Back in 2018, our College hosted a debate between two democratic primary candidates, one of which happened to be much less well-known than she is today. Both candidates debated substantively, citing evidence and proposing plans of action that could lead to real positive changes in our state. At the end of the debate, one of the candidates left while the other stayed around to answer questions and take pictures with a dozen or so folks who lingered. The event had run long, and as the sole employee on hand for the College, I was eager to pack it in, close up and go home.
So while the last few pictures were being taken, I tried to get a head start by casually putting pieces of furniture away, moving some things around, etc. Nothing to distract or hinder the candidate from connecting with voters. I was doing this for about 5 minutes, quietly working in the background, when the candidate stopped what she was doing and came over to me. “Hey there, what’s your name?” I replied and shook the hand she offered. “Nice to meet you Nick, I’m Stacey. I wanted to make sure we were still ok to take some pictures and talk for a couple minutes. I know you’re probably about ready to head home and I don’t want to keep you if you need to go.”
As someone who has worked in events and conferences for almost 20 years, I can tell you these are words rarely heard by any venue manager. In my experience it’s usually quite the opposite, and generally, the more privileged and clothed in power an individual becomes, the less attention and courtesy is often paid to “service people” like myself. So to be on the receiving end of this simple courtesy question from a rising political figure was just…. nice. The candidate was … kind. Can you imagine something so refreshing?
For the next ten minutes or so, I kept to my work slowly winding down the space and turning systems off, finally taking a seat and watching then democratic primary gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams take a few last pictures with families and community members. It didn’t take all of an extra 15 minutes, and as I sat there I could see that this candidate was really giving her time away to anyone who wanted it. Just from our small interaction, for those few minutes, I honestly felt like there are some good people in politics. Like maybe not everyone on their way to the top is callous or corrupt. At the very least, it was a great example to me of what leaders ought to remember – kindness and courtesy to everyone you encounter, not just those who can advance your career.
Anyways I just wanted to share the memory with you all, especially those of you who were celebrating in November when Georgia turned blue and again today as two senate seats get flipped. These victories were borne on the shoulders of many, many voters in the black community and the hard work fighting voter supression in the state. From all accounts, Stacey Abrams is a major reason folks can celebrate today. I’m glad I had a chance to meet her, to shake her hand, and exchange a few words – even over something so simple. She’s got my vote, now and always.