Susan moved to Chapel Hill in the spring of 2016 after retiring from a 40-year career in the tech industry, working for companies like Digital Equipment Corporation in Massachusetts and Dell and Compaq in Texas.
“I spent so many years in a solid blue state and then a solid red state, where the need or potential for change was limited, that I was never particularly active,” Susan says. “I admired the Civil Rights workers of the ’50s and ’60s and regretted I didn’t have the opportunity to contribute to such important movement, to make a difference like that.”
Upon moving to North Carolina, Susan volunteered for the Hillary Clinton campaign as a way of meeting like-minded people. “And boy, did I! After the election, our campaign team decided to band together, and Neighbors on Call was founded,” says Susan. “So, finally, an opportunity to make a big difference.”
Here, a Q&A with Susan. And be sure to sign up to join her at an upcoming canvass!
What has surprised you most about canvassing?
That I liked doing it so much! Originally, I was afraid and resistant, but I finally gave in to peer pressure from my buddies. Not only do I feel like I am accomplishing something – it’s mostly fun! I have had some heartwarming experiences and some goofy, unforgettable moments. It’s also been a good way to explore North Carolina since I’m fairly new here.
Do you like to recruit a friend or relative to sign up to canvass with you or do you prefer to be paired with a stranger to add to the fun?
I’m always recruiting folks to canvass but happy to partner with anyone who needs a mate, especially first-timers who would like help getting started and becoming comfortable with it.
If you've participated in other canvasses, how are FLIP NC canvasses different?
You guys are so organized! You provide good training and helpful scripts. Plus, I have so much confidence that your walk lists are “smart” – that we will be directed to the right kind of voters to maximize our efforts. Good return on investment! And great pizza.
I am so impressed and energized by the wonderful organizations like yours that have sprouted – no – burst forth in reaction to the current assault on our democracy. Just think – I wouldn’t have met you all if it hadn’t been for Trump and Phil Berger and Tim Moore and Dallas Woodhouse and … The proverbial silver lining?
How many times have you canvassed with FLIP NC?
Starting in October 2017 through August 2018, I have canvassed with FLIP NC 7 or 8 times. Altogether, including canvasses organized by candidates and other groups, I have participated in 15! Plus, I expect a full canvassing schedule this fall, leading up to November 6.
How did you find out about FLIP NC?
Through our grassroots group, Neighbors on Call.
Have a funny story or touching moment to share?
When I was canvassing in Durham, one address took us to a large, old Greek-revival style house with a sign out front for a law firm – McKissick and something. “Does someone actually live here?” we wondered. As I approached the front door, I checked the first name of the occupant. “Floyd.” It wasn’t until Floyd McKissick, our notable state senator, answered the door that I put two and two together! We felt so silly, but he was most gracious, of course. And quite dapper, even on a Sunday afternoon.
And then there was the older woman in Durham who wanted to show us her false teeth! She shot them out quickly with her tongue. Her granddaughter at her side said, “Oh, Grandma, don’t do that!”
What's your top canvassing tip?
Assume people will be glad to hear what you have to say and appreciate what you’re doing. Imagine that you are preaching to the choir – but to a choir that needs to be motivated to get up and sing!
What is really motivating you to get involved? Obviously, you want to FLIP NC, but tell us a bit about the "why.”
Every time I go to vote, tears spring up in my eyes, thinking about what a significant thing voting is, all the effort it took to establish democratic governments, and even for women to vote!
I know I can’t have it on my shoulders that I let this chance to make a difference slip by without doing everything I can. We may not know exactly how to correct the situation, but it’s pretty easy to guess what will happen if we don’t try. I know which side of that equation I want to be on.
I’ve just finished watching the TV series, “The Americans.” It struck me how important it was to the Jennings (no spoilers here) to have a purpose in their lives, to accomplish something and make a difference. It’s a powerful driver, regardless of which side of the fence you are on!
How are you feeling about the 2018 election? Optimistic?
I am cautiously optimistic but don’t want to count my chickens until they’ve hatched. There’s potential for change, but we must make it happen. We’re not done yet.
What’s something on your bucket list?
Other than politics, what’s a passion of yours?
Dogs and trees, which sounds silly, I know. But I do love walking my dog around the neighborhood amongst these huge, gorgeous trees. I collect leaves. People laugh at the leaves all over my house.
Also, when I lived in Texas, I was very active with a women’s collective giving group called Impact Austin. We pooled members’ annual donations and awarded $100,000 grants to several nonprofits in the area every year. I headed up the grant review process. I loved learning about all the wonderful nonprofits and being able to make a significant financial difference to them. So when I moved to NC, I found a similar – although much smaller – group here, called The Art of Giving. I’ve had the privilege of chairing its grants committee for the past two years.
Who do you admire in politics? Why?
Obama, of course. And oddly enough, John McCain because he has had the backbone to standup to Trump. Here in North Carolina I’ve been impressed by quite a few of our Democrat legislators like Graig Meyer and Jeff Jackson. Eager to add to their ranks! There are so many good candidates running this time.
What would you say to someone who is feeling totally dejected by our current state of politics? And how do you stay in the fight?
A neighbor and retired UNC government professor comforted me on November 9, 2016, by saying “We have a very resilient system.” It has already survived some tough challenges. Think about the hard changes that have been made – surviving the Civil War, passing Civil Rights legislation, breaking the color and gender barrier in elected officials and appointments. It has been done, and we can do it again.
Tell us about a political moment that inspired you, whether it was a personal conversation, a speech given by a president, or a recent "blue wave" moment.
I think about the famous challenge by Joseph Welch in 1954 when interrogating McCarthy in the Senate hearings, “You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?" We must always stand up to those who would undermine our system with unfair and devious means.
Let’s make decency prevail once again.