In Summer 2013, I had the distinct — and profoundly humbling— experience as serving as the only White House Intern from the state of Colorado.
Every day, walking to work felt like a dream God let me stay asleep just to experience, despite the sweltering summer heat. I worked with an incredible group of talented young professionals and made lifelong friendships that will only grow more meaningful to me as I discover my own political calling.
One of the people I grew to admire was Michael Mullins, a Florida college graduate who made friends easily and did his work with as much charisma as I had ever seen in someone. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him more over the past three years, and as I thought about how I can help inspire others to grow, I thought about him and all he has done to that same end. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him about mentorship in the age of Trump.
We spoke about mentoring in general, and Michael said a lot of people had influenced him and molded what being a mentor meant to him.
For him, a mentor is someone “who gives you confidence, pushes you, and challenges you to be better. A mentor can be a friend or someone of any age.”
Whereas researchers from Ohio State detailed seven different types of mentors in 2006, Michael sees a simplified role for himself as a mentor falling somewhere in the middle of those types. For him, having a mentor means to have someone “investing their time in you. Having a mentor is more like having someone that you can rely on.”
Certainly in my field, it is difficult to feel engaged or belonging, especially in a society where the electoral rules were written to devalue the will of the people in favor of a bigoted populist.
Michael related to that, saying “when we look at the harsh facts we’re dealing with politically, we ought to take the time to dedicate ourselves to someone.”
“We are going through this together; coping with each other,” he said.
For him, being a mentor and also being someone who is mentored is all the more important in the aftermath of this election, especially when part of a community that feels acutely disillusioned and abandoned witnessing the election results.
In my mind, if ever there was a time to talk about mentorship and get our community to seek out opportunities to be mentors, it is now.
At a very human level, we are all hurting as a result of this election, and it is concerning because the pain we all feel in our lives often blinds us to the pain others are feeling in theirs. Mentorship specifically, and human connection more broadly, offers the bridge between where we are and where others are. Having a mentor and being mentored is about having someone who affords you a different perspective, something Michael echoed in my conversation with him.
Outside of the deep hopelessness many feel as a result of this election and the light that mentorship can shine in that atmosphere, “at-risk” young people are a demographic that benefit hugely from mentorship.
The organization MENTOR says “at-risk” young adults who have a mentor are 55 percent more likely to enroll in college, 78 percent more likely to volunteer regularly, and 130 percent more likely to hold leadership positions.
As we look for answers about why this election happened the way it did, the role of mentorship in helping to create a more inclusive society is more important than ever.
For all of my buttering up, Michael Mullins is not perfect, but he has still mentored me. Then again, none of us are. Being a mentor in this new political age means giving ourselves to someone else in hopes that they will go further than we did.
Who wouldn’t want that?