all know who runs the show at my house. Everywhere I go when I show up even when I was able to do it in person but now…and I say “Hello how are you…” “Where’s Jill, where’s Jill?” So I fully understand.
JULIE:: Well thank you for coming in and saying hello to us! We’re so thrilled to have you here! Sorry it’s almost over!
JOE: Well how are y’all doing?
JULIE: & ARIANNA: We’re doing well. We’re doing good!
JULIE:: Just talking about how we’re going to get you to the White House sir. JOE: Well thank you!
DR. BIDEN: You guys have been great thank you so much…so much you guys! JOE: You really have been. Thanks a million!
JULIE:: Have a wonderful day! Take care!
DR. BIDEN: Take care! Be safe.
JOE: I hope she said nice things about me!
JULIE:: Yes we did!
JOE: Not you guys! I mean Jill
JULIE:: Yes she did!
JOE: Thanks an awful lot.
JULIE:: Yes alrighty. Bye bye
EPISODE 3: Special Guest Dr. Kitty Fallon: A Conversation About Mental Health
ARIANNA WYNDHAM: Welcome to Barnstormer Base Camp
JULIE PARKER: Hey everyone I’m Julie!
ARIANNA: And I’m Arianna.
JULIE: And on today’s episode we’re joined by our special guest Dr. Kitty Fallon for a
conversation about mental health during the pandemic, the impact on our lives and
perspectives, and actions we can take to unify and impact change. Thanks for spending some
time with us!
ARIANNA: We’re so honored to have on our podcast today Dr. Kitty Fallon who is a life coach
and co-founder of The Gloaming at Santa Fe, a counseling and life coach practice. Thanks for
joining us, Dr. Fallon. How are you today?
DR. KITTY FALLON: I’m doing really well. Thank you so much for inviting me.
JULIE: Thank you, we’re so happy to have you. So we wanted this week’s podcast to focus on
mental health which in and of itself is an important conversation to have, but I think especially
now with the pandemic and you know a ll of the additional challenges that people are faced with
and that’s for everyone to some degree. So I think let’s start there and just talk a little about the
various types of struggles people are facing. Curios as a practitioner yourself the kinds of th ings
you’re seeing and your patients and just things you’re encountering in general.
DR. FALLON: Sure. Well, right now my focus is on life coaching so my clients are a little bit
different than for mental health counselors so just to set the context. Howe ver, all of us are
experiencing really very similar uncertainties. However, we may all express and experience
stress, and anxiety differently given our different lives. So for example, we’re all experiencing
staying at home right now. We’re all experiencing witnessing what’s going on in the world. We’re
all experiencing um the financial and economic difficulties, but how that may be filtered may
depend on whether you’ve grown up with experiencing trauma or abuse. Whether you have had
necessarily the internal resources to the coping mechanisms to cope with life and life stresses
um or whether you’ve really struggled and so while we may have a lot in common, how we’re
experiencing that can be very, very different and so the suffering can be really intense at
different levels. Does that make sense?
JULIE: Absolutely yeah. I think to your point about coping mechanisms and how each person
kind of has those or doesn’t have those to varying degrees is an important thing to consider
because I think not everybody is equipped to deal with this sort of thing if they’ve maybe not had
anything traumatic or any obstacle that they’ve overcome or had to overcome previously in their
lives. So I think that’s definitely a great point. Something I was thinking about just as I was
thinking about this podcast and kind of what we’re going to talk about is just about the
the tremendous loss that we’re seeing…you know the loss of life. Really a lot of the challenges that
we’re facing in the pandemic, not only because we’ve maybe lost somebody that we cared
about, but also I think the public part of mourning that loss is, you know in our society, very
closely tied to gathering together and our inability to do that, how does that impact people in
terms about how they feel about closure and all of the things. There’s so much in our society that is tied to gathering in groups and that’s not happening and so it can impact us in terms of being
able to grieve the loss of someone that we care about. It could you know it impacts us in terms
of, I mean, the simplest like hugging, you know I’ve heard so many people say, “Gosh I miss
being able to hug my friends or be able to friend my relatives” you know so…
ARIANNA: Yeah I miss hugs too
JULIE: Yeah it’s true
DR. FALLON: I’m a big hugger as well and I do miss that and you know I think that this
experience has helped us to reorient to things that we’ve taken for granted. Like hugging, like
shaking hands, like being able to put our hands on somebody’s back when they’re sad, being
able to physically console somebody, being able to hold somebody’s hand when they’re
struggling or when they’re suffering. These are things that up until a month ago or two months
ago we took for granted. I don’t think we will. You know but back to your point about the loss. I
mean just beginning with that very core loss of people we love and then kind of having that be the core and then going out to all the other losses that we’ve been experiencing. You know this loss is so…in some ways it’s unique and some ways it’s not. It’s unique in the sense you know until a few months ago if our loved one was ill and we were able to be there we would be there by their side, we would hold their hand, we would console them, and we would be with them if we were able to be if we were up to do ing that. We experience that freedom if we were able to be. Now it’s not unique in the sense that many people have lost loved ones and have not been able to be there – combat, in tragic situations of violence, so somebody being in an accident and being killed. There have been scores of people over time who’ve been taken from us and we haven’t been able to be there. The notion of not being able to mourn together, that adds a layer that is a little more unique and also we in this country have not really experienced in a long time the notion of mass graves of not being able either bury or our loved ones cremated or even bury the ashes or scatter the ashes in some way be together…come together and mourn together
collectively. I applaud the ways in which people have come up with ways of having funerals on
zoom. They’ve gone virtual in collective mourning and I think that’s a sign of our hunger to be
together. That we will be resilient and get creative but I really can feel collectively a sense of
deep sadness and deep mourning and not being able to be with our loved ones or even risking
our own health to be with them and that’s something that is going to…we’re going to…we’re
going to carry that with us. We’re going to be grieving I think for a long time not only the losses
but how we lost our loved ones and then I mean really quickly you go out from that core
deepest, heart – wrenching loss to loss of jobs, to loss of that sense of being able to be
impromptu and just go out and get together with friends. Things that now people are becoming
very angry about and bitter and resentful, but you also have the loss of knowing what tomorrow
is going to look like if there’s a loss of a job, a loss of financial stability. For kids the loss of their
school year, for college and high school seniors that loss of that closure to their educational
experience, kids in eighth grade going into high school, kids in elementary going into middle.
That loss of the transition, so there’s a lot of loss and a lot of it is a loss of certainty. So that grief
we’re all holding different griefs, we’re all holding different layers of grief, and hopefully, we can
be compassionate with one and another for really connecting with what grief somebody may be
experiencing and how we can help support them through that.
ARIANNA: Yeah one of the things that I have tried to be better about and this was you know
long before the pandemic is to be considerate of other people and what they’re going through in
their life experience because everybody is on their own journey and I think what I try to do is…I
always tell myself, “Okay they’re doing the best they can with what they have” so I always
try to have that train of thought to be more considerate of other people and I think we especially
need that now.
JULIE: Absolutely I agree and one of the things I’ll say…I was just reading an article the other
day and I read this quote talking about just the shift in how we as a society are um, you know as
a result of this pandemic, are just maybe thinking, pausing a little more, considering as Ari said
what someone’s journey is. To your point, Kitty about to what level someone has the ability to
cope based on their own experiences with you know coping mechanisms and one of the things
that stood out to me in this article was the person said that it felt like we’re kind of on the
precipice it a forward – thinking social upheaval and this is going to maybe a course correction
that’s going to be based on kindness, and community, and unity. Things that maybe we’ve kind
of as a society taken for granted or have n’t paused to think about that maybe we’re taking more
time to do that now as a result of this happening. So with all of the loss and everything that
we’re kind of going through, all of the things about being lost by so m any. I think that if there
is…I guess a silver lining, as it were , some of the things that are happening and the shift in our
perspectives is something that maybe will come out of this. I don’t know, helping us to be better
humans [Laughs] you know?
DR. FALLON: That’s why for me I feel a tremendous sense of hope and a tremendous sense of
possibility that so much of what we have simply assumed would be there tomorrow.
JULIE: Right. Right.
DR. FALLON: Our….the economy, our financial stability as individuals but also collectively while
that can bring tremendous fear the ways in which our economy was structured have a lot
of…certainly inequities and a lot of difficulties to them…a lot of weaknesses to them. We have
the potential now to reconsider the way s in which we created our lives and often times in very
unbalanced ways you know how many of us work you know. I remember working sixty, seventy
hours a week, or more where my schedule had simply more in it that could possibly ever be
accomplished. To – So lists…email inboxes that would never end and we can use this time of
slowing down and have a global reset. We can begin to think differently about one another,
about ourselves, about how we organize ourselves as a community. We can begin to feel
differently. You know to have…you know I think now about folks who, until about two or three
months ago we weren’t thinking about shopkeepers, about truck drivers, about orderlies, about
custodians, about the chefs who work in cafeterias and schools who are now making school
lunches en mass sometimes for entire families. We weren’t thinking about realities therapist, we
weren’t thinking necessarily as much about nurses and doctors. We oriented our attention
towards celebrities, people in the limelight, towards you know whoever was trending on Twitter
and now our sense of awe and our sense of gratitude for people who oftentimes fell through the
cracks and teachers, grade school teachers, high school teachers, college teachers, trade
school teachers. I mean there’s a reorienting of how we feel towards people and it’s not
necessarily based on status right now it’s based on you are the folks keeping us alive and my
God I never knew how much you kept us alive and now I do and so this is a global reset. We
know what a small planet we live on with this virus can travel the world.
DR. FALLON: And maybe healing can travel the world with this much power and as much
potential. So yeah I feel very hopeful. While at the same time balancing feeling very uncertain.
JULIE: Right and I think that’s true for so many people. There’s a struggle I think between…the
balance between the fear and being hopeful. You know want to be hopeful and I think to your
point talking about we’ve had such a shift in perspective and it even…I was talking with Kat the
other day and she said something very similar about…just talking about a lot of the celebrities
and people who are…you’ve got a lot of the self – help and wellness type influencers who are out
there who are really taking this moment and trying to put focus on just things that people are
like, “This doesn’t matter to me, my family matters” My gratitude for all of the people that are
supporting us through this that I hadn’t even considered before that I now am saying “Oh my
goodness these are the people that are keeping us afloat” you know and just showing
appreciation for that is such a shift in our perspective. I definitely see you know I see a lot of
that. I think it’s good for us to have a moment where we can really think about and show
gratitude more. We just get so caught up in our daily lives and I feel like this whole situation has
made it possible for us to kind of slow down and really see the impact that people who before
were not given that consideration to really show gratitude for those people. There’ s so many.
DR. FALLON: You know for me I go back to the basics of what my profession utilizes which are
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and so one of the things that, if we really sit with it, our
thinking can be both our saving grace and it can also be an absolute demon that can haunt us.
