Nevertheless, We Persisted: Success Often Depends on How Hard-Headed You Are

Persistence can grind an iron beam into a needle. ~Chinese proverb

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. ~Calvin Coolidge

You might have heard that Liz Warren is persistent.

It’s been a few years since the Republican Senate voted to silence her (way back in 2017!), as she read from a letter Coretta Scott King (Martin Luther King’s widow) had written to the Senate Judiciary Committee back in the 1980s opposing then-U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions’ judicial appointment.

Warren was ordered to take her seat, which she did under protest.

Then, after the vote to silence her, McConnell took the floor.

In his famously patronizing tone, he explained: “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.

That rallying cry has, indeed, persisted.

And while it’s been adopted as shorthand for women’s struggles to be heard and taken seriously (and refusal to back down), I also value it as a more general statement: persistence (and guts) pays off.

In our microwave-speed society where all the world’s information rests in the palm of your hand and you’re annoyed if something takes longer than one day to ship to you, persistence is a superpower.

When an attention span lasts 15 seconds and a tweet can be too long to read, staying at something for weeks, months, years on end is the exception, not the norm.

Now, you’re reading this. That means, by definition, you’re persistent – because even after Joe Biden took residence at the White House and we’re no longer under immediate threat by DJT, you’re still engaged.

That’s the kind of stick-to-it-iveness that I’m talking about.

I’ve always been hard-headed and unwilling to give up. You may recall the Michele vs. The Kite story, in which I went up against a flimsy dime-store kite that was tangled high up in an ancient tree. My arms went numb from the effort – but I freed the darn thing.

Heck – the whole concept behind Small Deeds Done is grounded in persistence. Continued effort, even when it’s difficult. A steady push, a “press on!” mentality that – after years, now – hopefully has become habitual.

So at this point, we’ve all persisted.

Our struggle now is perseverance – the longevity in our persistence. And truthfully, that’s harder to maintain when there isn’t such a direct in-your-face assault on democracy, punctuated with regular twilight tweets. As we continue on through these first two years of the Biden administration, there’s a danger of the slower news cycle lulling us into a false sense of security.

And so, I pored over some articles and books about persistence and perseverance. (Because as you know by now, I’m a nerd at heart). I thought about their advice – ‘remember your why,’ ‘make a set plan with five goals,’ ‘improvise,’ ‘engage in self-reflection….’

And then I sat down to do math with my son, who is going to be nine in a few days.

See, at the beginning of the school year, he wasn’t doing very well in math. (That’s a bit of an understatement, to be honest.)

Then we started homeschooling. And much to his dismay, we do math every. single. day. Without fail, and without exception.

He’s now above grade level in math.

That’s not because I’m a better teacher. (I’m not.) It’s not because he’s suddenly developed into Albert Einstein. (He hasn’t). It’s because we spent time with it, made it a habit, and kept doing it … even when we didn’t want to.

We … persisted.

We didn’t ‘remember our why,’ or create a complicated plan, or reflect all that much. We just … did.

And that struck me, as we sat at the dining room table practicing three-digit subtraction with borrowing.

You know, as a group, we Democrats are pretty cerebral – we’re thinkers and planners and lets-talk-it-through types. A friend once joked that a Democrat would bring a white paper to a knife fight. (He’s not wrong.)

So it made sense that my first instinct was to study perseverance … until math practice reminded me of the power of simply doing the thing.

Sometimes success isn’t really given to the one that’s the smartest, or the best, the most clever or beautiful.

It goes to the person who starts something, then stays at it the longest, and refuses to give up because of sheer stubbornness.

It’s not complicated.

It’s just hard.

So cheers to you for being part of the community of doers that we have created … and that just won’t quit.

And on that note …

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of May 11, 2021

Tuesday: For the People Act

The For the People Act had its markup session in the Senate Rules committee today, so it’s an excellent time for you to call your Senators and encourage them to support it. Every Democrat except Joe Manchin (cue the groan) has become a co-sponsor. So if you have a Dem Senator, call and thank them – and ask them to stay strong. If you’re like me and have Republicans to call, let them know you’re watching and that this legislation matters.

