Throughout the three months that I have spent as an intern at the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, I have had the chance to learn new things, meet new people, and participate in a myriad of activities. One of my favorite days was attending the Political Perspectives panel with John Krull. As a first-time voter and hopeful future civic activist, I thought the presentation and lively discussion was informative and fun (as much fun as discussing the future of our government can be). Beyond this, I was able to see another facet of the Chamber and my community. But even after all of my experiences here so far, I am still unable to completely define what the Chamber does in the community, simply because it does so much.
I have been to ribbon cuttings, board meetings, luncheons, and picnics; I have spoken to countless members, written letters to potential supporters, researched the Chamber’s history, and connected to several businesses and individuals. I have learned more about grants and RFPs and special events in the three months here than in any of my college-level philanthropic studies courses. If each experience is a lesson, then Political Perspectives was a lecture (an action-packed, fun, lively lecture). Through the discussion, I learned about the stakes and potential outcomes that the presidential and gubernatorial elections may have on Indiana. In a nutshell, Mike Pence becoming a vice presidential candidate and Ted Cruz’s defeat in the Indiana primaries, means big things for Hoosiers and political media attention.
But like I said, this experience taught me many things. The Chamber hosts these discussions and events for its members: small and large businesses that help make Franklin the great community that it is. Political Perspectives gave perspectives from locals to locals. In other words, Franklin is a small town with a lot of social capital. I am so excited and proud that I am able to participate in discussions with people in the community with similar interests and goals. That's lesson two: the Chamber, in almost everything it does, is a network.
The final lesson of the day? It is possible for people of every political ideology to civilly debate current events and issues. Being able to discuss politics without contention or agenda provided me with the chance to hear different points of view – and by knowing the people in the crowd and panel and what they do – to understand why they have those particular beliefs. It put real people behind ideas, instead of HRC or Trump or Bayh promoting specific agendas. These people make up the community I've grown up in, and Political Perspectives gave me a better understanding of the power my vote can have within the community.
When I step up to the voting booth on November 8th, I'll remember what I learned at Political Perspectives.
Katie Sutton is a student at IUPUI Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Franklin Chamber of Commerce intern and first time voter.