Kate O'Connor served as an aide to Howard Dean from his swearing-in as Vermont governor in 1991 to the last day of his presidential candidacy in 2004.
She is the author of DO THE IMPOSSIBLE: My Crash Course On Presidential Politics Inside The Howard Dean Campaign, a revealing read for anyone who followed Dean for America or just wants to know what really happens inside a presidential campaign.
Kate O'Connor: The advice I would give to young people who are just starting out, whether it’s in politics or in business and they’re working for somebody else, I really think you have to take a deep breath, take a step back, not assume that you know everything right from the beginning. And I think that’s, you know, one of the things a lot of people in our campaign learned. They came in with preconceived notions about who Howard was, about what he stood for, but a lot of that is what they read in the newspaper or heard on television or saw on a blog. That can happen, I think, in any kind of business. If you’re working for Bill Gates, you have a preconceived notion from what you read about him that might not necessarily be true.
That happened at the end of our campaign when we had to make a switch in who the campaign manager was. And there were a lot of young people who had come in, and they thought Howard – because Howard made that switch, he wasn’t the person that they thought he was. But he was never that person to begin with. And I think for a lot of people that that’s really an important lesson to learn is not make assumptions, not make assumptions not only about the person but about what the process is. You know, we started from nothing, and a lot of people came to our campaign when we had nothing, and it was a switch for them to go from nothing to $48 million in the bank and Howard’s photos on Time Magazine. And when you see anybody’s photo on Time Magazine, you think, "Hey, this person is great. They stand for this, that, and the other thing. And they have no flaws." And I think a lot of people thought Howard had no flaws. But as someone who had known him for 12 years, I knew he had flaws.
And I think in any situation when you’re just starting something out, you don’t realize what your own vulnerabilities are or what your own flaws are. You’re learning and you may be learning from somebody who you think is somebody that they’re not. But I think it’s keeping everything in perspective. Recognize that you might be disappointed, but recognize that it’s not the end of the world. You can move forward and you can make change or you can build a business. I think that was – it was hard for us to do when you go from zero to 100, but to me it’s really keeping it in perspective.
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd