The feeling one imagines sitting across from the Mayor and his, highly qualified, meticulously dressed, staff is intensely intimidating, back-patting political reassurance and overpowering egos. Yet that was not how I felt. Entering his presence, Mayor Charlie Hales sat attentively with a smile and everyone following suit. I felt welcomed. An equal member of this dialogue. In fact, I was the conductor, the 15-year old facilitator, honored to be in their presence-- all eyes were on me.
I sat. Hiding my nervousness, I began to realize the journey made to get to that point. Email after email, contacting each member of Mayor Hales’ Staff, receiving dates and times, but not able to find one where everyone could meet. Susan Dietz, the Mayor’s Executive Assistant, was my savior. Keeping alive the American ideal that meeting with elected officials was capable, may be time consuming but possible, Dietz was able to schedule a date in time with ease. Without the guidance of Nicole Grant, policy analyst and Ms. Antoinette Edwards, director of the Office for Youth Violence Prevention, I would have not even made it to Susan. I was lucky. The amount of support lended in helping a passionate young man have the opportunity to meet eye-to-eye with some of the most important decision makers in the city of Portland, truly broke down barriers for ageism and homogeneous, white representation.
Questions flew, opinions interrupted, facts supported and impressions both changed and lasted. From the feeling imagined to the journey made to the feeling after, everything I had thought to be true was influenced. Not changed. The level of candidness was expected as all their terms came to an end. But what struck me was the ease in meeting and speaking with these respected officials. The clichè supposed system of bureaucracy was in no way applicable to Mayor Hales and his Staff.
With Susan’s, Rachel’s, Mustafa’s, Deanna’s, Tera’s, Antoinette’s, Nicole’s, Brian’s, Diana’s, Lucas’s, William’s, Sara’s, Tom’s, Josh’s, Zach’s, Camille’s, Chad’s and Jillian’s, hope is renewed.
Their words are proof that there is still faith and hope left in the political system.