An interview with Joseph Spike Green, who came from the University of Arkansas to work as lead intern for the combined District 19 Democratic Campaign. A Political-Science major, with a minor in Psychology, Joe previously received a State Department Scholarship for Critical Languages to study Arabic in Morocco and was accepted this fall by the Washington Center internship placement program in Washington D.C. He was able to postpone that program until the summer session and came out instead to learn first-hand about the processes and details of local politics. As an Idaho native he has an interest in the issues here although his family has lived in Arkansas since 1992.
Q: What was the first thing you remember being passionate about?Joe: Food andSports.
Q. And now?
Joe: Still food and sports – but I’ve added in other passions. Right now I have this kind of un-aimed passion, I don’t know where it will go or take me, but I am passionate about making some kind of a difference in the world.
Q: How did you happen to come to Idaho to work on this campaign when you are studying at the University of Arkansas?
Joe: After my Mom and Aunt worked on Cherie’s Primary campaign they came to Fayetteville for my brother’s wedding, and they were talking about everything that had happened. I decided to come out and join the fun.
Q: You had another internship scheduled for this semester, why make a change?
Joe: The other opportunity involved working in D.C. on issues of Human Rights or Conflict Resolution, but it was easily postponed until later. Both my advisor and the Washington Center representative thought that a hands-on opportunity like this would be great experience and the election is time-sensitive. It isn’t often that I’d get a chance to work on a campaign for someone like Cherie, who I know and respect.
Q: How do you know Cherie?
Joe: Cherie is my Aunt’s best friend—they’ve known each other since Jr. High. I had previously only met her when I was a little kid and again then my Uncle played a part in the Innocence Project production and I heard her sing “Amazing Grace.”
Q: So, you’ve been working with all three candidates, Brian Cronin, Nichole, LeFavour, and Cherie Buckner-Webb—what are your impressions of them now that the semester is almost over?
Joe: Brian, Nichole, and Cherie are all amazing. District 19 has great candidates. Nicole…well, with Nicole I’ve been really impressed by her sincere concern for the people she represents. She cares deeply about their needs and the best way to represent them and she works really hard.
Then Brian—he’s slightly mysterious, but very down to earth. He is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met– very knowledgeable about so many issues. He is also receptive to questions; I have grilled him several times about the State Legislature, and learned a lot from him.
Q: Is working on this kind of campaign been what you expected?Joe: (Laughs) Well, to be honest, I didn’t know what I was getting into and I had no expectations! I just jumped on the train. Everything I’ve done has been new.
Q: What kind of a train was it?Joe: (Laughs again) A FAST one!
Q: What’s your biggest surprise on the campaign trail?
Joe: The importance of local politics. I didn’t realize how real and important it is. It seems like the farther up you go, the more complicated it becomes, more people, more interests to represent, more complexities and difficulties. On the local level it is still complicated and hard, don’t get me wrong, but you can get something done. Local legislators make decisions that affect our daily lives—from certifying midwives and deciding what they can do to figuring out how to pay for roads. These things matter.
Q: How has Morgan Hill, Campaign Manager been to work for?
Joe: He’s a great boss. Morgan doesn’t get too caught up in what the problem is, he goes directly to how to fix it. That makes him great to work for.
Q: What have you learned that you can use in your life later?
Joe: Before I came I pretended to be more confident than I was. Now I’ve talked to so many people that I realize – there are no fake people. Every person is real, has their own story, needs, and concerns. Once you stop thinking about people abstractly it becomes easier to accept them and yourself.
Q: Five top things you’ve learned?
5. Don’t leave anything to the last minute – something WILL go wrong and it will be too late to fix it.
4. People don’t like to be called but we have to be friendly anyway.
3. Stay organized.
2. Sometimes YOU DO know best.
1. Bring your own bandaids and coffee.
Q: Top philosophical lessons?
1. The more you talk to people the easier it gets.
2. Learn before you decide on things—people always want to debate but they hardly ever know the issues. Neither do I – don’t get into it.
3. We can’t be passive – this is the system we have and it isn’t perfect, but you have to be involved and active to get anything done.
Q: What has been the greatest challenge in your life so far?
Joe: Choosing to live and go forward. I have a genetic disease that means I only have 25% of the ATP or energy of a normal person. It was hard when I was young because when you are sick all the time it’s easy to let that define you. My biggest challenge has been not to let that define me, and it still can be hard on a daily basis, but at this point I don’t think it defines me at all.
Q: What does define you?
Joe: (thinks) I guess that aimless passion. I don’t have to know right now. I know I have to do something. I’ll keep going and figure it out.