Forgot why the For the People Act is so important? No problem – here’s an explainer.

And if you need a little motivation (and want to read some wonky info about the GOP’s current advantage in the House, Senate, and White House) read this piece by Five Thirty Eight:

It does a great job explaining why the For the People Act is so important.


Hi, my name is [NAME], and I’m a constituent from [ZIP].

I’m calling to express my support for S. 1, the For the People Act and urge Senator [NAME] to pass this legislation. Addressing corruption, protecting voting rights, and reforming campaign finance should be bipartisan priorities to make our democracy better for all Americans, regardless of their political affiliation. Thanks!

Wednesday: BiG Tent

Big Tent has a new batch of Vote Forward letters for the June 1 New Mexico special election for the Democratic House seat of Deb Haaland (now Secretary of the Interior). This election is really important – Democrats have to keep that seat.

Jessica Craven of Chop Wood Carry Water has been in contact with them, and has encouraged us all to email, tell them Jessica sent you, and ask for a batch of 20 or 40 letters–they’ll send them directly to you! They need to be mailed by May 18, so they suggest getting them out as soon as possible.

Thursday: Postcarding with Field Team 6

Field Team 6 has been hustling to register Democrats for years now. It’s a fun group, so it’s no surprise their calendar is packed with fun events, including weekend post carding opportunities. Their postcards are unique – they include a QR code that you print off via labels and affix to your postcard. It makes it easier for the person to just scan the code with their phone and go right to the website. If you’ve not written with Field Team 6 before, sign up for an account and choose a campaign here:

Right now they’re writing for the Ft. Worth Texas Mayoral runoff.

The Democratic candidate was the top vote-getter in a pretty stunning That means she will now face off against the anointed conservative candidate Mattie Parker in the runoff election June 5

Deborah Peoples is not only a Democrat – she’s Chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party. In 2020, she helped flip the county blue for Biden/Harris for the first time since LBJ! So we need to get Democrats out on that crucial day, and make her the first Black mayor of Fort Worth.

Deborah Peoples And now we need to get Deborah across the finish line – so sign up to send out some GOTV postcards into Fort Worth.

Friday: Join Building Bridges for America for a Postcard Party

In keeping with what is looking like a post carding theme here, I wanted to let you know about some super fun sounding weekly post carding parties happening each Sunday from 1-3pm. Building Bridges, a grassroots organization started by former Pete Buttegig volunteers, hosts these parties (and tons of other fun events like book club discussions with famous authors). And for those of us in (ahem) “redder” areas, you’ll be happy to note that organizers hail from such progressive bastions as Indiana and Nebraska. Flyover residents unite!

Postcarding parties occur weekly on Sunday from 1-3. Join here:

Note, too that they have Friday night virtual “dance parties” every other week, which also sound super fun. Look for that in an upcoming action!


If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

P.P.S.: If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

2 thoughts on “Nevertheless, We Persisted: Success Often Depends on How Hard-Headed You Are

  1. I did manage to leave a comment on Hawley’s phone voice mail in response to your newest eletter, but not only is Senator Blunt’s voice mail full and unable to take more messages, but also his website does not allow me to leave an email for him. It appears for a few seconds and then disappears! It is possible my computer is at fault, but am writing to let you know this just happened. If you hear from others, it should make us all suspicious! I wanted to encourage him to support Senate Bill 1, For the People Act.

    By the way, I just got a marvelous new book called Civic Resistance by Erica Chenoweth. I am only on page 24 and already love this book. I can afford to send it to someone in the MO legislature. Any suggestions about who might read it and find it worthwhile? If you have ideas, let me know! PS. I don’t do Facebook or Twitter so am happy to have a way to contact you. Thanks!


    1. Hi Ann! Great to hear from you, and thank you for the book recommendation! I’ll noodle on who might enjoy it in the legislature – they’ve got their work cut out for them this week and I’m sure they could use a care package. We’ll definitely need to keep an eye on Blunt’s voice mail and email. I’ll go check it out, and report back. Thank you for all that you do!


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