I’m an extrovert — I get my energy from being around people. I’m comfortable using my voice to articulate — some would say shout — my ideas. Recently, two friends, both of whom are introverts, have been instrumental in reminding me the world needs both kinds of activists.

Four years ago, while I was mayor of Waterville, Mindy Bergeron Lawrence contacted me to tell me she was standing on the corner of Main Street and College Avenue for 11 hours on June 25 in support of women’s reproductive lives. That day marked the anniversary of Texas Rep. Wendy Davis’ 11-hour filibuster against a bill that would have made abortions in Texas even more difficult to obtain. Davis’ effort succeeded in killing the bill that session, but it was ultimately passed when the governor called a special session to bring it up again.

Every year since, Bergeron Lawrence’s has conducted the vigil in honor of Davis but also as a reminder that the threat to control our bodies remains.

I didn’t know Mindy before that time, but discovered she was a quiet young woman with a passionate belief that her body (and those of other women and girls) belonged to no one. She made her voice heard with her body and her signs. For more than 30 years, I’ve been using my voice speaking in public, writing letters to the editor, and in demonstrations. As an extrovert, it never occurred to me that to stand silently alone on a street corner simply holding a sign was a loud protest.

While collecting $5 qualifying contributions under Clean Elections for a gubernatorial candidate a few weeks ago, I ran into Dick Thomas, a longtime friend who is also an introvert. He told me he was planning a fast to draw attention to climate change repercussions. He had recruited 20 people from the community to join him beginning at sunrise on Earth Day. He asked if I would consider writing a column about that.

The belief that something out of the ordinary is needed to get people’s attention is the motivation behind their fast. The majority of people in this country, as well as 98 percent of the scientific community, want something done to prevent further climate disruption before it’s too late. Thomas conceived of the fast as a way to dramatically draw attention to the issue, and let people know what we can do in our everyday lives to make a difference in the world we leave for the earth’s youngest inhabitants.


The first and easiest thing we can do, he will tell you, is to support Clean Election candidates. You can find out who they are by going to maine.gov/cleanelections and contributing $5 to those running in local races and for governor.

Candidates who want to run “clean” have to collect these $5 contributions in order to qualify as a Clean Elections candidate. That designation lets every voter know that the candidate is beholden only to the voters, not to the large political contributors to their campaign. The Legislature is continually trying to gut the Clean Elections Fund, but we have the power to keep it going with our qualifying contributions. The election of candidates whose allegiance is to the voters, not the corporations who profit from the status quo, is the only way to bring about the political changes we need.

In addition to supporting Clean Elections candidates with our $5, we have amazing access to political candidates and the opportunity to talk with them in person. Primaries will be held on June 12 and candidates are already knocking on our doors looking for our votes.

When they come to your door, ask them where they stand on issues you care deeply about. Go to candidate forums and ask your questions there. Write a letter to the editor voicing your opinion. You might be surprised at how many people thank you and agree. We’ve been on the defensive for the past seven years here in Maine and tend to feel beleaguered rather than empowered.

We have had too many examples in the past two years — minimum wage, ranked-choice voting, Medicaid expansion, and the governor’s withholding of voter passed bonds — to know that promises to listen aren’t enough. Ask candidates what actions they intend to take to prove they are hearing what you are saying. Then offer to help support those you want to see working for you. Campaigns depend on volunteers.

Lastly, vote. With ranked-choice voting in the primary this year, we have a chance to actually vote for the candidate who offers the most hope for change. That is a choice I haven’t felt I’ve had before, and it’s exciting.

If Mindy’s vigil and Dick’s fast and the reasons for them inspire enough people to vote in their own self-interest, rather than a corporation’s, maybe there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel in which we find ourselves.

Extrovert or introvert, we all have a voice. Figure out the best way to use yours.

Karen Heck is a resident and former mayor of Waterville.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: