From Amanda: My Open Letter to President Obama
In the final days of the Obama Administration, CMG Chief Results Officer Amanda Stitt reflects on the impact of President Obama’s legacy on her life, her business, and the country.
Dear President Obama,
My life was forever changed as a result of your campaign for President, and I feel deep gratitude to you for many of the happiest moments of my life.
I am a Michigan native through and through. I love this state, love its challenges and rough edges. I grew up in Flint, a city that has seen more than its share of challenges and hard times. I was interested in politics and public service from a young age and was committed to trying to get my peers engaged even when the politics of the time didn’t really speak to my generation. It was pretty challenging throughout the 2000 election cycle to convince my friends to vote when the main issues on the table were saving social security and lowering the cost of prescription drugs. During 2000 and in the years that followed, I had the opportunity to work with and for exceptional public servants like Senator Stabenow and Governor Granholm, but the struggle to fight apathy and engage young folks remained year in and year out.
But 2008 was different. You inspired my generation to believe. You made me embrace and own the role of organizer – a title that I had never seen as my own, but that a role I’ve filled many times since I was a teenager when I stood up for my teachers who were pink-slipped, organized my peers in support of student voting rights in college, ran a first-of-its-kind effort to engage young people in elections, and even what I do today to help many of our clients. In 2008 I jumped at the opportunity to serve on the Michigan Campaign for Change senior staff as Constituency Director, and that experience itself was very exciting and momentous. There was no place I would have rather been.
After the campaign ended and you won, I stayed in Michigan and took a job running a statewide nonprofit. In early 2010, a friend from the 2008 campaign, Aletheia Henry, was departing Michigan for a new job and we met for drinks at a Lansing bar before she left. She brought the new Michigan OFA Field Director, Ryan Irvin, with her. We hit it off, and I recognized his name from being one of the top performing field organizers for the Michigan 2008 campaign (He hates it when I tell that part of the story!).
Ryan was working long hours to pass health care while also attending law school. His commitment to passing health care was deeply rooted in his father’s Huntington’s Disease, a rare and devastating inherited disease which Ryan stood a 50% chance of getting himself later in life. Since realizing this possibility, he lived his life in fast forward and to the fullest. I think we were pretty enamored with each other from the start and we haven’t looked back since. I knew right away he was an incredible person and I was happy to face whatever challenges would come from our life together.
Two years after we met, Ryan and I were married. Though we were from the same hometown, we are separated in age by 6 years, and without the campaign may not have ever met. As we talked about having children he went through genetic testing to see if he carried the disease and we found out that he did not. I will never forget how lucky and happy I was that day. We lost Ryan’s dad to Huntington’s Disease in May of 2013, and 13 months after that in June of 2014 we welcomed our daughter, Amelia Jane Irvin, into the world. We named her Amelia after the wonderful doctor who cared for his dad in his final hours in the hospital.
After four years of working for OFA, Ryan’s passion for data and using best practices to achieve results led him to start his own digital firm in early 2013. He grew the business and I joined him after we had Amelia. It has meant that we have been able to take care of her together when she is sick, and it has brought us closer as we bring different strengths to the business.
As a business owner, I am grateful we were able to purchase health care for ourselves and our employees who need it from the SHOP small business exchange – making health care more affordable for our small business. Ryan and I are proud to be creating jobs and keeping young people here in Michigan. Our business has been incredibly successful helping businesses, nonprofits and campaigns with their creative and digital needs to get the results they want. Change Media Group now has 8 full-time employees, 3 part-time, and we are a finalist in the Michigan 50 Small Businesses to Watch competition. We love our work and are energized by our success and our great team.
Along the way, I met you at the University of Michigan Field House and I asked you to do all that you could to bring U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati home who was imprisoned in Iran while visiting family. His sister Sarah and I were close friends at Whittier Middle School in Flint, and my only living memory of him was a pipsqueak kid running around with his twin sister. You couldn’t say much at the time, but when you said “We are doing everything we can,” I trusted and knew you were doing what you could. He has now been home for a year and I am grateful for your work to bring him home.
Our daughter is the light of our lives. Amelia is jovial, happy, and hilarious. She is two and a half now and starting to make up hilarious stories and is – unfortunately – already an expert negotiator. She asked me the other day what I am afraid of, and I thought and said “Snakes!” She asked “what else?” and I said “Injustice.” I asked her, “What are you afraid of, Amelia?” and she said “Nothing!” I know that there will come a time when there are things that she worries about and fears, but right now we are lucky to have a daughter who fears nothing.
As a mother, I am grateful for the efforts you and Vice President Biden have made to push the issue of sexual assault on college campuses to the forefront, to grow the economy, make us less dependent on fossil fuels, and expand civil and voting rights for all Americans.
Thank you for your service and for inspiring so many Americans believe in their ability to bring about change.
Amanda Stitt is the Chief Results Officer of Change Media Group, responsible for new client acquisition, managing accounts, and long-range planning. Amanda has a variety of experience leading non-profits and organizations in strategic positioning, fundraising, and growth. A graduate of Kalamazoo College, she possesses a variety of skills including digital strategy, strategic planning, outreach, and communications.