Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Birth of an Activist

Way back in August / September my inner politics junkie woke up. The election held me captive and I spent hours reading everything I could find. Seriously everything from Huffington Post to National Review. Because I love a good argument, I will go almost anywhere. Except here. I never go here.

I wanted to get involved and jump into the fray, but my tiny town in Germany did not leave many options. Thank goodness the Internet stepped in.

First, I discovered American Citizens Abroad. I stumbled across the site as I was researching the impact of tax legislation on Americans living overseas. This organization is dedicated to protecting the rights of those that live far away but hope one day . . .

After I volunteered to help, they were excited to hear about my political science background. They sent me off to the Overseas Vote Foundation and Susan, who would quickly change my life.

OVF is a non-profit, non-partisan organization which provides Americans abroad with the information they need to vote. They provide forms and addresses and answer your questions via the help desk. Because of my background I was put on help desk duty. The Dude had finally started to develop a regular nap schedule and all I did was surf the net anyway. It is profoundly rewarding to help someone get their ballot. And, yes, I helped both Obama AND McCain voters.

In December OVF initiated their two post election surveys; one of voters and one of elections officials. The surveys are designed to help pin-point problems in the process in order to facilitate policy recommendations and also improve voter services. In January, I began helping analyze the data and writing the report.

What is that line in the Godfather? "Every time I think I am out they pull me back in." Two years ago I thought that I had shut the door on that part of my life. But just because academia was no longer in the cards did not mean that I could not be active in other ways. In fact, it seems odd that I did not try this before.

I have taken to this roll like a duck to . . . well, you get the picture. I literally spent sleepless nights last month trying to get the report into shape. This is why I have not been blogging. Last week the report was released at a press conference, which you can read the report here. It was very successful and even quoted in the New York Times and Stars and Stripes.

My research and work has even led me to re-join the American Political Science Association and I submitted a paper proposal to the annual conference. No word yet on if it was accepted, but fingers are still crossed.

Did I mention that I am not getting paid for any of this? I am also doing some volunteer work for ACA. My involvement in these organizations has been the most fulfilling part of my life in the past six months. It has given me the opportunity to use skills that I had written off and made me realize why I studied politics in the first place.

What is this all leading to? I have no idea. I am still teaching English, because day care is not free (even if the Oct-o-Mama seems to think so). In fact I am taking more hours on. For the time being I am taking it one day at a time. There is a new glimmer on the horizon. I am not sure where it will take me, but I think I will enjoy the ride.


Ms. Lolly said...

Claire that is fantastic! Congratulations!! I can't wait to read your research. I think it is wonderful that you're keeping yourself open to all sorts of opportunities and I'm sure lots of great things will come from your research. You might not be getting paid yet but don't underestimate the networking you're doing without even knowing. It will definitely pay off if you want it to.

I've been thinking for a long time now that it might be fun to do some sort of documentary on how this election has reenergized women politically, especially in our age bracket. It's really an exciting time. I mean if it can inspire me to go back to law school anything is possible LOL

Good luck on the proposal. What's your topic?

ian in hamburg said...

I can see how that would have been a perfect task for someone with so much energy and drive as you. More than 50 pages of professionally packaged research on such an important topic is bound to get even more notice, though the NY Times is already a damn good start. Well done!

Snooker said...

Congratulations Claire, you are finding your niche... one that you've known about all along.
Please do keep us updated when your work makes it to the "Internets".

Diane Mandy said...

It sounds FANTASTIC! I am so happy for you. Something like this is a dream of mine once I get to Spain--find a gig (volunteer or otherwise) that stimulates the old brain and is something I absolutely love.

Alice said...

Claire - you rock. Seriously. You're an inspiration to me! Congrats on finding a way to tie in your passions with the realities of life.

christina said...

One more time: Claire for President!

I've done quite a bit of volunteering in my time and I've also found that unpaid work is often the most fulfilling.