It was 6 a.m. on November 8. Somehow already in a rush, I packed some water and snacks into my backpack and grabbed my jacket as I darted out into the chilly autumn air of Cambridge. I walked down to the Coop and met up with a couple of 2Ls, who I hadn’t met before, to road trip two-and-a-half hours up deep into New Hampshire to knock on doors and get out the vote.
This wasn’t my first rodeo by any means. I, along with countless other Harvard graduate and professional students, had been saturating New Hampshire’s pavement for months. Once we arrived to the field office, we wasted no time. Breaking for as little as 15 minutes between “turfs,” our group spent the next eight or so hours knocking on doors, talking with voters, petting dogs, leaving friendly Post-It notes to remind folks to vote before the polls closed, and even discovering a gas leak (and alerting a neighbor). When all was said and done, our crew took a few pics, posted a few shoutouts on Facebook, and got in the car to go home.
What happened next devastated us. As the results came in, I saw my friends become anxious, then agitated, and then finally succumb to some form of anger, dejection, or numbness. But when the Electoral College dust settled Wednesday morning, there was a silver lining. New Hampshire had pulled ahead for Hillary Clinton, as well as pulling ahead for the Democratic Senate candidate Maggie Hassan and both Democratic candidates for the House. Clinton won the state by a mere 1,437 votes — fewer than the entire HLS class combined. Hassan won by an even slimmer margin, only 716 votes.
I will pause here and acknowledge that some of our readers are not Democrats, let alone even Republicans or independents that voted against Trump (for those dear readers that supported Trump, I congratulate you and pray to Heaven this ends well).
I acknowledge this fact not because my point is to pat Democrats on the back for some electoral “moral victory” points scored in garbage time, or somehow lead you to conclude that The Record is no more than a liberal echo chamber where I know talk of Democratic down-ballot victories will be well-received. Rather, I bring this up because I want to underscore what is possible when we get involved and the “I” becomes part of the “us.”
Within our law school world of résumés and incessant professional development, it can be easy to fall into the habit of only thinking of yourself as an “I.” What grade will “I” get? What can “I” do better? How can “I” succeed? Through its repetition at nearly all stages of law school, we lose sight of the opportunity of collaboration, cooperation, and organization.
After all, there is no resource like the human spirit, and when combined, the sum can be far greater than the parts. And what happened in New Hampshire is without a doubt an allegory not only for the principle that every vote counts, but that together we really can make a difference. The Harvard graduate student community alone knocked on 8,905 doors in New Hampshire, and I am confident that some of those conversations undoubtedly led to votes being cast for Clinton that would not have otherwise been done so.
People like Josh Friedmann, HLS ’17, Jacob Glick, HLS ’18, Wilson Tong, HKS ’18, and Brynna Quillin, HKS ’17, embody this idea and deserve special recognition, as they and others worked relentlessly to organize phone banks and get-out-the-vote trips every weekend to New Hampshire and other key battleground states. There are even more unsung heroes — including those not part of the Harvard community — and you know who you are, and I hope this paltry acknowledgement provides you some well-deserved consolation.
Whatever political party you may belong to, or whichever your political leanings, I hope our law school community realizes that we are far more powerful, and can do far more good, when we act as a “we” rather than as a collection of “I’s,” that we listen to each other, learn from each other, and support each other. Look into the eyes of your fellow classmates as you walk down the hall and know that there is great potential here; hope is far from lost.
Byron Ruby is a 3L.