In early 2020 (just weeks before the pandemic), Smithsonian staff and their storytelling partners at the Peale, Baltimore, traveled to multiple states in the U.S. to ask residents of those states about voting experiences, the current state of American democracy, what issues brought them to the polls, how they made a difference in their communities, and what Americans' civic responsibilities were, among other complex questions.
Melanie Bell (00:00): Well, when I was campaigning this last time for 19 months for a State House seat, I did a lot of canvassing. We have an app that we use that, as I said, Republicans and we know how many times somebody has voted. And if I go to that house, I'm going to that home to knock on their door because I know they voted in the last two elections. There's no need to go to a home because you're just wasting your time. And if I have over 10,000 houses to hit within this certain amount of time, I don't want to waste my time.
(00:29): And when I was out campaigning this last time for the State House, I knocked on a lady's door and it was a Saturday morning and she was watching the funeral of Barbara Bush. And she came to the door with tears in her eyes and she said, "You have to come in and you have to see this. This is the most amazing funeral and a tribute to Barbara Bush's life." So I have all of my campaign volunteers outside, and I said, "Hang on one minute, let me go inside." And so I ended up sitting with her for two and a half hours, and she was by herself, and I just had an obligation there that I just could not leave her because it was America.
(01:07): It was paying tribute to a wonderful woman that brought literacy to our country and the whole family. And so I had all of my campaign workers sitting out there waiting on me in the car while I sat next to this lady and cried with her for two and a half hours because she was so patriotic and loved our country.
(01:27): And so that probably was ... I told that story last week. But people appreciate a knock on the door and appreciate you telling them who you are and what your platform is. Even though I have people that said, "I went and voted because you knocked on my door." So, it means a lot.
Asset ID: 2022.37.12.c-d
Themes: Politicians, Political Campaigns, Canvassing, Polling, Barbara Bush, First Ladies, Friendship
Date recorded: January 9, 2020
Length of recording: 0:01:50
Related traveling exhibition: Voices and Votes: Democracy in America
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Polk County History Center, Bartow, Florida, in conjunction with Florida Humanities
More information or related assets: https://polk-county.net/events/event-details/2020/10/23/history-center/new-smithsonian-institution-exhibit-opens-voices-votes-democracy-in-america. See Also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4R3Dp5K7i61