While completing law school applications, several advisers told me what I could and could not be. The one common theme was that I couldn’t be compassionate and altruistic if I am Republican and that I couldn’t discuss God because religion does not have a place in the legal field.
Although I disagree with my advisers, I understand that the political divide America is facing makes being both a “good person” and a Republican difficult to portray on an application. During a time when much of America believes being a Republican and a “good person” is not possible, John James and his campaign for Michigan’s U.S. Senator proved otherwise.
I began volunteering for John in July 2017. The campaign was b-rolling — silent footage with a voiceover layered on top — and they were in need of extras. As soon as I arrived, I could sense the energy that was beginning to cultivate around his then-unannounced campaign. John was not your typical politician who hid behind a persona: He was unapologetically himself.
B-rolling can be uncomfortable at times because you are trying to act natural when you know there is no audio. The camera crew asked John and the volunteers to find a topic to discuss. I began talking about Fleece & Thank You, a nonprofit that provides comfort and support to pediatric inpatients with fleece blankets and video messages of hope.
Following the b-rolling, I learned that John’s campaign manager, Tori Sachs, had two daughters who spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit. She said small gestures have a large impact on children and their families when they are in the hospital.
Tori had a successful career working for Governor Rick Snyder’s office and serving in many different roles. Despite retiring from politics, Tori decided to make an exception and return as John’s campaign manager because she understood the depth of John’s passion for serving our country.
I left that event with a profound level of respect for Tori. Not only was she balancing twin toddlers, but she was willing to take time away from her family because she saw John’s unwavering commitment to our country.
I also had the opportunity to meet John’s wife, Liz. Somehow, she was managing a job, raising two boys and supporting her husband through the tough campaign battle he was preparing to take on. I often hear how difficult it is to be successful in your own career while being a mother and a supportive wife, but Liz seemed to excel at the balancing act. I still admire her drive to pursue what is important to her and make the necessary sacrifices for her family through constant change.
As the campaign progressed, something extraordinary began to unfold. John began to redefine service. He ran on the platform of service before self and committed himself to that every day on the campaign trail.
As politics divide America, John promoted unity for people of different races, religions and political beliefs.
I have never seen a political candidate ensure he spoke to everyone who came to see him, even if it meant staying hours after the event. What made John unique was his authenticity. He started his campaign with a 100-day video series that brought people into his day-to-day life. John gave people the opportunity to meet him and he was just as excited to meet people as they were.
John made everyone he interacted with feel important regardless of their political beliefs or voting age. An inspiring girl named Sawyer started the non-profit Kids with a Cause in honor of her brother who joined the Marine Corps. She looked up to John and he knew that. John took every opportunity he had to make her feel important. Until this day, one of my favorite videos of John on the campaign trail was when he did push-ups with Sawyer at an event.
Service before self was not a new concept to John. It was a foundation he was built on and his team was dedicated to. John’s authenticity and selflessness was contagious. Tori’s leadership was pristine and Liz’s intelligence, grace and dedication to her family inspires me daily.
John’s energy and love for our country trickled down throughout the campaign. Staff members and volunteers seemed to gain more energy as they spent more time campaigning and less time sleeping. When the campaign ran out of signs, people decided to make their own. When there was a parade, everyone brought their friends. John’s honesty and commitment became a topic of conversation during work, school and even family gatherings.
I found myself wondering why people around me were so excited about John’s campaign — people who had never been involved or interested in politics felt connected to John. But the answer to that question was simple. People were able to relate to John.
John is a man that others see themselves in. He has no problem talking about God because God is his foundation and called him on this journey. He is a man that can respect those around him while still holding his own views. He is an individual I am proud to emulate. John took on a run for U.S. Senate with ease and passion. When mistakes were made, he took responsibility and kept moving. He is a true leader.
He created a pathway for independent thinking, compromise and selfless leadership. As politics divide America, John promoted unity for people of different races, religions and political beliefs. John did not have a black-and-white message. He had a red, white and blue message that united us all.
Although the election did not have the outcome we all worked hard for, I could not have asked for a greater honor than to have interned for John’s campaign for U.S. Senate.
I am grateful for the many friends I made over the past year and a half. We all share a passion for the Republican party, and I know John has set a new level of leadership for us all. Hopefully, some of us will be bringing his same commitment and energy to our great state.
Most importantly, I am grateful that John took on the battle for U.S. Senate. He set a standard for service that many of us have come to expect from our leaders and from ourselves. He showed us we can love God without fear of not being listened to and that we can be Republican and compassionate. John taught us that we can respect people’s views without worshiping them and we can always meet people halfway for the betterment of those around us.
It is not often that political campaigns exemplify everything you strive to be, but the world tells you that you can’t be. The election may be over but I know the spark John lit inside his constituents has just started to take form.