Generation "O"

By Vidya Pradhan

Her grandmother is Indian; grandfather Jamaican. Her father is Italian/Caucasian. No prizes for guessing who she’s supporting in this year’s Presidential elections in the US.

23-year old Meena Harris is part of Generation Obama, a media and technology-savvy group of young people who are changing the dynamics of politics and political campaigning in this country.

A graduate in American Studies and Political Science from Stanford, Meena currently works for an internet startup in the valley. She has also been actively involved in the Obama campaign, starting with GOTV( get out the vote) and voter registration efforts in New Hampshire and other early primary states.

“Before New Hampshire, I had helped out in local campaigns, but this was my first experience with national politics,” says Meena. “ It was exciting to see first hand how the process operates.”  She trudged for miles in rural New Hampshire, in the freezing January cold, covering long distances between houses. “It was amazing how many people really wanted to listen to what I had to say. Some would invite me into their homes to talk to them.”

Senator Obama narrowly lost the New Hampshire and Meena came back to work on the California primary.

Meena, who participated in political campaigns on the Stanford campus, was invited by friends to volunteer for the Obama campaign. “It is a pretty close knit community,” she says. “It was easy to get involved.” Did she ever consider working for Senator Clinton’s campaign? “Never,” she says emphatically. Her reasons echo the sentiments of youngsters around the country. “The campaign has become a movement of young people, people who have in the past felt betrayed by the political process. It is also a grassroots campaign, which makes us feel like we are making a real difference. Obama has given young people the opportunity to seize the political process and run with it.That will make a big difference going forward.”

On the eve of the California primary, Meena and her friends went around putting up fliers on college campuses. After they wound up at midnight, most slept in their cars outside the campaign office. The next morning, the campaign staff and volunteers filled up every corner showing support for their candidate and urging passersby and motorists to go vote. “There were high school students with signs made by their parents,” remembers Meena. “They had decided to give up two hours of sleep before their classes to volunteer.”

Senator Obama lost the California primary as well. Wasn’t it demoralizing? “Not at all,” says the optimistic Meena. “These are just minor speed bumps. It makes the ultimate goal all the more rewarding. We did win our district.”

For the Presidential election, Meena is the go-to person in Silicon Valley for small fundraisers held by individuals. She provides support in the form of information and advice. “I make sure donations are received properly, that people know what they are supposed to do and how they should do it.”

California does not appear to be a battleground state this time around and in a way Meena’s job reflects the state’s role in the campaign. “Fundraisers are how California contributes to the campaign.”

Meena has met Senator Obama a few times. “He is personable and charming, remembers people’s names and looks like he is listening intently.”  In other words, a good politician! “One key problem he has is that people don’t know enough about him. The Indian community should see that because of his experiences, he has a global perspective. Between now and November, he will reach out to the minority groups so they can learn more.”

I mention that the polls reflect a closer race than one would have thought. “I don’t trust polls,” says Meena. “The primaries have shown that record turnouts are possible. Many of my friends are in traditionally red states, working to turn them blue. We are doing so much better that democratic nominees usually do in these Republican states.” She has yet to meet anyone of her generation who is involved with the McCain campaign.

Meena Harris is cheerful, energetic, optimistic and hard-working. If she is a representative of Generation O, all one can say to Senator McCain is “You better watch out, you better not cry…..”

5 thoughts on “Generation "O"

  1. Geeta Singh

    This is an example of shoddy journalism by Vidhya Pradhan – unless of course, blogs are personal opinions in which case I will disregard any articles posted on this and other blogs based on my experience with this article. I support Obama but am shocked to see that this article makes no mention of Meena Harris’ connection to Kamala Harris (her aunt), the district attorney of San Francisco. I’ve heard her aunt speak and she always talks about her “black” roots and “forgets” she’s half brown. Regardless, the readers should know that Meena Harris is not some random person off the street but is part of the political machine. Looks like Meena is following in her family’s footsteps and is omitting what the public would like to know.

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  2. Vidya Pradhan Post author

    Geeta,

    You are absolutely right that I should have mentioned that Meena is related to Kamala Harris. It is a poor excuse, but I came to know Meena through a fundraiser I was planning to organize for Senator Obama and she was the point person for the campaign. I did not know her connection to Kamala and it did not come up in my interview with her. ( I found out about it after the article was published.. let’s just say that I am still getting to know all the players in local politics and did not connect what might seem to you to be obvious dots.)
    However, I went back and read the article and I think that the points I was making are still valid…
    1. Meena, regardless of her political connections, is still a part of a group of a young people who are working harder than any such group before to be involved in the political process.
    2. I have not seen a whole lot of evidence that suggests that there is a similar movement in Senator McCain’s campaign. If you know one of those energetic young Republicans, do get in touch and I will be happy to share their point of view with the readers as well.
    3. Other young people may not be as well connected as Meena, but they are nevertheless working very hard this year, content to be unnoticed and unsung and earning their way into the political system. I wish they would get in touch, I am always looking for such dedicated people to write about!
    4. I hate to say this, but a little bit of personal vendetta against the Harrises is peeking out from your diatribe. Is there anything specific that you’d like to share? Not vague allegations, mind you, but substantiated facts ? As I mentioned before, I will be more than happy to post your point of view. All comments, so long as they are not abusive and smeary, are welcome.

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  3. The Black Hour

    Look at the last names:
    Kamala Harris
    Maya Harris

    Elihu Harris
    Robert Harris

    Wait..those last two aren’t related, but they are attorneys too!

    Don’t be afraid to ask the seemingly obvious, because you will get the answer (and who knows what else)

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  4. Berkeley Man

    I LOVE Geeta Singh! THank you for making that important connection known to the public. Meena Harris is now enrolled at Harvard University thanks to her hard work but connections….lol.

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