Forever a Cyclone: Conner Coles (’16)

Presidential candidate Joe Biden with Conner Coles. Photo courtesy of Conner Coles.

The Biden for President campaign team includes Conner Coles (’16), who has been involved since June 2019 when he worked as a campaign fellow in Iowa. He returned to Boston College as a senior in the fall of 2019, where he founded and directed the Boston College Students for Biden chapter. He recently graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and currently works as a research assistant for American Defense International in Washington D.C. In addition to working a full-time job, Conner still volunteers for The Biden for President campaign by calling voters in swing states and trying to convince them to vote for Biden. If they are already supporting Biden, Conner tries to persuade them to volunteer before the General Election.

Conner is an Oklahoma City native and a Casady “Lifer.” He grew up around political conversations in his house, and while his entire family is Republican, Conner chose to be a Democrat, which makes for lively and interesting conversation with his family. While an Upper Division student at Casady, Conner was involved in debate, which exposed him to new ideas and ignited his interest in politics and public speaking. He has always been interested in American history and enjoys reading about historical figures who have stood up for what they believe in and made an impact. Conner is inspired by politicians and activists who are working today to make the world a better place.

Freshmen year at Boston College, Conner became involved with College Democrats. During the first campaign he served as a volunteer, Conner was bussed from Boston, Massachusetts to New Hampshire where he randomly knocked on people’s doors and spoke to voters about Secretary Hillary Clinton for President and Maggie Hassan for Governor of New Hampshire. Both female candidates ended up winning that state election. Conner then continued helping with phone-banking, hosting speakers at Boston College, and having debates against College Republicans.

College enabled Conner to meet people from across the country with diverse beliefs, which helped him to refine his political ideology. Working with College Democrats led to an internship with Congressman Joe Kennedy III, followed by helping David Holt’s Oklahoma City mayoral race, and then working for Drew Edmondson’s campaign for Oklahoma governor. With each experience, Conner was able to take on more responsibility and build a network of connections that has propelled him to his current job in Washington D.C. 

When I asked Conner what advice he had for students who would like to become politically active, but aren’t yet old enough to vote, he enthusiastically responded, “Volunteering for campaigns is something you can do at any age. Oftentimes that includes phone-banking from your home or the campaign office, which involves speaking to voters. Elections are all about persuasion. Students who aren’t old enough to vote can talk to voters and try to convince them to vote for the candidate of their choice. Adults do listen to the younger generation and are interested in what they have to say because our future is the most at stake in these elections. Regardless of what candidate you support, it’s important to get out and vote.”

Students can be politically active by getting involved in campaigns and by forming opinions in an educated way. By reading newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, or The Economist, students can make informed decisions about where they stand, where the political parties stand, and where the candidates stand.

Dr. Jill Biden and Conner Coles on the presidential campaign trail. Photo courtesy of Conner Coles.

The hours and tasks of a political campaign vary, making it an exciting place to work. While some days involve data collection, other times it’s talking to voters, and every day there’s a “call time” where everything stops and the campaign staffers call voters to identify which candidates the voters are supporting. Weekends are typically filled with events, like speeches and parades. One weekend in Iowa, Conner helped Vice President Biden with three events in one day. While the hours can be long, the work is rewarding, as Conner shared, “It’s a noble profession because it’s about making a difference in a way you believe will benefit the country.”

Although Conner is coming from a partisan viewpoint, I asked what he believed were the top three differences between our Presidential candidates: President Trump and former Vice-President Biden. Conner thinks the most important disparities include empathy, unity, and policy. Conner believes Biden has a deeper sense of compassion, due to his personal losses, that enable him to empathize with people’s struggles. Conner points out that Biden’s rhetoric and bipartisan actions as a senator and as a Vice-President demonstrate Biden’s ability to unite the country. The policy differences between the Presidential candidates could not be more stark when it comes to issues such as healthcare, climate change, economy, police reform, and immigration. Conner believes that Biden’s plans for these crucial issues will benefit the country for the long-term. 

For students interested in pursuing careers in politics, Conner encourages students, “to study political science, international relations, or history in college because taking those courses gives you an informed foundation, and connects you to other students who are passionate about different ideas. It’s important to understand other points of view. Study something politically related and get involved in politics.” Conner is convinced that high school students can have a big impact on elections despite not being old enough to vote. Regardless of your political party or choice of candidates, if you are old enough to vote, please exercise your right and let your voice be heard by voting in the General Election.