A year later
Editor’s note: In an effort to respect everyone we acknowledge that everyone has a gender identity unique to them and calling people the pronouns they want to be called is a basic and necessary way to demonstrate respect for everyone’s identities. This includes learning to use non-binary pronouns, such as singular “they.” But using singular they is far more than a way to respect friends who have gender identities outside the binary. Singular they has exciting potential to be part of a radical shift in the dominant gender culture.
Like many recent college graduates with a Liberal Arts degree, Murphy Guinane ended up in retail, “Not by choice!” they explained. But the job market was tough. Murphy was living in Baltimore, working several retail jobs, and trying to launch a career in politics and social justice. When their aunt forwarded them an email last spring announcing Wellstone Corps, Murphy just had a feeling it was right up their alley. “I spent a solid week researching Wellstone. I’m from out East and had never heard of Paul Wellstone. I just felt that the people, the organization, what Wellstone does and believes in…this was for me.”
Murphy applied for a spot and was accepted to the inaugural Wellstone Corps. After the intense week-long initial training in Nashville, Murphy was part of the team sent to work in Michigan. Murphy says the best lesson learned at the kick-off training was how to use strong language and make powerful asks: “A lot of skills from retail were similar to organizing. The trick was going from a background of ‘the customer is always right’ to ‘this is what I need, this is what we need to win’. I had to learn to make that demanding ask of people.”
That lesson paid off. Murphy has story after story of the volunteers they encountered as part of the campaign. Out of the four volunteers at the first phone bank, two of them became regulars. The volunteer who was grumpy at first, but came back over and over and told them this was the only campaign he volunteered for more than once. Or not making assumptions about someone’s capacity to get involved because the volunteer with young kids turned out to be one of the most committed.
After the Election and the conclusion of Wellstone Corps, Murphy decided to make the Twin Cities home. Days after relocating, they started as the Field Manager with NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota. It was a job they felt confident applying for after a cycle in Wellstone Corps. “I really enjoy talking to people. Knowing that because you talked to them, because you had that face-to-face conversation, now they know something they didn’t know before or will get involved or will donate.”
In addition to building power door-to-door, Murphy works with the Canvas Director to cut turf and check in with the Field Canvassers each night. “It’s less about what we do and how we do the work,” Murphy explained, “That’s what drew me to Wellstone and is similar to how we approach our work at NARAL. It really is all about ‘We all do better when we all do better!’”.
Murphy leans on their experience with Wellstone Corps in their new role. “It’s a new experience, but a lot of the same skills,” explains Murphy. “I’m letting people know how important this is. I’m using that strong language – if you know that someone cares, you demand they get involved. It’s about not being afraid to ask for a lot because I never know what someone’s capacity is. I learned that on the ground in Michigan. You have to make a hard ask of everyone because you don’t know what they can do.”
Murphy was a part of a Wellstone Corps cohort of over 20 emerging progressive leaders. It’s a network of collaborators, coworkers, and friends who help propel each other’s work forward. So Murphy’s also involved with the Zuki Ellis for St. Paul School Board campaign. It’s a no-brainer because their Wellstone Corps peers, Dan Cox and Matt Schirber, are also involved as campaign manager and fundraising director, respectively. Murphy is excited that strong Wellstone politics are an influence on this campaign and says that volunteers can see how genuine this campaign is as a result.
Murphy thinks about where they were a year ago, and not being able to anticipate how different life would be since first opening up that application for Wellstone Corps: “A year ago, I was living in a basement apartment, working 60 hours of retail, fighting for a raise and looking at applying for food stamps. I didn’t have time in my life to do anything I was passionate about because I had, maybe, one day off a month. It was overwhelming. Now, thank to Wellstone Corps, I am able to work 40 hours a week doing something I love and make a difference in my community. And I have free time and get to use it to work on a campaign for a wonderful person!”
Murphy is the embodiment of what Wellstone Corps is all about, taking a talented emerging organizer and investing in their success. Murphy, as well as the other Wellstone Corps alumni across the country, are part of the long haul effort our movement needs to win change.