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Hooked on the High

Chavvahn Gade

Chavvahn Gade

By Cody Bloomsburg

Chavvahn Gade was standing in a small conference room watching TV with her co-workers. Their boss was about to be elected president of the United States.

Like all the other interns on Barack Obama’s Senate staff, Gade had worked on his campaign for at least three months before she joined his office in Washington, D.C. Once there, she and the others continued to campaign for him in their free time.

The Obama campaign wasn’t the first time Gade got involved in politics. Her activism dates back to the time she was a teenager in Darby, Mont.

There was an initiative to teach creationism in the local schools, which if approved would have stripped funding from a already poor district for teaching an unapproved curriculum.

Gade and others organized a walkout from their high school in protest. She said about 60 percent of high schoolers left class and the courses weren’t added.

A Lutheran herself, Gade said that she didn’t necessarily disagree with creationism. What prompted her to action was the infringement she feared it would cause on people’s civil rights, which today is one of her main areas of interest.

At 21, then a student at Concordia University in Moorhead, Minn., Gade interned with Obama during the fall semester of her senior year. She still holds the moments spent in that small conference room in D.C. as some of the best in her life.

Staffers from the neighboring offices of Joe Biden, and Florida Senator Bill Nelson had joined the Obama interns. They were celebrating his victory in Virginia when the flat-screen TV at the end of the room flashed that he had won the election.

Tears of Happiness

“We just all explode, we were crying, we were yelling, we were laughing. We were just like insane people,” Gade said. “I literally just screamed. My thoughts were, ‘Oh my God, it actually happened, we got there, we finally did it.’ It was such a long haul.”

Gade’s mother, who was working on Obama’s campaign in Missoula, Mont., called to share the moment. Both women cried.

While Gade said her tears came from happiness, some in the room were crying because the goal they had centered their lives on had been accomplished. Their battle was over.

Gade said she didn’t come down from the election high for a few weeks.

At first, she and the other staffers kept busy packing up Obama’s Senate office, and handling the flood of letters, gifts and phone calls that followed the victory.

But after two weeks, the office was basically empty, the phones went silent and everything was just quiet.

The real crash started to set in once Gade returned home to Missoula. She was interning as part of the Lutheran College Washington Semester, and by the time she made it home for winter break, she was worn out.

She had called ahead and asked her mother to have her bed made and some pajamas laid out for her when she got home.

“I really just slept, a lot,” she said. “I wasn’t depressed, it was more like I just needed sleep.”

Chasing the Next High

Gade returned to Moorhead that spring to finish her bachelor’s degree in political science. To her, it felt like she had been out in the real world and experienced something great, only to return to school where things seemed to matter much less.

She said that since Election Day 2008, she hasn’t lost hope in Obama and isn’t at all disappointed with the work he has done so far. But she is disappointed in the lack of support he is getting from other Democrats, especially Montana Sen. Max Baucus.

Gade spent election night 2009 in Missoula, celebrating the victory of Democratic city council candidates. She had campaigned for them, making 250 phone calls per night for two months.

Standing in the Union Club, drinking a cocktail named Sex on the Beach, she chatted with a friend about the new campaign she is starting. She will be the campaign manager for Tom Facey, who is running for the Montana State Legislature.

It’s her way to keep reaching for the joy and satisfaction she felt on Nov. 4, 2009.

“I’ll probably hit the low once the race is over,” she said “But I’ll just jump onto the next one and get another high.”

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