An nd so what, you know in terms of a coping mechanism, what thoughts am I putting my
attention on? What thoughts are simply running away and need to be reigned in? And then what
are the feelings that are closely linked that are almost like a balloon with a string attached. So if
the balloon is the thought the string attached to it is the feeling and what feelings are supporting
me and what ones are getting in my way? So for example, if I choose an action … if I choose to
spend a significant amount of time on Facebook, on Twitter, sitting there watching the news and
I notice myself starting to feel more anxious and I start ruminating and thinking about the
uncertainty and about, “ Oh my God there’s not going to be enough. We’re going to run out of
money, I’m never going to be able to find a job again.” So my thoughts and my feelings can
really get away from me. How can I begin to reign those in? This is a time where I can come
back to how much control I do have in my life. When the rest of life seems out of control I control
my own thoughts, I control my own feelings, I can choose to put my attention on feelings and
thoughts that will support me, that will help ease my heart and my mind, and I can also choose to…many people are choosing to limit their amount of connection to the news, to social media and that’s very empowering. So these basic skills that we individually have time now to begin to really discover how much we manage control and be like artists with our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. We can also collectively begin to look at…so collectively what are the underlying assumptions and thoughts that we hold about people that inform our policy? What are the feelings we have about people that have been formed things like healthcare and um….lead to the various inequities and then moving forward what actions do we want to take as a society, as a world? Do we want to create policy and live our lives, our individual and collective lives so that we will continue seeing blue skies over LA and being able to see the Himilayan Mountains which have been smogged in for thirty plus years? Do we want to support the fish and dolphins continuing to swim in the canals of Venice? Do you see how our thoughts, feelings, and actions begin with our individual selves? But then they inform everything we do collectively. That’s where the reset can be exciting and full of possibilities.
JULIE: Absolutely and I think so much of the things that will continue to be challenges as we
kind of move forward and see how things evolve with the pandemic and just getting to a point in
life where things can, I wouldn’t say go back to normal, but when we come to a point with the
pandemic that we’re trying to slowly kind of return to some semblance of normal life I think we’ re going to need in our country some strong leadership not only obviously at the national level but you know also at the state level. I look at how much the local mayors and governors are involved in our taking the steps necessary in their states, and not every state obviously is doing what needs to be done in terms of you know making poor decisions, but I think the general overall leadership that we’re seeing in the various states is very…I just think it’s great. I think that…I was listening to an interview that Pete did recently talking about that and just how he as
having been a mayor before is looking through that lens constantly and I’ve been really impressed with so many of these local leaders who are really stepping up to the plate and showing that leadership that we so desperately need.
ARIANNA: It’s good that they’re able to show that and that people are actually seeing that, how
local leadership really does affect your day to day life.
DR. FALLON: Yes, and you know this experience has brought out the limitations in our structure
but it’s also brought out what could be the potential for where we could go moving forward. For
example, I’m thinking about a real weakness has been the ways in which the current
leadership unfortunately has set it up so that states are competing with one another. Even with the national government, the federal government, for PPE. For life – saving supplies and when I think about that the image that comes to mind is this sense of friction among local, state, and federal…the energy that is expressed locally within towns, within communities, within neighborhoods going up to the state level and then going up to the federal level. In my mind ideally, there would be a sense of flow where the energy is being cultivated and moving back and forth with a sense of fluidity that when there are local needs that states and federal governments can provide assistance, that when there’s a federal need that local and state s can support the federal needs so that you get a sense of that energy kind of flowing and it’s… it’s fluid…it’ s moving. But what’ s happened over this experience is it’s been fractured, it’s been clogged, it’ s been attacking itself almost and it’s very unproductive. So my hope would be moving forward that the lessons that we can learn out of this experience would remind us that we work best as a country when local, state, and federal leaders work together, collaborate. That they plan for the potential for pandemics like these. That they, just like all of us, before there’ s a storm we go out and we stock up, that we do that as a country, that we…you know there isn’t a sense of competition, it’ s about collaboration and so that’s going to inform policy. Another gap that I’ m seeing, and this is not so much local, state, and federal, but it is within organizations. Some of the gaps that I’ve seen amongst some service providers who are former students of mine where the expectations, the policies of these agencies, these are mostly counselors, front line mental health workers working with high poverty, high needs, highly traumatized individuals where the policies, the expectations, have not adapted and they’ve been very rigid and maintained and yet so these counselors are expected to do the same work, meet the same productivity, and the agencies have continued with their same habits of double and triple booking, where counselors have not had the PPE they’ve needed where some have been doing you know methadone clinics and they’ve been doing breathalyzers without any face shields and so their clients are breathing all over them and they’re at risk. So you see we need to adapt, we need to become more flexible, we need to recognize that providers need to have the resources in order to provide the best services. And the last gap that I want to mention that I would love to see handled differently moving forward is that people of all levels of employment have gained tremendous wisdom from this experience. They need to be heard, their insights need to be heard. We do not need the patriarchal, hierarchical structure of the person on top says, “I know best, listen to me.” No. I want to know when the truck driver moving across the country says, “I can’ t get rest because the rest areas are closed. I can’t stop and get a meal because the truck stops are closed”. You see what I mean?
DR. FALLON: Everybody needs to be heard. Their lessons, their wisdom. I want to know what
the orderly in the hospital has learned about this experience…about how to maintain a hygienic
and sanitary condition. I don’t care what this person earns per hour, they have wisdom. So that
fosters a sense of belonging and a sense of…of each person’s voice matters. Within
organizations and then within our country.
ARIANNA: A couple of other gaps that I’ve seen, which are disparities within the immigrant
communities, undocumented and documented immigrants who don’t qualify for the stimulus
program, or any type of federal benefits. There’s a lot of people who have lost their jobs, have
their children at home, they’re not getting their income and they don’t qualify for any type of aid
paying their bills or their rent. So there’s a lot of, you know, loss there too. It’s kind of like
personal for me but I wonder, you know like I’m pretty blessed to be in a somewhat decent
situation considering where we are now but you know other people are not as lucky. So I
wonder what you know how they’re doing. Like what can I do? I kind of feel powerless because
I want to help and I know there are other people that want to help. I just spoke to a woman
yesterday who is trying to help feed Hispanic families in her community and I actually drove
thirty minutes out of the way to pick up meals and drop them off at her house so she could
distribute them because somebody else wasn’t able to pick that delivery up. You know she
nearly broke down in front of me talking about how the Hispanic communities in our area have
been basically ignored or just been, “Oh hey you’re on your own.” So I don’t…you know what
can I do? I feel like so powerless and I wonder how that is affecting people who may be in, you
know worse situations than I am.
DR. FALLON: You know I want to go back to that notion of at the individual level and the collective level kind of our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. As you were talking Ari I was thinking about…I was thinking about what you were saying and I was also thinking about the recent decision by our secretary of education to not allow aid, emergency aid, I believe it was for
D reamers. Correct me if I’m wrong on this and I think it came out within the last day or so and I
go back to what are the underlying assumptions that base, that inform what we do and don’t do
for people. So, for example, that…that belief you had said, “ Well you’re on your own” for the
Hispanic communities that you don’t hold but other people might hold. The lack of seeing. I don’t
see your suffering. I choose not to. The wondering at the individual about who matters and who
doesn’t matter and you know when it’s been said in the press recently, “ Well older folks they’ve
had a good life. It’s okay if they don’t survive. We need to start the economy up.” All of this stuff
is based on underlying assumptions, thoughts, and then the feelings associated of I don’t care,
you don’t matter. Now for solutions that will inform our actions Ari I go back to what you talked
about. So you heard about…you learned about… you may not have known that there were
pockets in surrounding communities of people who were without. You felt a sense of empathy, a
sense of shared suffering, and that feeling of empathy inspired you to think “ Well that’s not right.
That doesn’t work” and then you acted. You prepared meals and you went thirty minute s out of
your way to deliver them to somebody who was caring for this community. The solution Ari is
embedded in what you were talking about. The solution is I need to see you, I need to see you
as the human being you are, as the human community. If there are multiple people I need to
feel connected to you, I need to know you matter. I need to value you, and then I need to do
whatever I can do. You made a meal. You know one of the things that I did recently that just felt
really good…my partner’s birthday is coming up and she loves to knit and I wanted to get her a
gift certificate and I wanted to support a local business and then I found out the local business
owner had recently had their house flooded. So here they have this small business and they
were having this personal issue so I called them up and I said, “I want to get a gift card. Would it
be helpful to you right now for me to get a gift card from you?” And the guy practically started
crying and so it’s small moments like that. It’s saying I see you, I hear you, and you matter, and I
need to change my thoughts from “You’re not like me, you don’t matter . ” to “I need to open my
heart and say, ‘ No, you matter! ’ ” and I need to feel that heart inspire me to do something. You know what I mean?
JULIE: Yeah. Yeah .
DR. FALLON: So Ari your solution is in your compassion, the solution is in your open heart, and
the solution is in going out of your way to prepare meals and drive them thirty minutes down the
road. That’s the solution, Ari. We need to do that together and we are. You know how many
people are doing this right now? And that is….how many people are making masks to share
with neighbors, to share with community members. That’s the solution.
ARIANNA: Somebody has to do it.
DR. FALLON: Yes. One of the things th at I appreciate about this time is I think people have
been looking in the mirror and saying, “What can I do? What little thing can I do?” And people
are realizing, and this is where I hope it translates long after this virus is no longer active every
person matters. You know Pete talked about a sense of belonging, a sense of you have a role
to play. You know I think about kids who have been making signs to put up on their door
thanking the UPS driver, thanking the delivery persons who have been bringing the groceries in.
And people have been going to put up signs at local hospitals saying “thank you.” The folks in
New York who come out at 7 o’clock every night just to applaud and say “thank you” during
shift change for healthcare workers. We’re all realizing “I can’t sit back and say somebody else
will do that” that is a belief that is inaccurate. No, “I have to step up, I have to figure out what
little thing I can do.” It doesn’t have to be grand, it doesn’t have to be heroic. You know you
prepared meals, Ari. And think about all the people who ate those meals, think about how their
bellies were full. They were good tasting and it gave them a little bit of brightness in their day
and thank you, Ari, for doing that.
DR. FALLON: You changed lives.
JULIE: It’s the small things you know…
DR. FALLON: Yes
J ULIE: That I think we have up to now so many of us maybe have taken for granted uh felt like
that what we did didn’t really matter, didn’t have an impact and I think we’re seeing evidence
that you know those things are having a huge impact on people’s lives. People who have
otherwise just have some really bad situations going on how important that is. And to your point
Kitty that sense of gratitude, I think that we feel when we are in a situation that maybe isn’t quite
as desperate you know how we appreciate the small things in our lives. The things that are
helping us to get through it. I just think that is so important.
DR. FALLON: You know and we talked in the beginning about how much the three of us miss
hugging. You know I miss…you know I love shaking hands when I meet somebody. I don’t know
if I’ll do that again. I don’t know whether our cultural shift…we miss hugging, but what we would have to do. Those are merely the convenient ways that we’ve gotten used to expressing I see you when I meet you and my spirit sees you and the essence of my heart sees you and I acknowledge you. You know I think about the greeting and the eastern portions of the world, places like Tibet and Nepal and some parts of Africa where people greet with Namaste so you kind of put your hands together and Namaste basically says “as I put my hands together and now to you when I greet you ” it says “ the very best of me meets the very best of you.” We have had to get at having that form of seeing that we used to do in a hug, that we used to do looking in each other’s eyes but we’ve gotten used to doing that on Zoom, doing that over the phone. We’re expanding…we’re expanding the ways in which we listen to one another, the ways in which we regard one another. This we won’t lose we’re simply expanding and that I think is a really good thing and I hope that what we’re learning out of this is my world…I’ve learned my world is so small. I…I remember the night I saw on Facebook the image of the line in Italy of the cars and the trucks, and the military trucks that were carrying all of the bodies of the people who had passed and it just seemed like an endless line of trucks that were carrying the bodies and my God my heart just opened up and I mean I just started tearing up. These were people I had never met, these were people I didn’t know, I’ll never know, I will never know their families, but my heart opened up. We need to do that more and I can do that with an image just as well as I can do that with a person, but as a country, as a community, and as a world our hearts need to open up, and then everything else will flow from there. Our policies will flow from there. If we can think about what it would be like for us to design policies based on “I see you, I value you, and you matter.” Think about what health care policy would look like. We wouldn’t be looking at how cheap we could make it.
