Interview with Mitch Stahl: Activism For All
An Interview with Mitch Stahl: long-time activist, Blue Wave Postcard writer, and group organizer. Mitch’s group are residents of the Frasier Meadows Senior Community.
Hi Mitch - Would you tell us what got you and your friends interested in activism?
We are lifelong activists; since we range from 75-95 years old, our activism goes back quite a ways. We’ve demonstrated for voting rights, reproductive rights, gay rights, HIV research, gun control laws and DACA. We’ve protested nuclear weapons, the Vietnam war, the Iraq war, racism, and more.
The succinct answer is: we’ve always felt compelled to speak out on injustice, to pressure our leaders and educate citizens. Our democracy has always depended on engaged citizens voting - but today GOTV (get out the vote) is more important than ever!
Why choose postcards vs phone banking, canvassing, etc? Do your members participate in other forms of civic engagement as well?
Some team members participate in additional ways, but the effects of aging can limit our choices. And I don’t know anyone who likes to make phone calls.
Working with Blue Wave Postcards makes it possible for us to make a difference in a really satisfying way. Since the cards already have the necessary information for recipients, poor eyesight doesn’t slow us down. The addresses are peel off labels, so we don’t have to write them out manually and we know they are accurate. Adding the short, personal note is do-able for most of us.
Those who can’t write anymore put addresses and stamps on the cards, then give them to folks who can write.
How did you form a postcard writing group?
I began with our precinct email list when I moved to Frasier Meadows (Senior Community) 6 ½ years ago. We use it for local Democratic events, to organize demonstrations - walks around our nearby pond - whenever we could join a national protest (such as the Women’s March, when Trump was first elected).
We’ve hosted maybe eight protests here, most recently for reproductive rights and gun control.
To get our postcard group started, I invited Frasier Dems via our email list to the first party. Membership kept growing: today we have 79 members on our 2022 postcard list. Some just give money. Others assemble postcards. Some do both.
Before the pandemic shut us down, we were receiving a list of addresses from one of the National political organizations. Those were more work, though: we had to print our cards, copy info and addresses by hand. Proofreading and correcting took even more time.
So when Blue Wave Postcards became available - with pre printed cards, information and address labels - we jumped on them. During the pandemic when we couldn’t meet in person, I bundled cards, addresses, and stamps for our team members. Couriers delivered them to apartments.
Why did you ultimately choose to organize group events vs handing out postcard bundles to individual writers?
We all enjoy the company of other concerned citizens, our neighbors, at Frasier. Realizing that together we can do something about the world we care about, energizes us. It’s a rare opportunity for an “upper” when the news can seem grim!
What advice would you give to others who want to organize a group event, whether in-person or online?
Keep an updated, accurate email list. Provide immediate responses, ‘Thank Yous’ and feedback about attendance, donations, and so on. I use Excel to track cards, expenses and donations.
During the 2020 election year we sent out 23,600 postcards. All expenses were covered by donations.
Thanks so much for all that you and your team does for our democracy, Mitch!
After the isolation of the pandemic, we delight in doing activities that make a difference together, like never before, I think.