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Politics & Elections

Melanie DuPont: I Always Fail the First Time Around



When I was about eight, my parents signed me up for soccer. I was pretty terrible. As I recall, I played right fullback, and when a kid came at me with the ball, I was so fumble-footed that mostly I’d trip him and earn myself a chirp from the ref. I wanted to be better. But our team never practiced together, we just went straight onto the field, then the season ended. I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be.

I didn’t play again until junior year at Smithfield High School. I joined SHS’s first-ever girls soccer team, and along with the rest of the team, I got really good. “Papa Smurf” Coach Skenyon put me on sweeper back, probably because I was good at loudly telling people down-field what to do and defending the goal. We drilled hard, we got better, and we made it to the playoffs — only to be eliminated in the first game.

The bus ride home was pretty somber. Someone piped up: “Well, what did we expect? We’re a first-year team, we weren’t gonna win. But we busted our asses and we made it to the Big Show.” We cheered up some at that. I thought about how much I’d come to understand the game, and how I’d boosted my coordination, communication, strength, speed, stamina, and ability to read the field.

The next year, on an ice-cold November night, in double overtime with a sudden-death shootout, we won the championship.

Beginner Chorus class was another case of try, try again. In seventh grade at Gallagher Junior High, I had a great ear, a decent voice, and near-perfect pitch — but no stage presence, and a crippling fear of audiences. The Big Show that year was the Christmas Concert over at the high school. My parents, sister, and brother were in the audience, and when my class came on stage, we climbed onto the risers, sang our first song, and filed offstage. The plan was to have an intermission, then sing five more songs.

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It being December in New England, my throat got dry — and me being in a strange building, it took me a minute to find the bubbler and grab a sip. I then went and sat in the audience seats, just to see what the stage looked like from out there.

I didn’t know how long the intermission was gonna be, but I knew it had ended when I saw my entire chorus class walk back out onto the stage and take their positions on the risers.

Without me.

I was petrified. I thought for sure everyone onstage, and off, would laugh at me if I went up the side steps and joined my class. I looked over to my parents and they gestured for me to get up there. I shook my head “no”. My class performed the rest of the songs without me.

The car ride home was miserable. I felt like I had dragged my whole family out into the snowy night just to watch me fail. When we got home, I went to my room and cried.

But I still loved singing. I brought my boom box into the bathroom with me and sang in the shower for years. And by the time I was a high school senior, I was ready to sing in front of people again. My chorus class was mostly sophomores, so I became the leader my people needed, by being the first to audition solo (I’ll tell you about that sometime; ask me about “O Holy Night”), and, by leading our coven of witches in rehearsing our parts for “The Sorcerer.”

We crushed that play, two nights in a row.

I don’t know why I expected to win my State Senate race. Maybe it was because the passionate, caring neighbors I met strongly want the same things we all want. Maybe it’s because dozens of brave volunteers came from miles around to bust their humps knocking doors, making phone calls, writing cards, making food… Maybe it’s because hundreds of people sent donations, cheered me on, and offered advice, encouragement, Likes, Shares, and Retweets. Maybe it’s because we earned the endorsements of a dozen progressive organizations, with thousands of members looking to make meaningful, lasting change that will protect the people of Rhode Island.

In the midst of all the awesomeness, all the activity, all the sweat — I forgot that this was our first whack at trying to get me elected.

But it’s not our last.

I will run in 2020.

For what office? We’ll see. But, I’m not wasting any of the skills we grew this time around. And you shouldn’t either.

There are plenty of Rhode Island women who have General Elections coming, and we need those women to W-I-N win. Some need more help than others, so, find a woman who has a tough race, and help her out. Right now.

If you didn’t work on a campaign this Primary season, please choose a local candidate right now — and sign up on her volunteer list.

If you didn’t donate to anyone this Primary season, please choose a local candidate right now — and donate online.

If you volunteered this Primary season, please recruit one friend right now, and volunteer as a pair for the local candidate you choose. (We have got to spread the work out to more people; that means activating people who never thought they’d have to “get political”. Now’s the time. You know who they are. Find them and activate them.)

If you are going to run for office in 2020, open a campaign checking account at your favorite bank & file a CF-1 Notice of Organization with the Board of Elections (then download the Secretary of State’s “Run for Office Guide”). Then you can legally fundraise for the next two years. You can leave the CF-1’s “whatchu gonna run for” box blank and decide later.

Wherever you’re at in your political journey, please commit to taking the risk of failure. Failure is our greatest teacher — and to make the changes our communities need, we are all going to have to fail until we succeed.

Be afraid. Act anyway. Fail and grow in 2018. Then succeed in 2020.

Let’s get through the failing so we can win. Let’s get to work.