DR. FALLON: We might be talking about how affordable we could make it but we would not be
say ing, “No you’re not going to be served” it’s going to be “how can we serve more people,”
and afford to do it.
ARIANNA: Right, there’s a certain power and compassion and I think one of the things that
attracted me to Pete was his compassion for people and his understanding of people.
DR. FALLON: And I feel really good about you know where…about Joe Biden’s leadership and I
believe that we stand at the threshold. In November we will decide at all levels. From local
community races all the way up to the president. We will decide how we choose to create our
country and that sense of decency, that sense of integrity, that sense of honesty, and building
policy based on humanity I think is something we have to do.
DR. FALLON: We’ve learned over the last three years what it looks like when that is absent.
When there is a void of humanity. I mean my God my heart breaks open at the knowledge that a
few hundred miles south of me right now are kids in cages, are women in cages, men in cages.
I’m speechless at the lack of humanity. I want to pull my hair out at that redesign.
JULIE: Absolutely I think one of the things that I’ve been thinking about is how much the
pandemic has really opened a lot of people’s eyes. Already y so many of us were, what you’re
talking about, outraged. It just that the lack of humanity as it relates to the immigration and just
how all of those people. ..I mean these are human beings, you know. I think a lot of people’s eyes have really been opened to how important it is for us to have thoughtful, attainable solutions and the right people in our government leadership that can put forward and implement those solutions. Some of them are so very critical like the immigration one. Healthcare is so
important and what you were talking about where we have a healthcare system in place that really sees people and has that sense of compassion in wanting to help people and that it’s not just about “what is it going to cost? and “can I afford it?” If there’s a need there t hat’s been identified that there are policies in place to make that possible for people. So I definitely think that’s an important component. Something that this whole situation has really I think brought to light even more with the lack of leadership that we’re seeing currently and when we were talking about taking action. What action can we take? It’s important for us to lead with compassion and kindness.
DR. FALLON: Yes
JULIE: But also I think it’s important for us to try to seek out and identify those ways that we can
take action in terms of putting the right people in office and I absolutely agree with you. I think
Joe really has made commitments for his administration to kind of ex pan d upon things that were already implemented before our current president took office that were never able to continue
and move forward and be realized to the extent that they had hoped because we had a new
president come in. So I’m very hopeful, I’m really am loving that word and just how thinking
about that makes me feel. And I remember Pete used to say all the time you know when he
would do his speeches about, and I was talking to my husband about this morning actually,
imagine the morning after Trump is no longer the president of this country and the collective
sigh of relief and feeling of goodness that will happen. I mean I feel like the planet is going to be
vibrating with…the whole country at least…is going to be vibrating with the feeling of just relief
that we are finally going to be able to have a new horizon for our country. Leadership that cares
and leads with compassion and kindness and it matters you know to that person and to those
people that we have those sorts of things in place in our country. Because it’s so
lacking right now I think people are just so upset every day when they see the news and it’s just
how did we get here? Why are we here? And you know what kind of action can I take?
DR. F ALLON: The very pragmatic…the … the very practical how to implement that. The way you’re talking about is I remember what Pete talked about the notion that politics is soulcraft. That it is moral. That it is good and politics is the practice of how we all live together but it also begins within ourselves. So you know one of the things I would really hope that folks could take from our conversation today is to go within yourself first and foremost and consider…where your
attention and where you put your focus on the various thoughts that you were thinking and the
feelings attached to those and how those guide your actions. Because they start at the
individual level and then they come together collectively and that’s how we live together and you
know I feel hopeful that we can choose to live together differently and that we can choose to
come together differently and design politics as soulcraft at every level from local to national,
and to frankly, global. It will take all of us. One of the things that I really appreciated about Pete,
I believe that Joe will implement this as well, and I would love to see this at the local all the way
up to the national offices, is who is invited to the table. I would like to see this within
organizations, within hospitals, within schools. Who is invited to the table to share their insights
and their learning about what is going on..about what is happening? Because that sense of
openness to hear multiple perspectives, to hear diverse opinions, to hear diverse ideas about
where to move forward. That the openness, the inviting more people to the table, getting a
bigger table if need be. Having it be a round table where there isn’t the sense of somebody at
the head of the table and everyone else is some subservient. You know to get a round table.
Pete used to do that I remember he used to do that with the mental health policies with um
inviting folks who have been personally impacted by it. Either healthcare or mental health to the
table to say “What have you learned to help us inform writing different policy?” That’s what we
need. It’s a spirit as much as it is a practice of saying, “You are not excluded from the table but
your insight matters.” I’m telling this to the former students. One of the things that I’m doing to
give back, you know I live in New Mexico. I used to teach graduate students who were learning
to be counselors back in upstate New York when this started and one my students on Facebook
said, “God I am so exhausted ! ” and I reached out to her and I said, “Would it be helpful if we just
had a Zoom online debriefing gathering once a week?” And s he’s like “Oh God it really would.”
Well, we’ve been doing this for several weeks now and we’ve had former students who are
counselors who are around the world, who are in upstate New York, across the country and I
keep saying to them, “Your experience matters. Your voice matters. Come to the table. Get
yourself to the table when your agency is debriefing how they did this and what they need to
redo” and you know one of t he former students was saying “ M y agency double and triple
booked because of no show rates. Well, everybody’ s coming.” We ll, do you think that maybe you should stop triple booking during this time?
DR. FALLON: Like come on people. You know the counselor is just like “Oh God don’t do that”.
S o everybody’s voice matters you know the teachers, the schoo l counselors I’m working with
and they…they’re like “My students are living in places that are outside of the internet access.
We need to expand broadband access.” You know we need to look at the inequities. So you
know I want to go back to that notion of “ How are we going to do that? ” The how…I have no idea
what the policies are going to look like. But I know they’re going to be better when more people
are coming to the table to share their experiences. I know they’re going to look better when I
start to see policy that is based on a regard for the humanity. A regard for the humanity within
and the worth of each person. Not saying “You don’t matter.” I mean my God the notion of
saying somebody from a different country doesn’t matter…oh my God that just tears at my heart.
If policy tears at my heart then start from scratch and rewrite it. It’s not good policy. So anyway
I’ll get…I’ll get off my soapbox.
JULIE & ARIANNA: [Laughs]
JULIE: No I think all of your points are great and just the visual of the round table that you’re
talking about and I think that you know one of the things that we can do to begin those…the
walking up to the table…the being part of those conversations obviously is our vote, our
involvement in doing what is necessary to encourage others to vote, to talk to people about you
know what is needed in terms of our election and I think that is the very beginnings of having a
seat at that table is to be a part of that process and take action in those areas that you think are
going to be of value. You know Pete says many times you know, make ourselves useful. Find
ways that we can contribute to that process so that we then have a seat at the table and that’s
just the very beginnings. I was reading David Plouffe’s new book and one of my favorite things
that he said was “When you become we and we becomes us then we have an embedded
grassroots force that’s too powerful to be denied.”
DR. FALLON: Yes
JULIE: So I feel like that’s how we do it. That’s how we affect change, that’s how we get a seat
at the table because to your point about looking towards ourselves, our individual selves, what
can we do? What actions can we take? Then we take that and we bring it to the larger group, we become the force multiplier that is needed to push forward so that it ’s possible for those policies to happen and for those changes in how we do things in this country can be enacted. I mean I think that is just so important.
DR. FALLON: And you know Julie, if there’s one thing I can add to that, is bring your own chair.
Like you…if there’s one assumption I would like to challenge in each person that listens to this
podcast is somebody might be saying, “Well I don’t belong at the table. I didn’t get…you know I
didn’t get high enough in school, I don’t have any money, I don’t have any influence, I don’t
have any power. Somehow I’m not enough.” And I would love to challenge that and say, “ You
belong at the table and it’s not me saying that to you it’s you really reconciling that belief in your
head, that you belong at the table.” It’s not something that someone else gives to you it’s something that you claim within yourself. You know one final image in my mind I’m thinking one of my students…she’s a school counselor…and one of her moms is earnestly trying to homeschool her kid. This is a mom who has survived addiction, this is a mom who was at a first – grade reading level. How many people in power would say, “Well she doesn’t belong at the table”? You know nobody with a first – grade reading level belongs at the table. ” No, I would want this woman to say…to believe within herself to claim “I belong at the table” and if the table is full bring your own chair.
JULIE: That’s great
DR. FALLON: Take that seat at the table. Bring your own seat and the beautiful thing about a
round table is that if anybody is ever been in a big family is there’s somebody always squeezes
in. You’ve got tons of kids and somebody brings friends home for dinner. You remember how
there’s always room at the table. Somebody squeeze. That’s what we need to do. So bring
your own chair, bring your own seat and show up at the table.
ARIANNA: Right I think that’s very important and I think that we have almost the perfect recipe
for success in November assuming and hoping we have voting by mail in every state and
everything goes off without a hitch. We need people to “show up” whatever that’s going to be
but I think our journey that we’ve had you know since we started Barnstormers in August and
even for some of us before then you know we went from supporting Pete one hundred percent
and we were lucky to have that almost full year where other people did not…and I was really
grateful that our community day that they had to process their loss. But I think now we’re at a
point where we’re kind of running out of time, right? And the people who understand and know
what we need to do and what we have to do we’re ready but there are a lot more people who
are not ready or are not engaged. But I think we have the perfect recipe because I mean we’re
supporting Joe now and our focus is Joe and other down-ballot candidates which are very
important. But I think Joe now is kind of a blessing to us because we all kind of had to put
ourselves aside and we all have to come together. So I think in a way everything that has
happened so far has brought us to this point of coming together and working together and
supporting each other through what we need to do and with each other. So I think that message
of unity couldn’t be any more accurate now. I mean it’s just the times that we’re in now but this
community and all the good people that I see online have just been a tremendous glimmer of
hope in this craziness going on and I really appreciate it.
DR. FALLON: Well you know it’s interesting. Joe supporters really experienced a lot of grief and
disappointment early on in his performance in the early primary states but then the way that this
has turned out … you think about all those candidates that were on all of those debate stages
before. All of those candidates and all of their supporters have gone through and experienced the grief of loss and disappointment when their candidate left the race and so uniting behind Joe we have a shared sense, including Joe ’ s own supporters we all share the same chance of having grieved the possibility and we are coming together to unite behind Joe and support him in becoming our nominee and ultimately our next president and we will all bring that sense of both disappointment and grief as well as our hope in uniting behind him.
Practically speaking one practical thing we can do right now. Well, two practical things. One is to
apply for an absentee ballot but number two we need to support our U.S post office. Our U.S
Postal Service right now, which will be the mechanism by which we will all get to vote by mail, is
being threatened. It is at risk. It’s financially very unstable and if there’s any effort to undermine
our postal service that could get in the way of our being able to vote by mail. So everybody can
go out and buy stamps. Buy a lot of stamps. Buy stamps and use them to write notes to people
you love and you haven’t talked to in a long time and mail them the old fashioned way. Have
your kids draw pictures for their grandparents who live elsewhere and mail them. Let’s just get
tons of stamps. Find ways to support your local post office so that we can vote by mail in
November. It sounds sad but it’s important.
JULIE: I agree with you. I’ve heard of a number of opportunities where people can send
postcards to voters.
DR. FALLON: Yeah
JULIE: I have a few l inks for some of these organizations that are doing this um that for our
listeners I’ll put that information in the notes for this podcast episode.
DR. FALLON: Thank you.
JULIE: But I think it’s so important, as you said, we need to make sure the mechanism by which
we’re going to be able to vote in this election is you know…continues on…it’s very important to
support that. Absolutely so I agree.
DR. FALLON: Thank you, Julie, for doing that.
