Nashville, TN — Learning how to understand people who feel differently from you can seem like an insurmountable task. But for one high school junior, Katie Rush Walker, it’s just a day-to-day activity.
Rush Walker is, among other things, a political lobbyist, president of the High School Democrats at her school and a former campaign intern. She addresses a lot of issues. Mainly, though, she focuses on voting accessibility and voting turnout. In that sector, she’s done phone banking, an internship with Organize Tennessee (a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to voting accessibility in Tennessee) and is currently working on a bill with the state to ensure 18-year-old high schoolers know a bit about voting.
Her introduction to politics came in the summer of 2021 with Organize Tennessee. This was where she found her interest, connections and prowess.
The native Nashvillian said that more than the words ‘activist’ or ‘organizer,’ she identifies greatly with the term ‘lobbyist.’ She counts herself as someone who, when there is something wrong in her community, will make the choice to stand up for what’s right. She defines lobbyist as, “Someone who goes and takes action for or against bills they’re passionate about getting passed or not passed.” It’s important to her to take care of the people, city and state she cares so much about. If Rush sees an issue in her community, she makes the active decision to do something to repair it — may that be lobbying, volunteering, or interning.
These actions are not always easy, though. She said that while she’s been doing things like phone banking and door-to-door campaigning, people have done things like curse at her. However, it’s worth it in the end because of how powerful the opportunities are for her. She said that it’s, “Super energizing to work on a campaign and see the results come in.” Additionally, she mentions that talking to people from all walks of life is meaningful to her — it tells her the importance of differing opinions under a political backdrop.
Rush Walker remarks that those experiences have shaped her as a person.
“It’s taught me how everyone has something to offer. Everyone has different opinions about different things that matter as well. People are really open to listening to differing ideas about ways to improve the world. People can sometimes don’t listen enough. They will just yell on Twitter — but taking a minute to actually listen can be really informative,” she said.
This is also what she views as an everyday way to make a difference.
“I think just talking to people and knowing and understanding the humanity that everyone has is the easiest way to help your community,” she said. “People talk a lot about how times are divisive and social media is a barrier, but I do think that just sitting down and listening can make a huge difference. I’ve talked to voters and I've learned that no one fits into a box of beliefs. There aren’t just two categories of political orientation, it’s just not that simple.”
It’s not easy to stand up for what you believe in. It can be tempting to shy away from the spotlight and stand back. But things like lobbying are rewarding. They can be difficult, they can have hardships, and there will always be bumps in the road. But at the end of the day, one of the most valuable things you can do is share your voice and help others to share their voices — which is exactly what she has done and continues to do.