Spaniard volunteers in local politics

Jacobo Folch, a volunteer from the country of Spain, worked at the Trumbull County Democratic Headquarters during the 2016 election campaign.

Folch recruited and managed a team of 30-plus volunteers. They manned the phone banks every weekday, and on weekends they went house to house encouraging people to vote. They were the face of the Clinton campaign in Trumbull County.

Pat Shehabi, a phone bank volunteer and canvasser for the campaign, said of Folch, “I can’t believe he is only 23 years old. He is so mature for his years, so polished.”

Once during the campaign, a man came into the headquarters and told Folch to “stay out of American politics.” Folch took this harsh admonition in stride.

There was a goodbye breakfast for 11 of his volunteers at Panera three days after the election. Along with my wife, who was a volunteer in the campaign, I joined in the farewell breakfast. This gave me an opportunity to interview Folch about his life experiences.

His warm personality and intelligence made him a natural leader of the people who worked on the campaign.

He is from Barcelona, the second-largest city in Spain, located on the northeast corner of the country. At the precocious age of 13, he spent a year at boarding school in Germany. Later, he graduated with “First Class Honors With Distinction” from King’s College in London, England.

During his college years, Folch held internships in the office of Florian Hahn, member of the German Parliament, at one of the largest PR firms in London and in the campaign office of Derek Kilmer, who was running for Congress in the state of Washington.

Last summer, Folch and three buddies traveled to Iran to learn about that country and its people, one more example of this extraordinary young man’s approach to life.

This record of his international formal education reinforces my initial impression of Folch’s thirst for learning, his adventuresome spirit, maturity and dedication to the important things in life.

Folch plans to return to the states to do graduate work in political science.

Spain is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. Folch told me that campaigns for high office there are only three weeks long and no negative ads are allowed.

He is a member of a political party but he thinks there are ways he would like to change it. He said a low percentage of the population votes. It is estimated that 57.9 percent of eligible Americans voted. There are other Americans who were eligible to vote but did not register, which is regrettable.

Spain is one of the most visited countries in Europe, Folch said. A member of the European Union, they have taken in only 12,000 refugees from the troubled Middle East, perhaps because, according to the International Labour Organization, unemployment in Spain is 18.8 percent. Big American companies do business in Spain and, Folch said, “Americanization is a fear.”

Cecelia Zamarelli, one of the local volunteers, took Folch’s resume to the local office of Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Howland. Ryan asked Folch to come to Washington for an interview. Folch now is an intern with Ryan for three months. It appears true, as one volunteer said, “Jacob has a brilliant future ahead.”

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