Bob Dold inauguration in Washington, D.C.
Celebrating with Bob Dold and his family and friends after his January inauguration in Washington, D.C., I was struck by the way events evolve in our lives, and by the impact we can have when we get involved.
I met Congressman Dold, the U.S. Representative for Illinois’ 10th congressional district, thanks to a series of other meetings. Previously, former Mayor Daley had appointed me to chair the Moscow Committee of Chicago Sister Cities. In that capacity, I met Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, who invited me to chair his Eastern European Advisory Board. Because of these roles, I was contacted by Bob’s campaign as a person who could reach out to the Russian-speaking community of the diverse 10th Congressional District during his reelection campaign in 2012.
Bob Dold wasn’t reelected in 2012, but I got to know him well during that campaign. During last year’s campaign, I was more actively involved, working closely with Victoria Williams, who was in charge of outreach to the Russian-speaking community. I participated in numerous interviews and promotions, focusing on issues that are important to the Russian-speaking community, especially education. I appeared on video and on mailers that were sent to every Russian-speaking household.
This involvement gave me a sense of satisfaction that I was participating in our governance by supporting my candidate of choice. As residents of this country, it’s important that we play an active role in the decision-making process, and I don’t think we can complain about decisions that are made if we aren’t contributing.
I’ll always remember the excitement in the Dold team’s hotel room on election night in November. We’d gone through the whole process with him and had such a sense of investment. Results were coming in every few minutes, but we really knew that we’d won when Bob took the stage with his wife, children and parents.
When I received my invitation to the inaugural events, I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride in my participation. For two days in early January, we attended open houses and a private reception, in an atmosphere of celebration and warmth that I felt further demonstrated Bob’s character.
During the campaign, I’d seen clearly something I’d observed over the years: the reluctance of some Russian-speaking immigrants to get involved in government. One of our challenges was simply convincing people to vote, some of whom didn’t know how. It was a three-step job, first explaining how to register, then urging them to show up on election day, and finally explaining why Bob Dold was the best candidate. (As the campaign progressed, I was thrilled to hear from the campaign office that they’d never received so many calls from Russian-speaking constituents, so clearly our efforts paid off!)
During those memorable days in Washington, I thought, “Now I feel like I’m a true citizen, a part of American history.” Every time one of us gets involved – whether by answering a call to support a candidate or simply by voting for candidates we believe in – we truly are helping to create the American story.