Gabi Morris-Flores ’20, Democracy Summer, Washington, D.C.

Democracy Summer group at Takoma Park 4th of July parade

My name is Gabi Morris-Flores and I’m a rising Junior.  I’m a Political Science major, and this summer I had the opportunity to hold two internships in the nation’s capital.  For the first half of the summer I was a fellow in a program called Democracy Summer, where we learned how to be better activists and then used those skills to take action.  During the second half of the summer I interned at the district office of Congressman Jamie Raskin, who is my congressional representative.  Both of these internships taught me so much about the political world and I’m so grateful to have received the funding that allowed me to have these experiences.  Here is a little more about each program!

Democracy Summer: Democracy Summer is an incredible program that gave me confidence in my ability to make political change.  The program, based in Takoma Park, Maryland, right outside D.C., was actually started by Congressman Jamie Raskin, who I later interned for, as an instructional and action-based program for young, progressive college and high school students who want to become activists and enter the political world.  We were a large group of around 47 fellows; mostly college students, some high-schoolers, and even one precocious middle-schooler.  Nonetheless our group bonded, and now I have people that I can rely on to join me in my future political endeavors. 

                Every day we would hear from one or more speakers who came from all different walks of political life.  Many of my favorite speakers were policy experts on different topics.  We heard from Marc Mauer, who was featured in Ava DuVernay’s highly acclaimed documentary, 13th.   We went downtown to the Sierra Club D.C. Headquarters and heard from Bob Bingaman, a lifelong environmental activist.  We heard from Ladd Everitt, a fierce and outspoken gun control activist, and Jamie DeMarco, from the Citizens Climate Lobby.   We also heard from political speakers who taught us about the specifics of campaigning, such as Jon Heintz from J Walkers Action Group, who taught us how to phonebank, and Sam Novey from the Foundation for Civic Leadership, who gave us many ideas to increase voter registration and voter turnout at our schools and universities.  We heard from Marc Elrich, who went on to win the highly contested Democratic Primary for Montgomery County Executive, just a couple weeks after he spoke to us.  We also heard from Phyllis Lerner, a woman who came to talk to us about gender communication in the workplace which was very interesting.  Although our group was split pretty evenly between women and men, it was evident to many of us women that the men took up much more space in every group conversation, especially when asking the speakers questions.  Phyllis Lerner made us focus on this topic and discuss it, which although uncomfortable in the moment, was helpful for our group cohesion in the long run. 

However it wasn’t all sitting and listening to people talk.  We went to a rally held by the Poor People’s Campaign, held right outside the Capitol building.  We went to a political fundraiser held by Congressman Jamie Raskin in the beautiful home of one of his supporters, where we mingled with donors and supporters, as well as with candidates for local and state office.  We held phonebanks, distributed yard signs, and even took a trip to Philadelphia to knock on doors for congressional candidate Mary Gay Scanlon.   We got a tour of a local DC news station, WUSA9, and went to a vigil for the families separated at the border because of President Trump’s Zero Tolerance policy.  On the day of Maryland’s primary elections, I pollstanded for 7 hours; talking to voters and giving them information about Congressman Raskin.   One of my favorite things that I did in Democracy Summer was go to the Capitol and lobby a member of Congress.  Early on in the program, we were divided up into “lobby” groups, and we chose a topic and a specific bill to lobby for.  We researched our bill and prepared a presentation to recite to the member of Congress.  On the day of the Capitol visit, we got a tour of the Capitol building, heard from many progressive members of Congress, and then had the opportunity to pitch our presentation to Congressman Don Beyer.  My other favorite activity was walking in a fourth of July parade with the Congressman.  The city of Takoma Park has a big parade every year, and Congressman Raskin invited us all to walk with him.  We gave out beads and stickers and started chants while the Congressman shook hands with people watching the parade.  So many people in Takoma Park love him, and we got cheers all along the parade route. 

Although I am still undecided about which area of politics I will pursue in my career, Democracy Summer gave me the tools to succeed in whichever venue I choose, whether it be campaigning, policy, activism or even elected office. 

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