JULIE: Yeah. Yeah
DR. FALLON: And how cool to think that in this modern technological age that maybe we could
pause for a moment and send postcards to candidates as well as voters. Sending postcards to
our local candidates saying “Thank you for running. I believe in you. You matter. You’re going to
help us.” Sending them to everyone from Joe to the person running in your local community.
Sending postcards to healthcare providers, to the person who is the, you know, the orderly at
the hospital, to general hospital address saying “thank you. You matter. We’re grateful for you.”
Let’s use this old fashion way of sending stuff through the postal way to spread the gratitude, to
spread the appreciation, the respect, the hope. That would be pretty cool.
ARIANNA: Yeah that would be cool.
JULIE: I think that’s wonderful.
ARIANNA: We could totally do that!
DR. FALLON: [Laughs] Yeah! That would be fun! Get your kids to do that. That would be so
awesome. Spread the love, the cheer, the hope, the possibility. In this old fashioned way that
we’ve frankly have stopped doing.
JULIE: I think that’s a wonderful idea. I think a lot of people would really get on board with that
too and I know there’s a lot of people that are trying to think about how they can support the
post office in you know…in this time and just to ensure that we have that in place still. So, just so
many wonderful ideas and thoughts today and I just have really appreciated your insight, Kitty. I
know that there are just so many things to think about and so many actions that we can take
both personally and politically to try to affect the change that’s needed so I definitely appreciated
all of the thoughts that you put forward today and thank you so much for your time today, thank
you for being on the podcast with us.
ARIANNA: Yeah thank you.
DR. FALLON: Oh it’s been a joy! Thank you, Ari, and thank you Julie and you know the beautiful
thing about when people gather is…I had no idea where this was going to go. The three of us
went in these utterly novel, unique ways. That happens so thank you for having me and thank
you for hosting this podcast. Thank you. Take care and I hope everybody has a hopeful day.
ARIANNA: So thank you guys for listening today. We hope you enjoyed the episode of the
Barnstormer Base Camp Podcast.
EPISODE 2: Politics In A Pandemic
ARIANNA WYNDHAM: Welcome to Barnstormer Base Camp.
JULIE PARKER: And I ’ m Julie and on this week’s episode we ’ re going to talk about politics in a pandemic. How are you doing Ari? Are you hanging in over there?
ARIANNA: Doing good. Hanging in there. Just working on my kitchen.
JULIE: I ’ m telling you we ’ re all finding all these interesting things that we’re doing around the house and uh I’ve kind of taken up coloring which I think is interesting. It ’ s become kind of a Zen for me just sitting there coloring something and you know the finished product and all that.
ARIANNA: Yeah, the coloring pages you made were perfect.
JULIE: Oh yeah the joy I thought that was nice. I think everybody was having fun with those.
You know just to take a little time out of your day and do something fun. I think there ’ s this
common misconception that you have to be productive every minute of the day and I certainly
have been enjoying the kind of a lower… pace you know the slower pace that we have been
taking during this time. I mean obviously it ’ s not an ideal situation with everybody being sick and
so many deaths. It is really sad, but I know that everyone who is staying home is doing
something to show that they care about others by just staying home, and staying safe, and
staying healthy to try and hopefully get to a point where this becomes less and less and we
don ’ t have to uh continue with so many people getting sick. So I look forward to that day
[Laughs] I definitely do.
ARIANNA: Yeah seriously it has been tough.
JULIE: It has been but you know one of the things that I was thinking about the other day about
social distancing…kind of how we are right now…is how that has impacted grassroots organizing
and you know gosh just months ago we were going to rallies and having Barnstormer trips and
meeting up with people and door-knocking and gosh everything has just changed so much.
ARIANNA: Absolutely. I mean we did a full 180 in less than a week and um what I think
was very powerful and inspiring was how fast a lot of our community kind of made that shift to
Joe Biden or maybe even you know some people decided to go on and support somebody else,
which is fine, but the amount of time that we completely turned around and took Pete ’ s lead to
support Joe Biden I mean I was blown away and obviously other people have had a harder time
making that shift. I know for me I ’ m still kind of just like coming out of that a little bit and trying to
just be okay with everything and it ’ s very inspiring to see everybody come together and sharing
their experiences on what it was like when we were going at it full time 100% to
where we are now. We are having to come up with so many different kinds of ways to find new
people to join our movement and just share this journey that really we … we must go on to save
JULIE: Absolutely. I feel like we ’ re really fighting for the soul of our country and I think to your
point talking about kind of what it feels like when your candidate has stepped out of the race and
kind of the grieving period that you go through. That was your candidate, that was the person
you thought would be the best president so it ’ s hard I think it ’ s hard for…for us and definitely
very difficult for other supporters of other candidates. But I think where we are at this point is
wanting to unite. Unite the country and unite behind Joe. It ’ s been a challenge for everyone but
at the end of the day trying to understand how important it is for us to join together and really do
the work, continue to do the work. I know it ’ s hard I think for people to do the work as vigorously
as they did for their original candidate. To move to another candidate would feel like they have
the gumption to give as much as they gave to a new candidate, but I think it ’ s important to think
about how critical it is for us to get the current president out of the White House and if I ’ m not…if
I ’ m not somebody who ’ s not as motivated because it ’ s not my guy who is the nominee I’m
motivated by the fact that our Democracy is so important and every day that that man is in office
is a day that we are not giving the best for our country. I think a big part of that is a
conversation around how do we engage voters? How do we engage people who were in the
political process and who were already supporting a candidate? Some just really fervently
supporting and some who were just like, “ That ’ s the person I ’ m going to vote for ” and even the
people who were not involved politically who are seeing, especially the pandemic now, how
much we need good leadership in the White House and how we just don ’ t h ave that right now.
ARIANNA: Yeah I mean seriously. I think a lot of people, maybe not as many as we would like,
are…some people are seeing the effects that this administration has had on our country and
these communities that are so hard hit by this pandemic like in New York City and in Detroit and
areas like that where people you know don ’ t have any food or they have no way to pay the bills
because they’ve lost their job. So many people have lost their jobs. In Ohio where I am we went
from about 3000 or 5000 applications for unemployment that very first week
to 12,000 the next week.
ARIANNA: And I think, I don ’ t even remember what the last number I heard was in Ohio for
unemployment, but it was astronomical and I th ink a lot of people are starting to realize that, “ Oh
my gosh it matters who we have in office. ”
JULIE: Right, exactly and I think a lack of leadership has really, in the White House, the lack of
leadership in the White House has really highlighted the leadership at the local level and the
states. Governors, mayors, stepping up and so many of the states who are really just doing the
work and showing that leadership that were lacking from the president and I think it just kind of
speaks to some of the things that Pete was saying when he was running about how mayors and
governors, you know people in office locally, are really making a difference and are really boots
on the ground when it comes to helping in their state. You know I think I saw a tidbit the other
day on the news talking about where, you know, the current president said, “ I alone can do this ”
and now it ’ s “ No I can ’ t…this isn’t me it ’ s going to have to be the states ” and more talking about
reopening the country. It ’ s the states that are going to make those decisions so I think it ’ s just
been really disappointing to see the lack of leadership and I think it ’ s been really great how it ’ s
really highlighted how much a lot of these local governors and mayors are really stepping up to
the plate showing that leadership. I mean look at Andrew Cuomo. I think it ’ s really wonderful
and I think that you know when you think about that you think about how important a lot of these
down-ballot races are coming up this election cycle. People like Amy McGrath running against Mitch McConnell and Jaime Harrison is running up against Lindsay Graham and then you ’ ve got Mark Kelly in Arizona and these are all candidates who really have a vision for the future of this country and have a real interest in protecting our democracy and you know so we as Barnstormers are really, in addition to supporting Joe Biden, are also looking to support these
down-ballot races. These people are integral to helping to move us forward as a country and I think supporting them is really important.
ARIANNA: It ’ s going to be important.
JULIE: Absolutely. So I know we have something you wanted to talk about. For people that
don ’ t know, anybody that ’ s new, or anybody that hasn ’ t joined yet, we have a Slack that is for
Barnstormers for America a nd we can put information about that in our description for this
episode and we invite everyone to join us. There ’ s a lot of really great information there. A lot of
information about primary and down-ballot elections, we ’ ve got some remote volunteering
information in that channel, and we also have a different channel s for every state so that people
can come in and join their states ’ channel and be connected to people locally in their state to find out more about how you can get involved locally where you live if you ’ re not already connected you know in your community or at … with your state. We have links within those Slack channels for different initiatives and things you can do to get involved. So …
ARIANNA: And for those of you who are not familiar with Slack it ’ s essentially a platform, a
project managing platform, but at the very basic way to explain this it is basically a bunch of chat
rooms that have different topics and we ’ re able to share photos, or files, documents, or links to
anything that we need into each of those chats and kind of just have those focused chats as
a way to organize our community and help people be connected to you know their local politics.
JULIE: Yes and sometimes you just want to come in and say, “ Hey everybody how are you
doing? I ’ m just checking in ” and we have our main Barnstormer chit – chat channel that ’ s for that.
So come in and get connected with us. We would love to have you if you ’ re not already in there.
We’ve had some really great conversations and good resources in there. I know there’s a link in
there for the phone banking that Jaime Harrison ’ s doing now which is you know is a great way if
you’re home and you have some time as we all do at the moment.
JULIE: To be able to go and just participate. We have a remote volunteering channel in there
and there ’ s some information about the phone bank there and of course we’ll put a link to that
in the description of this episode as well and that ’ s a great way to get involved. But also I think,
going back to the digital organizing and how we can be involved, just going through in Twitter
and Facebook if you find something that could be useful to other people if you find a particularly
good post or tweet that would be helpful, just even spreading information good about resources
or about opportunities to volunteer and you know not just campaign-related. I mean in this
current pandemic you know we have a lot of opportunities to volunteer to help either by donation
or…we ’ ve had so many people in our community making masks. Just people I can think of off
the top of my head is Angela Lavine has been selling I know…who else
JULIE: Vickie had a big project that she was doing. I know Amanda King has a…her sewing
machine had some sort of issue and her husband Jay came to the rescue and fixed it and she
was back on it. So…and I ’ m sure there are tons of others that have been doing, you know, their
part whether it be masks or…I know um…let ’ s see Jeanie here in Seattle where I live she ’ s been
sewing masks. So a lot of people just really stepping up to be helpful and to really volunteer
their time and resources to try and just help people get through. I know Pete sent out an email
recently that had a bunch of links to a bunch of charities that you could donate to. If you work for
a company that does matching as my husband does that ’ s a great opportunity to double your
money. So if you ’ re going to make a donation that ’ s a way to get more bang for your buck, if you
will. And we have on our website…just barnstorm ersforamerica.com we have links to all of those
charities he mentioned if you want to check them out and if you have interest in making any
donations to those charities we ’ ve listed them all there so …
ARIANNA: Yeah there ’ s so many things on our website as well and you can have…find all kinds
of information by state in who ’ s making masks, the different organizations that are helping out,
communities in need, and I believe there was also information about voter registration
information by state as well.
JUL IE: Right we added that I think it was this last week. Where you know we were having a
conversation about voting and how that ’ s coming up for a lot of states. There ’ s been a lot of
changes. I mean sadly that didn’t happen with Wisconsin which was just … in my opinion a
JULIE: And you know my hats off to every single person that put a mask on, and got in line, and
voted, despite the terrible decision to not allow them to extend their voting date. But there are so
many states, I think y ours…Ohio has extended.
ARIANNA: Yeah until June
JULIE: Yeah so there a lot of them that have done that and I think…you know one of the things
we were talking about which is what prompted us to create the…this resource on the website
was confusion. I feel like there is motivation by the Republican Party to kind of count on
confusion. People being confused about how to vote. Can I vote by mail? How do I do that?
