Victoria Kirby didn’t have much time to contribute to the 2008 Presidential election and made a promise to herself that she would do all that she could to ensure President Barack Obama was re-elected. In a few years she went from an Organizing Fellow for the 2012 re-election campaign to overseeing the advocacy efforts for the state of Florida. She took her experiences from attending Howard University to train new leaders in public service in her home state. Discover her journey into politics and learn how to start your own movement.
Name: Victoria Diane Kirby
Title: National Campaigns Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force
Location: Brandon, Florida
Her Gig: I am a Hub Director for Organizing for Action in Florida, which is the national non-profit formed after President Obama’s campaign. We continue to use the grassroots and digital framework that elected the President into a “fighting machine” to help advocate for the President’s policies. We work on increasing minimum wage, slowing climate change, women’s rights issues, immigration reform and the Affordable Care Act. I help oversee the hundreds of thousands of people across the state. We have 19 chapters in Florida with teams that carry out advocacy activities. We use the same tactics that President Obama used as an organizer in the Southside of Chicago.
Her Journey: I served on Howard University’s Board of Trustees as a student. I was able to see how you can advocate for something and how that can make concrete changes you can see. It helped plant the seed of advocacy for me. I decided I wanted to get my Master’s in Public Administration, so that I could one day become president of a university. While working and going to school, I received a campaign email from Michelle Obama where I learned about the Organizing Fellowship. That summer, I cut down my work hours to volunteer for a 40 hour a week fellowship. I was then selected as a top fellow in the country and got to have lunch with the President. Eventually, the Field Director for the Obama campaign in Florida called me about being the Regional Director in my Florida hometown. I packed up and moved back home to help get the President re-elected.
Confessions of a Black Woman in Politics: You still don’t see a lot of people of color at the top in politics in either party. It’s a matter of economics. You have to have a financial support to give 40 hours of your time to volunteer for free until you get a position. Everybody can’t do that, and it’s how you get your foot in the door in a lot of these campaigns. Many people from the communities that I represent just can’t afford to do it. It’s a challenge to the diversity of the field as a whole.
Her Advice for a Career in Politics: Get your hands dirty early, especially for election years when there’s no incumbent and a pure primary. I know people who started out as interns in 2007, who ended up being deputy field directors by 2008. There is tremendous opportunity to learn and grow fast. Some people say they want to go into politics, but they don’t want to spend the time and energy it takes to be successful. Your reputation in politics is all you have. Who you know and their perception of you is important. Work to duplicate yourself, over and over again. The more people you train to do your job, the better the results and the more likely your candidate will win.
Biggest Lesson Learned: The recession hit our generation hard, and I’ve seen a lot of people lose hope. A lot of my classmates graduated with crazy student loans and are not working in their field of choice. I had moments where life was hard, but every time I said I couldn’t do it, I made it through. Never give up on life, people or your goals.
Her Boss Accessory: I love a nice suit and a nice pair of heels.
Her Current Read: Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D’Emilio.
Her Beauty Bag: A nice golden brown eye shadow set, wine colored lip gloss and self-confidence.
Her Tech Must-Haves: Evernote and Bible app. And the Samsung Note 4 is the best phone ever!
Her Mantra: Be relentlessly polite and politely relentless.
Her Theme Song: “Hero” by Mariah Carey.