When newly sworn-in President Donald Trump pledged that “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” Sacramentan Lorin Meeks-Harris stood in the crowd and felt as though Trump could have been speaking about her.
In the run-up to the November election, she attended three Trump rallies and volunteered for his campaign in California, making calls to households across the country. An African American and longtime Republican, Meeks-Harris, 35, said she went all-in for Trump early on, seeking a leader without political experience who could bring change.
“I really feel forgotten,” she said Friday. “I was always the kid in school who did the right thing but wasn’t the ‘A’ student. I wasn’t a trouble-maker, either. You can’t put me in jail because I haven’t done anything wrong, but I’m not a nuclear physicist, either. I do feel like the forgotten person.”
Meeks-Harris said she was out of work for nearly three years before getting her current job, as a file assistant for the Bureau of Reclamation at the U.S. Department of Interior in Sacramento.
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“I’m grateful for the job that I have,” she told The Bee in an interview before she left for Washington, “but I know that I’m seeking for much better opportunities.”
Meeks-Harris attended the inauguration ceremony after winning tickets in a raffle through the office of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove.
She took off time, some without pay, to go. Her mother, Paulette Meeks, had planned to join her but was unable to get permission to leave her job. The pair saved money for the trip with help from friends, and Meeks-Harris is staying at a friend’s townhouse this week to save money.
The political equivalent of a gym rat, Meeks-Harris began frequenting campaign headquarters before she turned 18, volunteering to help Sam Pannell run for Sacramento City Council. By the time she was able to register to vote, she declined to state her political affiliation on her voter registration, taking her mom’s advice that they should believe in people, not parties. After working for a number of Republican candidates, she changed her mind and officially registered as a GOP voter.
She interned at the White House during the George W. Bush years; for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to name a few. She was a member of the Sacramento County Republican Central Committee. She has also volunteered for a handful of campaigns, both locally and in Washington, helping Republicans attain office.
During those fights at the ballot box, Meeks-Harris was waging a bigger battle for her own life.
When she was a teenager, both of her kidneys stopped working. At age 16, she received aggressive dialysis treatments before she underwent a kidney transplant. While she was attending college, her kidney failed again. She needed a second transplant.
“Then I waited almost four years that time, watching my friends graduate college and in some cases getting married and moving on with their lives,” Meeks-Harris said. She’s also undergone open-heart surgery twice.
Her mother said Meeks-Harris read the newspaper in the hospital every day and kept up with current events. She never stopped dreaming of a future in public service.
Trump’s speech in Detroit, in which he asked black voters what they had to lose, spoke to her.
“I’m thinking here people in the minority community for almost 50, 60 years have put the same party into power in a lot of these cities, say in Oakland or even parts here in Sacramento,” she said. “We’re still asking for the same things, and we haven’t received anything.”
She said she wished former President Barack Obama appeared to care as much about helping urban communities as he did about getting the Affordable Care Act passed. She said it bothers her that many blacks and Latinos suffer from unemployment and undereducation. She’s been on government assistance herself and believes that most people simply want the opportunity to work.
“We’ve seen a little progress, but I don’t see the progress I know can be made,” she said.
Her mother said some of Trump’s comments on the campaign trail were hard to swallow, but felt he was authentic.
“I’d rather someone come out and say this is where I am, rather than play the game, hide behind words, hide behind a persona or facade,” she said.
Meeks-Harris, who also scored tickets to three inaugural balls, said an uncle described her and President Trump as “kindred spirits,” a comparison she seemed to appreciate.
“I have every reason to stay at home and not be part of society,” she said. “Like Mr. Trump, when people told him ‘No, you can’t do this,’ he’s known to find a way to do something. That’s what I’ve had to do my entire life.”