How do I get my ballot? And there ’ s so many things and so many changes that are taking
ARIANNA: Yeah it ’ s very confusing. I mean I didn’t know anything about what Ohio…Ohio ’ s
changes were until we got a postcard in the mail um a few days ago…
ARIANNA: Where it tells you what website to go on and how to check your voter registration
and you ’ re deadlines and I didn’t … I had no idea…I knew that voting was extended but there was
no information saying, “ This is what you have to do ” so that was helpful and I hope other
states are doing that too.
JULIE: Absolutely and I think just having…I think that was kind of the goal of us having all these
links on our website was we wanted there to be a central repository for information on, you
know, how to vote in your state. What your new date is, you know, how you can get a ballot. We
hope that the remaining states are going to move to mail-in ballots but you know these sorts of
things take time. I mean here in Washington we ’ ve had a mail-in ballot for a long time so…and I
know there are a number of states that have mail-in as well so you know we ’ ve kind of already
been doing that. But I know there was some kind of discussion and statements from the other
side, from the Republican side, saying that mail-in ballots create errors and that kind of thing and it can be Infiltrated. But other states have been doing it for quite a while and it ’ s been fine so I think it ’ s a matter of them getting to the point where they can make it mail in. You know make it possible and there has to be um measures in place for…so that people don ’ t have to
pay postage so that when they mail in their ballot they ’ re not looking around for a stamp or feeling like they have to go to the post office or something. But yes…that information on our website is for that purpose that people can keep up with what ’ s going on in their state as far as when their voting date is and how they can vote so…and I think that ’ s important and it ’ s important for us as much as we can in the current situation digitally to amplify the information that we might find as it relates to voting and getting out the vote and encouraging people to make sure that they do.
ARIANNA: Yeah and that ’ s another way that people can be involved too. A lot of people are
spending a lot more time on social media now so if you have Facebook or Twitter or
Insta gram…if you have a platform that you can use you can use that platform to kind of elevate
the voices that you are inspired by or the candidates that you believe in and just anything that
you want to get the word out about you can use your own social media platforms to do that as
well and that ’ s also very important because… it will kind of share certain things with people
who may not normally see something like that on their feeds or just because they ’ re not at work.
So that ’ s a good way to get other people involved as well.
JULIE: I agree and not only that but social media is a great way for people who are already in
the Barnstormer community to talk to people about Barnstormers and what we ’ re about and
obviously we would you know really like to encourage for people who are involved…maybe
people who aren’t ’ t already involved or who haven ’ t been involved up to this point but who are
seeing what is going on with the pandemic and how our current president is handling that and
you know saying, “ Enough! How can I get involved ? ” and so you know we are trying to as
Barnstormers for America are trying to engage with all kinds of people who either are already
involved or who want to get involved. We would love to have you and we would love for the folks
who are already part of our community to share with other people and really do some digital
ARIANNA: And digital door-knocking too.
JULIE: Absolutely. We ’ re really kind of excited for what comes next with our efforts and we
would love to have as many people as want to be a part of it to join us. So I know that recently
there was an announcement by the DNC go move their convention to August 17 and for those of you who are not Barnstormers who are just tuning in aren’t aware of this Barnstormers for
America had originally planned for our Family Fest Forum which is just a weekend to get together, connect with other supporters, and talk about grassroots organizing and what we can do to really get involved and we had scheduled that originally right after the DNC before they moved the date and now we ’ ve moved it and we’re crossing our fingers. So that ’ s the 23rd and 24th of August that we ’ ve moved that to and you can find more information about that on our website but we should have more details you know forthcoming but for now we ’ ve moved the dates. It ’ s the weekend directly after the convention in of course Milwaukee which is where the convention is being held is only three hours away from South Bend which is where the family fest forum is being held. So we ’ re hopeful that things will improve you know sufficient for us to be able to have our event and for the DNC to be able to have their convention but I guess that remains to be seen right?
ARIANNA: Yeah I ’ m excited about it though. I’m excited to see everybody again and meet new
people hopefully a lot of people that are coming will be new friends that we make and it will just
be so fun to see everyone and get fired up again and just feel that power of taking action which
is life changing it really is.
JULIE: It really is and you can … when you get involved with those sorts of things you just feel so
empowered to you know like you said taking action and it just really getting involved in doing
something good for the country. So I ’ m excited too and with everything that has happened you
know we haven ’ t seen all of our friends. For those of you who are new to us you may have
heard in the last episode our first episode for this podcast where we talked about the origins of
Barnstormers and our trip to Iowa and of then we, of course, had subsequent trips to New
Hampshire, and Reno, and South Carolina and you know I think as Kat had said on the
interview those were some life-changing moments for a lot of people and I heard from so many
people e during those…you know that time how this is the first time they ’ ve ever gotten involved in
politics, the first time they ’ ve ever donated, the first time they ’ ve ever volunteered and I feel like
it ’ s such a powerful thing to be able to feel like you have the ability to do one thing f and have an
impact on our democracy and just how fulfilling that is.
ARIANNA: It is it is and it ’ s healing as well. I spent a long time being very depressed and full of
anxiety and Barnstormers just completely changed that f or me and I am in a totally different
place then I was a year ago. Completely different place. So it ’ s been a journey not only you
know connecting with everyone on the outside but it ’ s been a journey on the inside as well and I
know I ’ m not the only one because I know a lot of people have related to how I feel as well and
the trips that we did were just so fun and I mean we were going on you know maybe two to
three hours of sleep. I know I was but it was just…it was so exhilarating we were just basically
going off of just the rush of being there and being with everybody and being able to volunteer as
a group which was really fun and interesting and new. I’ve never done that before so I ’ ve
definitely learned a lot and I think that adds value to who you are as a person because it…it just
it creates a whole new perspective that you have on life and um I think that really…it does…it
kind of just makes you a better person I think and just being there with everyone was so
awesome and I ’ m sure by now we would’ve had you know maybe a trip to you know maybe a
few different areas by now we here we would ’ ve met up but we ’ re not able to do that.
ARIANNA: So it is…we miss everybody but it’s okay.
JULIE: Yeah I feel like the pandemic really kind of …
A RIANNA: It really put a damper on things
JULIE: Yeah it ’ s hard…I mean because you feel…you just have this sense of feeling inspired
and feeling motivated. You were talking about not getting any sleep and yeah there were some
days in there where I just was like maybe four hours of sleep if I ’ m lucky, but you ’ re so engaged
and so motivated by just wanting to be with everyone and I feel like that energy, that momentum
is kind of what was driving a lot of that and I think I lot of people would agree with th at you know
“ Oh I ’ m really exhausted because I haven’t slept very much but I ’ m fired up ” so…and uh…and
being motivated to volunteer and do the things that you do to make this country better is just…it
definitely helps you it ’ s like your coffee but yo u know not coffee.
JULIE: I definitely think it ’ ll be an exciting time for us to be able to kind of get back to where we
were before being able to just get out there, talk to voters, knock doors, I think all of those
things, and I think the bi g thing about Barnstormers that I ’ ve always appreciated is just the
sense of community. I feel like when you feel like you are contributing to a bigger thing, a
greater thing, and you ’ re joining with everybody and you ’ re getting out there and you ’ re all
wo rking together toward a common goal and the common good I feel like people really respond
to that. That sense of community is just so important and you know one thing I…when we first
started this and we were talking about road tripping you know I am um f or many years have
been a fan of the band Phish and a big part of that community is tra ve ling from show to show
and so I remember thinking as we were doing all of this planning kind of going from you know
trip to trip how many similarities there were betwe en you know the years that I spent following
Phish driving around the country you know going from show to show and thinking to myself, “ Oh
this isn’t much difference. I ’ m part of an amazing community, I ’ m traveling across the country,
I ’ m going to see somet hing amazing ” which in that case was all of Pete ’ s rallies and really
feeling inspired by his message. But really the sense of community was the big kind of parallel
that I noticed in just feeling like…and that ’ s really inspired for people to feel like t hey’re part of
something…part of something greater.
ARIANNA: Yeah and everybody…everybody that I’ve met over the past year has just been the
nicest people ever uh so supportive, inspiring, um motivating, they ’ re just good people and like
we were saying the other day “ your vibe attracts your tribe ” and I fully believe in that uh we have
created this amazing community of people who just care about everybody and everything um
and I absolutely saw that and … and witnessed it first hand when we had a tragedy.. .I don ’ t want to say tragedy…uh it was kind of tragic for my family down in Mexi co where my grandparents…they own a business where they sell candy in bulk and pi ñ atas and toys and stuff like that in markets during the fall and winter months and everything was destroyed. It ’ s a long story but everything was destroyed by … essentially the city after there was some issue about the location and they were supposed to move but they sent in I think they sent police to destroy everybody ’ s merchandise and everybody’s tents.
JULIE; That ’ s terrible
ARIANNA: Yeah it was complexity terrible um I was on the phone with my mom for hours and
she was just crying and my grandma didn’t ’ t want to talk to her on the phone. It was just terrible
and I felt so bad because I ’ m like…like I ’ m all the way over here, I can ’ t do anything.
ARIANNA: So I was like we have a group of people who are pretty close to us and I know they
you know would probably pitch in to help send them some money so they can kind of
recuperate and so I set up a Paypal pool for my grandparents and uh I think we raised like
almost $1500 in less than two days. Yeah it was amazing and it came out to be
like twenty 2 0 or 30,000 pesos…which and I was talking to my mom a
few weeks ago about this uh she told me that they were able to buy new…a new tent and they
were able to pay off some of the debt that they had with their merchandiser so that was just
amazing and it ’ s … it ’ s even hard for me to find people that live around me to be…to you know do anything for me.
ARIANNA: And here we have complete strangers of mine and friends online who are sending
$20, $50, $ 100, and $ 150 uh to my family and it was just. I mean it just broke me
down in the best way it really did and I ’ m so thankful for everybody that pitched in for that so
JULIE: Well that ’ s a true testament I think to having the power of you know a community like
that so yeah that ’ s an amazing story and I think it ’ s so great that we were able to help them out.
Because you know that ’ s just a terrible thing especially if that ’ s your livelihood to have that sort
of thing happen is just… it ’ s not a good thing. So yeah definitely something that the sense of
community we ’ ve had so many people who have been able to help others. People who couldn’t
go to one of our trips but who wanted to help others. People who weren’t going to be able to
attend that wanted to help with hotel points or airline points. Some people donated dinners for
our Pete – Up that we had on some of the trips. Just the kindness…it was just amazing and to see
that. So we ’ ve definitely … yeah absolutely … and we definitely feel like the i r will be people who
will be coming to join Barnstormers for America who have similar stories in the grassroots
organizing that they did for their candidate and how that sense of community how those different
grassroots communities joined together to help each other to volunteer and do the good work of
supporting their candidate so I think all of us coming together, all of us rallying around Joe Biden
and at the end of the day this is amount saying our democracy. It ’ s about the soul of our country
we need to you know really unite and we need to get the current president out and I think that ’ s
going to take a lot of work and a lot of time. But I think just to be motivated to do it as part of a community where you know you have the support of everyone within that community to help each other, to support and uplift each other, to exchange ideas. These are all important component s and what we strive for in the Barnstormer community. So we ’ re excited to have new people join us and of course we ’ re excited to get back together with those people we already know that had been part of Barnstormers from the beginning. Hopefully,, we can have our family fest forum in South Bend in August and get together and I think that will be really great jumping off point hopefully to what comes next. So I know one of the things we had talked about tentatively we’ve been in communications with Amy McGrath’s Senate campaign in Kentuck y and talked a little bit about doing a trip to Louisville the fourth weekend in October for their get out the vote. That is still tentative of course but we will have to see how things go with the pandemic but it ’ s not hurtful to try and make some plans and hopefully things will level off and we ’ ll be able to go down there and support her campaign.
