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A lesson from the campaign trail

| Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The life of a Notre Dame student is jam-packed with activity. Beyond the burden of academic responsibility, adding the weight of extracurriculars, part time jobs, recruitment and a social life can quickly consume every last minute of your day. My life is not exempt from this, and upon coming back from winter break, I quickly pivoted from home’s tranquility to the usual grind I had become accustomed to in my preceding five semesters here. In no time, I had gone back to working hard on my classes, devoting countless hours to the dining hall and enjoying spending time with my friends on late nights and weekends. 

When my dear friend, Patrick Lee, announced his intention to petition to run for student body president, I was ecstatic to find ways to contribute to his campaign. I have known Patrick since the very beginning of college and have worked very closely with him throughout his tenure as Stanford Hall president, serving as our dorm’s multicultural commissioner. I knew that joining the campaign team implied a significant time commitment that would be hard to balance out with my existing engagements. When I accepted the offer to be the Lee-Stitt campaign manager, I understood that I was also accepting countless sleepless nights and a flurry of additional responsibilities that would quickly strain my schedule. The following two weeks were some of the most exhilarating in my entire time at Notre Dame, dare I say my life. Overall, this year’s student body presidential election was one of the most enriching and rewarding moments of my life so far, as it was a highly transformative experience that shifted many of my viewpoints and forced me to develop skills I didn’t even dare to dream about. 

Leading up to election day, the campaign team barnstormed the University, talking to hundreds of students all around while campaigning and canvassing around both dining halls, outside academic buildings, hall governments, Duncan Student Center and other locations on campus. On election day alone, I probably approached easily 500 students as I spent the entire day making rounds inside North Dining Hall, pitching the ticket’s main selling points and encouraging everyone in sight to whip out their phones and vote on the spot. Encountering highly apathetic students and talking with people who weren’t even aware an election was going on was not unusual. When compared to a national election, voting for the Notre Dame student body president and vice president seems extremely low stakes. In addition, the limitations of the position and the strict rules regarding the nature of the campaign likely prevented students from engaging in student body elections as intensely as they will this coming fall during the midterms or when 2024 rolls around. Throughout the campaign period, one question I repeatedly asked myself was: “How is all of this important?”, falling in line with the points just made and spiraling on the same disinterested comments so many students made as I tried to reach them. 

Eventually, the answer came to me. It was all about community. When inviting students to vote for the Lee-Stitt ticket, I wasn’t simply asking them to cast a vote of confidence for two wonderful people with an astounding drive and desire to make Notre Dame a better place. Instead, I was asking them to vote for two people who were the voice and mouthpiece for hundreds of other voices, who had formulated their concerns and presented it to them to fight for. When debating the ins and outs of what should be changed within Our Lady’s University, they weren’t just speaking for themselves; they were speaking on behalf of students intimately involved in the issue aware of where the most pressing needs lie. A campaign may run to elect two people, but in reality, it is the collective roar of hundreds more, who through their contributions and their work give those riding the wave the material and the substance they need to climb over the edge.

Since I can remember, politicians in the United States and around the world have loved to stress that their campaigns surpass an individual and are, instead, “a movement.” Prior to this, I had learnt to dismiss that as cliche and probably rolled my eyes upon hearing it countless times, especially throughout the hellscape that was the 2020 presidential election in the United States. Yet, a lot of truth rings to that statement, as it’s impossible for a single person to embody and fight for what is worth fighting for in this world. Throughout the waning days of January and early days of February, I witnessed firsthand how a campaign actually evolves into a movement, as it brings together so many voices, so many visions and so many hearts that altogether thirst to see changes happen within their communities. I saw how people, driven by an internal push to work for the betterment of those around them, flocked together from every corner of this campus and were willing to put in the effort needed to make a difference.

One of the most common questions I received from students was: “Why should I vote for the ticket you’re telling me to vote for?” During the campaign trail, I’d reply with the elevator pitch we honed to a tee. Now, I’d say it’s because the voices worth hearing the most are the voices that echo and repeat in hundreds of other voices, in a search of answers.

Pablo Lacayo is a junior majoring in finance with a minor in Chinese. Originally from Nicaragua, he is now a happy resident of Stanford Hall. Reach him at [email protected] over email.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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