By Nick Lee
Chinese Americans for Hillary
The Democratic National Convention (DNC) is a place where you wake up early to work, push it to your physical and intellectual limit all day and then stay up all night watching speeches, going to parties, or sometimes both. Every night you go to sleep late and wake up tired. It is exhausting, yet eye-opening all at once.
Though our team is close to twenty people, the work is close and collaborative. Each day, our irrepressibly cheerful leader Toby Chadhuri works hard to make sure that even though we all have a lot of work to do, we share a detail about our day, our night, or our personal lives. His motto is, “if you have to work with each other, you have to know one another.” He lives by this motto by taking the time to answer our questions no matter how big or small, a kindness rarely seen in any work space and least of all in the fast-paced world of politics.
This lesson has already proved to be incredibly valuable, particularly when we learned we lost a colleague that was supposed to work the Convention with us. Joe Montano, a veteran of many great campaigns and efforts to effect positive change in our society, passed away suddenly over the weekend. Though he had fought fiercely throughout his life for the Democrats, he had never experienced a Democratic National Convention before in his life. Philadelphia was set to be his first one.
Though I was not close to Joe, he was one of the first people who truly welcomed me to DC. I met him at a networking event for AAPIs and he agreed to meet at a local restaurant. There he answered all the boring, silly questions that many recent college grads in DC have about getting a job, getting involved in politics, and how to move from an internship into full-time employment. Even though he was much older than me, he spoke with youthful enthusiasm about his work bringing people together on campaigns, moving from battleground state to battleground state to fight for the Democratic cause. Every now and then, there was a glimmer in his eyes that paired with his frequent grin showed the raw energy and passion that fueled his work.
Like many 22 year olds, I took this opportunity for granted and we fell out of touch until we reconnected volunteering for Hillary a few months ago. I remember he exclaimed to me as he rushed out the door to another event, “we need to get out there and do more than phone bank, we have to knock doors and meet people so she can win Virginia!”
The news of Joe’s passing weighed heavily on all of the Media Team when we found out yesterday morning. Just two weeks ago we had met at the DNC headquarters in DC and performed an exercise to get to know each other. The exercise consisted of writing down the ten lenses through which we see the world through on a piece of chart paper, and explaining why they were important to us. I learned that Joe grew up as a navy brat, that he was very close with his siblings, and that he felt strongly about being a Virginian. These small details, no matter how insignificant in the moment mean so much to me now that I know he is gone.
Tonight Hillary made history. I rooted around the floor of the convention for half an hour looking for one of the few and precious signs passed around labeled “History” so I could cherish the moment. However, I do all this with the knowledge that history was only made because of the work of fighters like Joe. Individuals that rise to the challenge of creating the environment necessary to successfully nominate the first ever woman candidate of a major party for President of the United States. To know them is a gift, and to fight to complete their life’s work is a gift to their memory.
(Nick Lee will be sharing his thoughts all week with AsAmNews readers. Last week, we ran the diary of an AAPI Trump delegate)
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