ARIANNA: Now will that…because you said their primary is in May right?
JULIE: Right. Their primary…well I don ’ t know if it ’ s been pushed back at this point. In our
conversations with her campaign they said they’re doing a lot of local focus. I guess they ’ ve got
a lot of people that are really in need down there losing more and they have a lot of food banks
down there that are in need of donations. They’ve had a few folks volunteering for those food
banks, socially distancing of course, but trying to get you know help in that area. So they’re real
focused on that right now but I know they ’ re going to be shifting to digital soon and we hope to
have some information on that you know coming up as soon as we get details from them. But
for now the tentative plan is that trip.
ARIANNA: It all sounds good to me I can ’ t wait.
JULIE: Yeah I think it ’ s going to be great and um you know I think where people are trying to
engage as much as they can digitally, social media I think…I think everyone can agree that that
doesn’t take the place of being able to do it in person face to face. The connections you make
with people not only with other members of the Barnstormers community but also that you make
with voters being able to talk to them and trying to get out to vote is really important. So
obviously if we ’ re going to have to continue digitally we will but making tentative plans for
something beyond that is something we felt like was important to do and so we will see how it
ARIANNA: Yeah and thank you for everything that you do. I…I mean it ’ s crazy how much you do
it blows my mind [Laughs]
JULIE: Well I can tell you I definitely have a lot of help. There ’ s a lot of volunteers and a lot of
people who are very involved in giving their time and resources to help with these trips and
things so I ’ m super grateful to be part of a community where so many people step up and it ’ s a
difficult time right now but I really appreciate you and the lead you ‘ve taken with all of our social
media with Barnstormers. I am frequently in awe of how much you do as it relates to that so you know I think that ’ s the beauty of our you know…kind of our organization is that we…you know
everybody is just fine to wear different hats and step up and do what needs done and really
contribute to making Barnstormers you know best that it can be. You know I know that I ’ m so
grateful f or that and you and Kat and Lisa are very grateful as well.
JULIE: For sure so yeah…so we are going to have more details hopefully about these upcoming
trips and if you want to have more information about how you can get involved in terms of both
political and non – political you can go to our website barnstormersforamerica.com. We do have a
COVID – 19 resource page. It has lots of great information and of course feel free to email us if
you would like. There ’ s a contact form on our website or you can email us directly at
email@example.com . We would love to hear from you and if you have any
questions or comments, if you have some suggestions for what you ’ d like to hear us talk about
we ’ d love to hear from you so feel free to reach out and we ’ d love to hear from you.
ARIANNA: Oh and we also have the Happy Hour every Saturday that we ’ re working on. It ’ s just
a live hangout of us talking about what ’ s going on and just a place for us to see each other and
JULIE: Yeah and we ’ ve uh this week and in the coming weeks we ’ re going to have some
musical guests so that ’ ll make it fun for everyone and you know just really…an opportunity like
you said for us to spend a little time together digitally face – to – face [Laughs] and you know just
kind of see each other. It ’ s hard being apart you know so yeah that ’ s every week at 9PM
Eastern time on Saturdays and if you would like more information for how to join that just shoot
us a message on our website and we can add you to our mailing list. We send out details on the
call usually after our Saturday night happy hour to get everyone involved and we ’ re happy to
send you that information so you can join us. We ’ d like to have you.
ARIANNA: So thank you guys for listening today we hope you enjoyed the episode of the
Barnstormer Base Camp podcast.
JULIE: Thanks you guys!
EPISODE 1: The History of Barnstormers: A Conversation About How It All Began
ARIANNA WYNDHAM: Welcome to Barnstormer Base Camp.
JULIE PARKER: Hey everyone! I’m Julie…
ARIANNA: and I’m Arianna…
JULIE PARKER: and on today’s inaugural episode we sit down for a chat with Kat and Lisa, two of our co-founders to talk about how Barnstormers For America began and what the future holds as we transition from Barnstormers for Pete. We’re so happy to have you join us. Welcome everybody. We have Kat Sosnick and Lisa Connelly joining Ari and I and we’re just going to talk a little bit about how the Barnstormers started and where we began, how everybody came to Barnstormers, and how it involved into the family community that it is today. So I think if you start at the very beginning that would be Kat’s portion of the story so Kat I will let you talk a little bit about how it all began.
KAT SOSNICK: Thank you Julie it’s nice to be on this very first inaugural podcast. Obviously I hope we meet in better times, but looking back on the past few months I can’t even believe where we were and where we are now. We were so motivated to get into this…you know primary process and help elect the next Democratic nominee and now we’re sort of stuck in our homes trying to figure out what’s next. But, about a year ago…April of last year…I was on my laptop just spending some time perusing the internet on Facebook where I have most of my political feeds. And while I work during the day I also check in on what’s new in the political sphere and this name popped up – Pete Buttigieg. And I think it was because one of my friends was following the Facebook group that they had launched to support his campaign, the grassroots Facebook group, and I actually didn’t google him to find out what he was all about. I was instantly impressed with the civility of the dialog on this Facebook group and I automatically joined because of the supporters and initially less because of who he was and as I learned more about what he stands for, and his background, and his intelligence, and his basic you know understanding…extensive understanding of pedestrian politics I got more and more enamored with him as a candidate. But my actual entree into this world of grassroots politics, which I’ve been involved in for many elections prior to Pete’s candidacy, came really through a Facebook group that had 3000 members back in April of 2019 and what happened then is that I got very engaged in this group and I started commenting because it was just so nice to finally have a platform where people were being civil and kind when it comes to having constructive political dialogue and as I got more involved I said to myself, “Well then why shouldn’t I just apply to be an admin for this group?” and that’s what happened. And I got connected with all the high level, supercharged, grassroots organizers…digital grassroots organizers that supported Pete and we sort of forged these friendships over the next several months and built out this huge infrastructure of Facebook groups from that first one we spun into like…ultimately 350 Facebook groups where we self-organized across states, and shared interest groups, demographics, and it was really our way to basically take a candidate that had no senatorial
voting record and very low name ID and used these digital platforms to try to create buzz and a following for him and what happened next is that I hosted a youth vote weekend at my home in August of 2019 and I had about thirty young people here who were all supporting Pete’s candidacy and we have like a two day think tank where we had them come up with different unique ways to go out and target voters and they came…each came up with their own ideas and ultimately had to present to myself, Lisa, and two other women, Donna and Abby, and we were sort of the adult supervisors of this weekend and while we were observing these young people come up with these really creative ideas Abby said, “Well why don’t we go to Iowa and actually experience what one of these primaries is like” and I was like, “That’s a great idea, let’s do that.” So I went back and I asked a digital friend Andrew, who I made on Facebook in the “Iowa for Pete” Facebook group, whether it was okay for us to come to Iowa and see on the ground what this primary process looks like. It was like one of my…one of the things on my bucket list and so we committed to going to Iowa for the LJ dinner which is a very renowned dinner during the primary process where all of the candidates come to speak. It is a pivotal moment in Iowa politics…Democratic politics and that was in November and then we said to each other, “Then let’s put it out there on our Facebook infrastructure if there’s any interest…if anybody would want to join us” I mean we lived in these close digital quarters for so long that it was worth a shot to see if anybody would want to join in on this little trip that we had organized. And we created a very basic post and we sent it out and within four days you know we had like seven hundred people sign up and as we started to parse the data and look at it we were like blown away that it was very diverse geographic data. And so Julie started to enter it into this digital map and we realized that we were covering almost sixty percent of the states on the map and so it became sort of our goal to see if we could cover the entire country and within…I think three weeks we were basically at 49 states and almost one thousand participants had signed up and the only state that was missing was Delaware. Which is kind of ironic.
JULIE: [Laughs] Right?
KAT: So we all went out and had this sort of recruiting strategy to get one person to commit from Delaware and it didn’t work through our “Delaware for Pete” group on Facebook we had to venture over onto Twitter and we got the person that admin’d the @delawareforpete Twitter account to commit and with that our map was complete and that was a very exciting day in September. So this happened very very quickly and it was testimony to how powerful the candidacy was and…you know how important self-organizing is in today’s political climate and this was all done digitally and then you know what happened is we went to Iowa and I’ll have you tell the story of what happened because Julie you really were the one that was in charge of all the organizing on the ground, and the visibility, and the optics of this like…you know once-in- a-lifetime experience and monumental success.
JULIE: Well I have to say definitely a team effort because I could not have done this by myself. There were just a lot of pieces to the puzzle. I was introduced to you and Lisa from that project.
KAT: Oh the reboot yeah that weekend.
JULIE: So that was my first…
KAT: Reboot was what we called it, you’re right because we were talking about “rebooting” the country. We thought that name would really appeal to young people.
JULIE: For sure and for me I think the…it was right away…that was my first kind of engagement with you um I had seen you online, I had a similar situation with joining Facebook groups. I had lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana and was living there at the time and knew a little bit about Pete because South Bend is an hour and a half away, but um didn’t know a lot about him but once I learned more like you and once I was connected with a lot of the other supporters and just really found um everyone in those groups. The conversation was just really great and everybody was just supporting and uplifting each other and it’s just…that’s hard to find I think a lot of times in the political climate you know. Everybody’s out for their own guy and whatever and so I had made some buttons for you for the reboot and that was kind of how you and I started talking on a regular basis and then once you guys put out the all call for this Iowa trip I was like, “We need a website.” So I volunteered to do that but definitely I think it was kind of funny how everyone was just connected by this community of grassroots supporters and by our candidate who we were really supporting. For the LJ I think that we just wanted to be a real community effort, we wanted everyone to feel engaged and involved, kind of going back to that sense of belonging that was such a pillar of Pete’s campaign and the excitement and the energy that came about in the planning of that trip, once we arrived, once we got there. I feel like there were a lot of efforts among the people in the community to really engage with people who maybe weren’t Pete supporters to talk to them, going back to kind of that recruiting, just you know really talking to people about Pete and there were a lot of people that came that weekend that weren’t part of the original core group of people that had signed up to come and it just grew and grew. So It was really amazing to me when we saw all these people sign up in such a short span of time and everybody so fired up, and excited, and supercharged to get to Iowa and you know support Pete and the friendships that were forged were just amazing to me. So it was just such a wonderful weekend and I feel like it was the catalyst for everything that followed in terms of all of the grassroots support of Pete and just continuing to build. And one of my favorite things about that weekend…I mean aside from the LJ…which I think everyone would say that night was just amazing…but one of my favorite things was the breakfast…the states breakfast that we had where all of the states had a…like a captain…everybody organized a location and all of the people from the various states went to this breakfast and talked about grassroots organizing, got to meet people face-to-face, and it was really such a wonderful thing I think for a lot of people because then when they left Iowa and they went back to their home states they felt energized and supercharged with ideas and really inspired to continue to grow the grassroots support in their local community and within their state which was the whole goal of that. So I think it was really really amazing. Lisa I’m curious when you were at this reboot what did you think about going to Iowa? What’s your background in terms of being involved politically? I know you are very involved in New York so I’m curious about that.
LISA CONNELLY: Hey guys! So yeah, I guess you know kind of going back to when Kat was talking about in April the online digital world of Pete. Where I was at that time…I had actually discovered Pete when he was running for the DNC chair and prior to that I…like everybody else…was I think just completely depressed and angry so…all of the stages of grief after 2016 and until I discovered Pete during DNC chair election I was looking around our field and seeing that we had good leaders but there was really no one who excited me.
