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We thank you. Welcome to The Moth podcast, I'm your host for this week, John Good.
And today with the news and politics seems to focus so much on what tears us apart. Let's take a look at what brings us together. For instance, we can all agree that bagels should not be cut like loaves of bread. I'm looking at you, St. Louis. And I'm also sure we can all agree that we can all disagree and still be kind and civil to one another. Our story on this episode is from Cathy Cannier, who Cathy told this at a mainstay show in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the theme of the night was a more perfect union.
Here's Kathy live at the mall. It was Kansas City, Kansas. The year 2012. And it was the re-election campaign for President Barack Obama. I was working it, and one wonderful day I walked into the office and I'm not going to lie, I was thrilled to find out that we were going to Skype with the president. He popped up on that screen. And he gave us a pep talk, you know, that Obama kind of pep talk, and he thanked us for all of our hard work.
And then he said. Get out of Kansas. We're wasting our time. For those of you who could do this, take this campaign to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Take this campaign to Iowa, and I am asking you to please deliver Iowa to me, to us.
Well, and, yeah, I'll do that, I had already worked his election campaign a few years before, and in when you're campaigning and volunteering, you have duties like putting signs, you know, yard signs up and pamphlets here and there and having conversations because the president always would say just have conversations, conversations after conversations don't stop.
And also, we are registering people to vote. And I will never forget. Looking in to the faces of my African-American elders and they say to me. I've never voted. I have never registered. But I'm registering now. Because I have a reason. So not only do I have a personal reason to be working these these campaigns.
After reading a little bit about Senator Obama back in the day, I realized that he and I had a couple of things in common.
One. We were biracial in America and identified as black. And we grew up in an era of turmoil where we we both had to we had to decide and determine who we were.
Where we were going, no one could help us and tell us that we had to go on that journey. Another thing we had in common and do have in common is that we were raised by loving white families. So I'm heading from. The suburbs and cities of the Kansas City area to campaign in the cities and suburbs of Iowa.
And I got in my little Honda every weekend for about a year and drove four hours there and four hours back and did the same types of things, lots, hundreds and hundreds of phone calls knocking on doors and and registering people to vote.
And towards the end of that campaign in 2012, I got a phone call and I was asked to be a canvass captain, which is basically just taking a leadership role and doing the same duties that I'd already been doing.
But they asked me to do this in rural Iowa.
So being that committed person that I am, I said yes and I'm dropped off me, a middle aged African-American woman and another campaign worker, a little bit older, African-American woman in rural farmland, Iowa.
So we walked into this little teeny campaign office and we got our little clipboards and our pens and all of our papers and put our little buttons on our little Obama hat. And we're going to go register people to vote.
So we did. And we walked out of that door and Rita. My partner in campaigning was is one of the strongest and most amazing women I've ever met, a retired school teacher.
So I looked up to her and I looked over at her and I said, yeah, we don't, do we? Are we going we're going to do this right? And she said, I am fired up and ready to go, aren't you? I'm fired up and ready to go. Let's go. And I said, well, then, yeah, I'm fired up and ready to go to.
So we walk, we're walking down a farm road.
And our first stop was a trailer park. And as we were approaching the gate to open it, we looked up and there was and a man, a big old redneck man with a big old rifle and before we could open that gate.
He looked at us and he said, I didn't vote for your nigger last time and I ain't voting for your nigger this time. Now you girls better turn around and get.
And we did and again, I looked at Rita and said, you know, we don't we don't have to do.
We don't have to do this. And she said, oh, I'm more fired up and ready to go.
Let's go. So we did. And we knocked on doors and we knocked on doors and we rang doorbells. Nobody on that day was ever that horrible to us.
We had people, of course, you know, closing the door in our faces, just saying no thank you.
And then, of course, you've got the ones that you knock on their door and you can see the curtain open and then close. And we're like, yeah, we know you're there.
But we didn't stop us. We kept walking.
