Older Washington delegate: Don’t forget seniors’ contributions

Myra Gamburg
Myra Gamburg Contributing writer

Some say that with age comes wisdom. For Myra Gamburg, 84, her age has brought feelings of invisibility and unimportance in a party that says it’s focused on diversity.

“The Washington Democratic Party is very inclusive,” said the delegate from Lake Forest Park. “It presented a diverse group of ethnic people and those who were part of the LGBT community, had disabilities or were young.

“However, I didn’t really see any seniors being chosen as delegates.”

Gamburg, who attended her first convention in 1964 with the New Mexico Democratic Party, said this time it was harder to get a slot with the Washington state delegation.

“The first time I attended a convention as a delegate I was invited,” she said. “This time I had to get elected.”

While living in New Mexico, she was very involved in politics at the grass-roots level; this earned her an extended invitation.

This year, Gamburg was the last of six delegates supporting Hillary Clinton selected at the Washington Democratic Convention, earning a spot as an alternate.

“I was really worried,” she said of the delegate voting process. “At the state convention, after most of the delegates had been elected, there were only 15 positions left. Two-thousand people wanted those positions. It’s really a privilege to be here.”

While making her case to voters, Gamburg thought of ways she could connect with others to get them to choose her.

“I’m not of an ethnic minority, not any of these diverse things, and I’m certainly not young,” she said. “I looked in the mirror and said to myself, you’re old! So I got up, and I spoke on behalf of seniors.”

Her age and presence have inspired others.

“After I made my speech at the state convention and walked off the stage, I was surprised to see all these hands reaching out to me to thank me,” she said. “When I looked at them, they all had gray hair. And then, an older woman came over to me and said, ‘I do feel invisible.’

“Our issues are strong, and we have some organizations that fight for us in Congress, but we are generally unseen because we live in a young culture,” Gamburg said.

Ava Sharifi, the youngest of the Washington delegation and a supporter of Bernie Sanders, believes it is vital to involve the elders.

“This is the only generation that has seen many revolutionary causes throughout the decades,” Sharifi said. “By involving themselves into our convention, into our democratic system, they will be able to help us and guide us.”

Gamburg would like to see seniors gain recognition for being able to help and guide younger generations, as well as for their dedication to the political process. Seniors are more likely to vote and be engaged in politics than younger age groups, according to the Pew Research Center.

“It is the more mature people that really work at the base of our party,” Gamburg said. “They are there at the meetings. They do the little things that make a big difference, like phone banks and door knocking. They come early, and they stay late.”

While Gamburg, is grateful to serve her state as a delegate, she wants to make sure the issues seniors face are not pushed to the back of people’s minds.

“We have many issues as seniors that need to be promoted, such as health, Social Security and disability issues,” she said. “We need to be here and visible just as much as all these wonderful other groups.”

Talore McBride is a journalist and a student at Temple University in Philadelphia. She is reporting on the Democratic National Convention from Philadelphia as part of a project allowing students to cover the event for local newspapers, TV stations and digital outlets.