LISA: And when I found him I thought like…it was love at first sight…I just knew it I knew it like I you know down to the pit of my stomach. So basically once I kind of discovered him I kind of said, “Okay I’m going to keep an eye on this guy” and then in April when he announced I said, “I have to get to work right away on organizing an event in New York to find other people like me” because I knew there were more out there.
LISA: So I went to a watch party to watch his announcement and met a bunch of people there and then I actually started to…uh in my mind it felt like digital stalking, but I guess the cool kids would call it “sliding into DM’s” but I kind of researched who was following Pete on Twitter and Facebook and just reached out to them and said, “Hey I’m hosting this…what is soon to be called a “Pete-Up” you know this event to support Pete Buttigieg in New York city in July” and this was April so I knew it was going to take that long to get a big enough group together. Because Pete was basically new on the scene and no one really knew who he was and I needed a lot of time to actually do that research.
LISA: So for those few months I had seen Kat…I knew Kat’s name you know on Facebook and of course I knew Button Pete um but I did not know the name behind Buttons for Pete so that was very exciting to get that reveal.
LISA: And so I connected with Kat online and then when we met at the reboot um I…it was just one of those things, and I feel like this with pretty much all people who supported Pete, it’s like I feel like I have known them my entire life.
LISA: Right? And it’s that feeling of like knowing and familiarity just with goodness, and kindness, and joy, and fun, and all the rest of the Rules of the Road. So when we were talking about going to Iowa I loved that idea because I’ve dabbled in political organizing before. Yeah I
think it started with um John Carey’s presidential run and then with Hillary in 2016 I did some tweeting for her. Some phone banking but nothing really like hands on and a deep dive. But with Pete I felt like I needed to do it and New York’s primary then was on April 28th, now it’s been pushed back to June, but I had so much pent up energy that I needed something to do so that’s why I was organizing this event in July but then when I met Kat and you know we were talking about taking even further action in the early states I just again I knew right away that this was the right thing to do and I also knew that the campaign also needed us because they didn’t have any staff. [Laughs] They were still building and we needed to kind of provide this…
LISA: Yeah infrastructure to kind of people going especially for when the primary season hit. So yeah so I was thrilled with the idea of going to Iowa and what I really really loved you guys were talking about how everybody kind of came together online to do this through our WhatsApp chat. It was so organic and it was because each of us in our own ways had been doing our own thing to try to support Pete however we could.
LISA: And it just came together so seamlessly because everybody was like, “Yeah of course I’ll do this” and you know I just can’t believe you know after a month we had a thousand people across all fifty states. That’s just mind blowing. And then when we got to the event you know it was our first event. [Laughs]
KAT: I cannot believe what we organized and it was like done in such an organic way but executed with almost perfection because everybody participated.
KAT: It was not a one man show, it was not a two man show, it was not a three women show, it was like everybody that came contributed.
KAT: We were online organizing people, people were making buttons, you know were making buttons, there were car flags, and people were documenting their packing and getting everybody excited as they were going on their road trips and it was amazing the day of I think the…the moment I realized we were on to something really big because we were going at this basically as rookies. Most of us had never been to Iowa. I think the moment that really hit home was when we were all in transit and on our Facebook we kept on approving posts of members of our new community bumping into Pete, Chasten, their relatives, all the staffers at different
points across the country. At airports, and transit points it was just mind blowing what was going on that day and once we got here obviously we realized through how the press was covering this sort of “impromptu”…they were…they were like shocked the morning of the breakfast…you remember guys? How we saw on the Twitter feeds of some of the…I think it was one of the reporters that was embedded from CNN with the Pete campaign talking about how he went to go get coffee at this coffee shop and all of a sudden he saw the whole California.
KAT: You know contingent there and California was really our biggest…is not just the biggest state in terms of electoral votes but it is also…it was our biggest contingency there was like one hundred and sixty people came from California it was our biggest group.
KAT: And they were all at this coffee shop and were all dressed in our Barnstormer blue t-shirts. Very recognizable. I mean they must have thought we were a cult or something.
KAT: Everybody was so friendly and all we heard was like, “Who are these super nice people? they’re so easygoing and so cheerful, and joyful” and then once we came back obviously we got all these press requests because these reporters were running through the airports and running through Des Moines like just seeing all of us and thinking, “We got to write a story about this.”
KAT: And it all just came together so well.
JULIE: I have to tell you one of my favorite memories from that weekend was…well two actually…but one is I went over to Base Camp which, for those of you listening Base Camp was kind of our hub, our meeting place for the weekend, it was staffed by some amazing Iowa volunteers Vicky, and there were a bunch of people, but Vicky and Paula were the main two, but anyway so I…I was going there periodically to take things there and just meet up with people and every time I went I would sit back and watch and I lost track of how many times people were literally running across the hallway there…running across to meet up with people who were from a different state or only had known online. There were so many face-to-face meetings and people..it was literally like…you know this commercial where two people are running together in slow motion.
LISA & KAT: [Laugh]
JULIE: It was like “Oh my gosh” and they were running towards each other and I lost track of how many times I saw that happen and I was like, “This is a testament that we did something right here” right?
JULIE: And the other one was the Halloween party that we had where everybody just like was so happy to see each other, and meet each other, and get to hang out with each other and the five hundred pounds of candy.
KAT: That was five hundred pounds of candy for a good cause.
JULIE: It was for a good cause but it was just so funny because I just remember all of these people showing up, of course in their Halloween costumes, so you’ve got little Lara Catoe with her little bumble bee costume and then you’ve got one of our Seattle people dressed up as…Ginsburg?
KAT: Yeah yeah
JULIE: Dressed up as yeah dressed up as her and the two of them were like hugging each other. Then you’ve got Ginsburg hugging a bumble bee and I remember I just…it was just so surreal but at the same time you could just feel the love. It was fantastic.
KAT: We had somebody that showed up like fifty states what was that costume? I forgot?
LISA: Oh it was the Pete Storm
KAT: Very original…yeah it was the Pete Storm yeah.
LISA: Yeah it was Jen from Michigan.
KAT: Yeah so #PeteStorm. I will say about the Halloween…when we got to Laguardia airport it was like around 6pm and there was like twenty of us on one flight to Des Moines. Lisa and I were like blown away and then we get on the flight, there was no wifi, so we knew that you had already started the party and we were anxious to get there and the moment we landed I said to Lisa, “Let me call Julie to see how things are going okay.” So I’m like off the plane the first thing I do is call you on the phone, which I rarely do, I always text as you know and the only reason I called is because my hands were occupied carrying my bag so I called you and I’m so glad I did because you were like, “Hi Kat” and I was like, “How’s it going?” and you were like, “Kat it’s unbelievable so many people showed up” and you’re like, “Somebody wants to say hi to you.”
KAT: And you give the phone to Chasten and it’s like, “Oh my God Hi!” JULIE: And the he starts talking to you in German do you remember that?
KAT: Yeah no I started talking to him in German and I just was like, “That was so impolite of me” because who knows if he was actually fluent in German I just made that assumption and he
responded in like almost native German and I said to myself, “Wow he would just make a great First Spouse, or Gentleman”
KAT: He was so nice.
JULIE: I still have the picture. I still have the picture of him holding my phone talking to you in German it was hilarious. So and I felt the one thing about that night that I thought…I mean obviously he spoke for a few minutes, but what really was amazing to me was when Mike Schmuhl came and talked to everyone and said you know, “This campaign is an act of hope, you supporting Pete is an act of hope.” That whole speech was so empowering and just inspirational and I think everybody walked away from that night thinking, “Man this is…this is our guy” like, “We’re doing something right you know and we’re going to really support and give everything we can” you know and that’s what grassroots organizing is about. It’s about finding people that have a common cause or in this case candidate and getting everyone fired up and supporting your candidate. So I feel like Iowa was the beginning of the beginning and I remember it just being so inspirational the whole weekend I just walked around kind of in a daze like, “I can’t believe this is happening, look at all of these amazing people.” So what about your take on the whole thing Ari? Remind me how you came to Pete again? I think you said you heard him on an interview or something? Refresh my memory.
ARIANNA: Yeah um so I had heard about him in March of last year. The way that I discovered him…I used to sleep with headphones on and one morning super early in the morning I just started hearing clapping and cheering and people yelling and then he was talking, and I’m like, “Who is this guy?” He was talking you know about trading, immigrants, right, and women’s rights, and education, and just saying all the right things and I’m like, “This is not real, I’m still dreaming.”
ARIANNA: And I…I kind of opened my eyes and I started watching it. It was an ad on YouTube on Bill Maher and he was just talking and I listened to him and I knew it…I knew it from that
moment…I was like, “This is who we need in the White House right now” and I just immediately knew that he was here to heal people and to help people and to possibly be the next president. I was so excited about that but I had followed him just on Facebook. I didn’t really get too involved until later on about early August was when I was finally at a point where I was like, “Okay there’s something that I can do” because as you guys know, but not everybody else knows, but I am a DACA recipient so I’m not able to vote. So at that point I said, “I can’t just sit back and watch everything happen” so I wanted to get involved in some way and I started by reaching out on Facebook and just kind of trying to find out what I could do from home or even just here where I live in Ohio. That’s when I came in contact with Constance from Massachusetts and she was just so awesome and she kind of introduced me to you guys and the next thing I know we’re organizing on WhatsApp and three million different chats.
KAT: [Laughs] Oh my gosh the WhatsApp chat. ARIANNA: Yeah it was just…it was just so powerful.
KAT: Yeah we were organizing across…across like forty chats it was bananas.
JULIE: I have to say that over time you did wear on me Kat and I did learn the importance of having the WhatsApp chat. I was not a fan at the beginning, I’m not going to lie, but you won me over eventually.
ARIANNA: Yeah it was really powerful and especially for me. I had already been in about a year in kind of my own bubble of depression and anxiety and just kind of dealing with myself and kind of isolated for a while. So it was kind of just a huge shift for me to go from that to being social and talking to people online and then meeting everybody was just so amazing. What I think was the most powerful thing was like you were talking…Julie about people meeting each other for the first time.
ARIANNA: I had so many people that as soon as they saw me their face would light up and they would scream and come running to give me a hug and I’m like, “I don’t know who you are…”
JULIE:…but I’m so happy to meet you”
ARIANNA: Right. Yeah and it was just so fun and I think it wasn’t until after like we were all…when we were in Iowa the second time on the way home I had my friend Beth with me who hadn’t gone on any of our trips but she was with me. We were on the way back and we stopped in Iowa City to meet up with the Australian crew and to also see Andy for some coffee and I hadn’t even introduced them. Andy kind of just walked in behind me and I turned around and they were hugging and already talking and stuff.
KAT: You mean Andy who was the reason we all went to Iowa in the first place? ARIANNA: Yeah
KAT: Andy from “Iowa For Pete” Facebook group?
LISA: Oh yeah
ARIANNA: Yep and I think that was one of the most amazing things that I…and all of us witnessed was having that connection without ever even meeting somebody or talking to somebody to have that mutual connection that is basically automatic um…I’ve never experienced anything like it and it’s just been amazing.
JULIE: I think it goes back to that saying you know “your vibe attracts your tribe” that kind of thing. So I just feel like when you meet somebody that…as we did during the course of this…you meet somebody who is a Pete supporter who is sharing those same values, it’s almost like you…you know…you know that that person is a good person.
JULIE: And I think that was one of my favorite things about the Pete community is you could always…you felt like you could always trust that the people that you were meeting…people that were supporting Pete were…were good people and believed in kindness, and belonging, and acceptance, and inclusivity, and all the things that we care about just in general in life, but also you know as part of supporting Pete in the campaign.