And then we get to a farm and we're walking down this long gravel driveway.
And approaching us is a. is the farmer who owns that that land. And he looks at us and he says, well, now I see what you're selling and and I'm not buying.
And I remember at our president asking us to have conversations and I said, could we just have a minute?
And before he could answer, his wife opened the front door. And she said, ladies, if you're going to be at my house, you better come in here. Supper's on the table.
In the back of my mind, I'm thinking, but do I really want it was a get out moment.
Do I really want to go into this this home farmhouse in the middle of nowhere? I don't know these people. And then the door closes.
But before my thought was finished, Rita says, yes, ma'am, we are hungry. So we went in and we sat down. Oh, that food. Meatloaf that was melting in our mouths, mashed potatoes and gravy greens. Cornbread and sweet tea. It was soul food. And our conversations with Cecil and Wilma. It was it was a beautiful time, we talked about a lot of things.
They asked us a few questions about the campaign. And and we we talked a little bit about that.
But mostly we asked them questions. About their lives, and they told us about their kids and their grandchildren.
They literally breathed for those grandbabies, they lived for those grandbabies. And then they told us about the church down the way where they got married. And before we knew it, it was it was time to go, so we head to the front door. We thank them for this lovely meal and Wilma gives us a hug and hands us some food to go.
And as we're walking back down that gravel drive, Cecil is walking with us to get us to the road. And when we get to the road, he he takes both of our hands, Rita and Kathy. Thank you. Thank you for coming in and sharing this time with us, and thank you for talking to us. But most of all. Thank you for listening to us. Now, I probably won't vote for your guy. And we waved and turned around, walked away in a few steps up.
We hear this, but hey, Kathy.
I just might thank you. That was Kathy Cannier Hill. Kathy grew up in Portland and moved to the Kansas City area after marrying her husband, Dennis Hill. Her dad was a professor at Lewis and Clark College and her mom taught at Martin Luther King Junior School, where Kathy is now an instructional assistant to a class of kindergartners. In these days, Kathy and Dennis are both enjoying newfound grandparenthood.
Congratulations, Kathy and Dennis. We asked Kathy how she reflects on her past experience campaigning now, especially during this divisive time in our country.
As I knocked on the doors of urban high rises and and entered the fenced enclaves of a rural sheep ranches, I was ready for anything. It's impossible to be surprised as a black person in America. Maybe those negative responses toward me and my fellow campaign community left a scar, but the hospitality of the many caring people left larger marks. And those marks are now part of my spirit and my heart. Remembering our hope in 2012 translates to new hope in 2020, when we have awakened the spirit of knowing, yes, we can again, we will make the surreal, magical.
We must. That was Kathy Cannier Hill to see some photos of Kathy from the campaign trail head to the extras for this episode on our Web site, The Mofongo Extras.
I actually hosted The Moth the night that Kathy enthral at the Jackson Hole audience with this true story from her life. Let me say there aren't a lot of people of color in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. That night on the stage, there were three tellers of color and it felt like there were more people of color on the stage that the audience after the show was over, the tellers, MOF directors and producers, we all went to a local establishment for some food and we were joined by several members of the audience and we people whose lives probably couldn't be more different.
All sat and talked and laughed and shared and gained a greater understanding of each other. And in the ways we always have, we made this union more perfect. We at the mall want to remind you how important it is for you to use your voice and your vote. You can find information on how to register to vote, how to apply for an absentee ballot, and more into extras for this episode on our website, The Mofongo Extras. That's all for this week.
Until next time from all of us here at the mall have a story worthy week.
John Goode is an Emmy nominated writer raised in Richmond, Virginia, and currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia. John is the regular host of The Moth's Atlanta Story Slam and has a number one best selling collection of poems and short stories entitled Conduit that you can find on Amazon.com podcast production by Julia Persil with help from my sister Tiffany Goode.
The Moth podcast is presented by PUREX, the Public Radio Exchange, helping make public radio more public at Riksdag.