KAT: And I think Ari..Ari also did an amazing job lending your voice to our social media platforms…
KAT: And you know and that’s really been one of the reasons we’ve been able to grow just beyond that one Iowa trip to several more trips thereafter and now transitioning into Barnstormers for America but also since you mentioned Andy I wanted to give a shout out to the people of Iowa because I think most of us know who have been in grassroots politics for a while that it can become very territorial and when we suddenly realized we had one thousand people that committed to going to Iowa we were a little concerned that it would infringe on this like institution of Iowa politics that these people were coming from out of state and so Andy was sort of our line of communication about that. And once we got there it was amazing how they embraced us and I think we all also took some real…we really took away that grassroots politics in Iowa is something they take very seriously. The fact that they’re so important in the process of determining who the candidate is going to be is almost something studious. It’s soulcraft to them and I thought just watching that process on how they do their
research and how many questions they ask. They really kind of do the homework for all of us late state voters I think and so shout out to the Iowans that really really welcomed us
LISA: Yeah absolutely
ARIANNA: It was an educational process as well for everybody. JULIE: Yeah, absolutely
KAT: Well yeah, Ari you blew me away. All of a sudden you were on the scene and I was like, “Oh okay let’s talk to Ari” and…we need to do these things online and all of a sudden we had this social media digital infrastructure because you set it up and you just continue to just get better and better you know with Barnstormers for America.
KAT: I mean and now in this environment that were in it’s going to become JULIE: Even more important
KAT: Yeah absolutely. You’ve been absolutely amazing and in sharing your story as well. Because that’s the…so just talking about you know favorite things form that first trip the Pete-Up in the park the day after the first day.
LISA: Oh yeah.
KAT: I’ll never forget because it was freezing but…but we kept ourselves warm because we marched from the arena to the park and…how many did we have?
JULIE: Oh my gosh I think we had….
ARIANNA: We had like two hundred people. Yeah and we all showed up to the park. The march had like fifty but two hundred people showed up to the park for the Pete-Up.
LISA: And I remember we had the Drake University acapella.
JULIE: Oh yes Fermata the Blue
LISA: That’s right they were amazing.
JULIE: They sang the Star Spangled Banner and I almost cried.
KAT: It was beautiful…it was beautiful but then when we kind of just talking about how organic this whole thing was you know we said, “Let’s invite people up to the stage,” which Julie you set
up with the sound system, thank God um and we kind of gave them the very brief format to follow you know what’s your name? Where are you from? How many miles did you travel for this…to get to Iowa? And what are your plans when you get back to your home state? And the line…how many did we have speak? It was like…
JULIE: At least a dozen.
LISA: At least and the stories were so powerful including your husband’s Ari, and each one was just so….our backgrounds were so diverse that it was just amazing to me the level of trust that…you know for all intents and purposes…strangers had each other to share that kind of…you know the personal experiences and from that point on I kind of feel like the Pete-Up was always my favorite part of every event.
JULIE: I agree. Well Pete says you know “Our stories inform out politics” you know so I love the fact that people like you said were so willing to just freely share their story, talk about their lived experiences, talked about what the campaign has meant to them, what the weekend of meeting everyone had meant to them because at that point we were kind of rounding up the weekend so I just thought it was really amazing and like you said that’s been a format that we’ve followed going forward for our other trips and things where people just get up and talk about how they came to Pete or what the campaign means to them. We did our Rules of the Road that we did in South Carolina which I thought was amazing.
KAT: Yeah it was really special and what I love again just going back to the organic nature of this when I think it was morning of the LJ when everybody was asking, “When are we going to New Hampshire?”
KAT: And I was like, “Wait a second we’re in Iowa right now!” JULIE: [Laughs]
LISA: We announced the date of New Hampshire that morning and then after we got back from Iowa we were like, “Okay we really have to put this into a real structure now” so that’s where our four pillars of service, campaign support, Pete-Up, which is now called the Boot-Up, and uh ButtiBash which is now Barnstormers Bash, but that’s where that kind of originated which I love.
ARI:And that’s such a great format because there’s such a powerful force behind storytelling. It just helps connect people to our values and what we have to do and where we need to be so I think it’s amazing it’s so powerful to be able to have that and even just to have people who are willing to sit there and listen to you because listening is just as important. So it’s been great.
JULIE: I agree
KAT: But I think one thing we didn’t realize is how much impact we had because fast forward to the actual primary and in February and apparently no we don’t have this validated but hearsay is that the weekend of the Iowa caucus forty six percent of the canvasing was out of state capacity and since we had organized our second trip to Iowa to really push out…get out the vote…it was really rewarding that we had this result ultimately…I mean we can always go away thinking that we played a role in helping Pete win Iowa and that is really gratifying as well as the fact that we continue to hear from everyone that came on that first trip that it was one of the best experiences if not the most pivotal experiences of their life to be on that journey with us so.
JULIE: Yeah. Yeah.
LISA: So that’s rewarding
JULIE: Yeah that is rewarding I definitely think so.
LISA: Going back to…so what I find interesting you know…our original plan was to have one big event per state and we found that that wasn’t enough for Barnstormers because.
LISA: Because people were like, “Yeah I want to go back to the caucus” so what are we going to call this because it’s not the full blown full experience that we had planned for these events so Julie you came up with Barnstormer Blitzes and so Iowa was our first Blitz and then we did you know we kind of repeated that main event and a Blitz in each of the primary states except for South Carolina because we had that event on the election day itself but I just love that people were still just chomping at the bit to get back to the states to see what they could do in those blitzes mainly to door knock and support the campaign you know you know to get out the actual vote.
JULIE: As opposed to a regular trip for those of you listening who don’t know the difference between the two. With the regular Barnstormer trip we have the dinner and the bash at the end but we also have the other components but with the blitz the primary focus is the door knocking and also we do a community service of some kind. Whether it be collecting donations, or doing some kind of volunteering, that’s always a component of the blitz as well. So I think our second kind of testament to that was our Vegas blitz. We had a volunteer that came to our Reno trip and spoke at our dinner and asked for volunteers to come to Vegas and to help door knock and do a blitz in Las Vegas and literally as soon as the dinner was over he said he had twenty five people come up to him and say “How can I help, what can I do? I’m there” so it’s pretty amazing. I definitely agree that the continuation and kind of the formatting of the trips and just really has given all of the people that have been Barnstormers and…well we hope…the people that will join us to be Barnstormers in the future just kind of a way to become involved you know really I think it goes back to our mission for Barnstormers For America which is you know we
want to make grassroots politics accessible through grassroots organizing.
LISA: Yeah and also you know when Pete dropped out I mean we…we started as Pete for America and so we were kind of like “Where do we go from here, what is the…what is our mission now?” and we discovered that the mission stays the same.
Julie: Right. It does.
LISA: Which basically…I mean the main mission was electing Pete as president JULIE: Sure
LISA: But I think what we discovered was something in…which is my all time favorite quote of Pete’s which is “The purpose of the presidency is not the glorification of the president it’s the unification and the empowerment of the American people.”
JULIE: I love it
KAT: Saying that really…really…
LISA: That’s what we discovered…that’s what we discovered in this whole process so Barnstormers really is at its heart the empowerment of the people and…
KAT: You know Lisa you are so right, I’m thinking to myself that quote actually wasn’t the one that sat with me but I realize its power now because we’re in probably the biggest crisis we’ve seen in our lifetime and the glorification of the President is what it is all become about and it’s really disturbing.
LISA: Yeah yeah KAT: You’re right
LISA: So I feel like…when we go forward and we’re…we’re now you know…we hope to expand and we invite the supporters of other campaigns into Barnstormers…and because we need to grow the numbers, we need to make sure the empowerment of the people stays strong to overcome what is happening right now and it’s just I mean you can’t say it enough that it is more important than ever. Literally. It has to happen now.
KAT: I think that you once said Lisa that we want to turn into once Pete wins the presidency…which it didn’t pan out that way…but we did transition into a bigger structure is that road trips are our core focus and really adding grassroots muscle to these local communities and obviously supporting the presidential nominee, whoever that will be, and also very
importantly the down-ballot races which are equally as important. I know Julie you’ve been doing a lot of due diligence on those races and what we’re going to be supporting going forward once we get past this pandemic that we’re in.
JULIE: And I just want to add something here kind of in the vein of what you’re talking about Kat with the road trips being core. One thing that I want to say is that we could absolutely not have had the same success with the road trips without virtual Barnstormers. Like I cannot emphasize that enough.
KAT: Oh yeah
JULIE: We had so many people that couldn’t make the trips but that were…they were helping other people make the trip, they were online doing all kinds of digital work to get the word out, they were helping to organize, trying to help people with carpools, and ride shares, and hotels. A lot of people doing a lot of work right from their couch that was so valuable and so much big support and part of why we were able to have success in the trips that we had. So I just want to give a big shoutout to those of you listening that were virtual Barnstormers and also for those of you who might be new that want to join Barnstormers don’t feel like you have to come on a trip and that could not be more relevant than right this moment.
JULIE: When we’re all trapped at home. All we have is our computer and you know our tenacity. So I just want to say because I know we want to make sure that people understand that you don’t have to be a road tripper to be a Barnstormer. So I think that is an important distinction to make. I just want to make sure all the virtual Barnstormers out there know how much we appreciate everything they did to support the road trips that we had and of course anything that we do going forward we will continue to appreciate that support.
KAT: Yes the…the virtual Barnstormers can probably teach us a thing or two. [Laughs] after doing it for so many events.
JULIE: I’m telling you it’s been a really great experience and I am so grateful to you guys for sharing how it all came to be. I think it is a good backstory for our inaugural podcast.
ARIANNA: Yes Yes KAT: Well we can’t wait!
LISA: Thank you Ari! Thank you to Ari and Julie for putting this together and spearheading this effort because it’s going to kind of document our journey on a much more profound level. I think once you have a podcast you’re kind of etched into political history.
KAT: Yes thank you so much!
JULIE: We’re excited to do it. I know that when we were in the midst of doing all of the barnstorming and everything Ari and I were talking about doing something where once Pete is president we’re…let’s do something let’s work on a project. Now that we’re moving forward as Barnstormers for America I get the privilege of having Ari as my partner in podcast crime.
JULIE: And I’m kind of excited about it
ARIANNA: It’s fun it’s fun
JULIE: Well thank you guys so much!
KAT & LISA: Thank you!
ARIANNA: Thank you guys for listening today we hope you enjoyed the episode of the Barnstormers Base Camp Podcast.
JULIE: Thanks, you guys!
JULIE PARKER: Welcome to the Barnstormer Base Camp podcast. We’re your hosts, I’m Julie…
ARIANNA WYNDHAM: and I’m Arianna and we wanted to take a minute to tell you what our podcast is all about, so let’s begin at the beginning.
JULIE: It all started when a small group of like-minded people came together to support Pete Buttigieg in his run for the Presidency.
ARIANNA: We did a lot of relational grassroots organizing and that small group grew to become the “Barnstormers For Pete” community which ultimately evolved into a movement of supercharged volunteers.
JULIE: After Pete’s run ended we realized what we had built together, talked about what we had learned from that experience, and knew that there was still so much work to be done.
ARIANNA: Our mission to continue that work, making politics accessible through grassroots organizing, is how “Barnstormers For America” was born. So where do we go from here and what’s next?
JULIE: That’s what we’ll be talking about and we hope you’ll join us each week to learn more about how you can get involved in the Barnstormer movement as part of our community.
ARIANNA: No matter where you’ve come from or what candidate you’ve supported you’re welcome here as we boldly join together to protect our democracy and ensure a better future for this country.
JULIE: You can subscribe to “Barnstormer Basecamp” on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.