Perhaps every generation lives in a time of war and fear, but for many in this country and around the world, things seem particularly grim. Which is why when I sat down with the indelible Jacqueline Coleman she made me hopeful for the future. Jacqueline speaks with such sincerity and passion about her upbringing, being a teacher, her family and being a role model for other women that it’s hard not to be thankful for people like her this time of year.
In 2014, the World Economic Forum’s list of the most gender equal countries ranked the United States at number 20. We lag behind countries still considered developing and violators of human rights. Honestly, I was surprised by this statistic, because I would think that the U.S. would want to be at number one, if not in the top three. One of the reasons many believe gender equality is still an issue in the U.S. is due to the lack of female leaders we have in the work place and in politics (1). Without female voices at the top, our country will continue to lag behind.
“I tell my mom and dad all the time, I think that the biggest thing that helped me, um, kind of shape and figure out who I was, was the fact that I went to an all women’s high school and I went to an all women’s college. I loved having a single sex education because there was never a day in my educational life that I didn’t feel like I could do it,” she smiles. “I was always, I was very empowered through my education.”
I usually try not to mix religion and politics as I believe, just like your sexual orientation, that some things should be private. I also believe in our Founders vision of the separation between church and state, after all, this is why the original Pilgrims came to this country, to escape religious persecution. Yet, I do not deny my upbringing or strong faith in a higher power, and often quote the good advice I’ve read in many religious texts over the years. So when I came across this passage in the Bible recently I thought it fitting for this month’s newsletter: Matthew 16:26 (KJV) states, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
My name is Tracy Kamen and this summer I am interning for Running Start, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to inspiring young women to run for political office. As a student at Washington College, I took a class on Women in Politics with Professor Melissa Deckman. Professor Deckman was featured in Raising Ms. President and invited Kiley Lane Parker, the film’s director and producer, to screen the film and speak afterwards. I saw Running Start in Parker's documentary and was instantly impressed by the work they do, which inspired me to do some research on Running Start’s programs and apply to be a summer intern.
When I started to write this month’s blog post and newsletter I was writing about Raising Ms. President’s nonpartisan message. I don’t want to tell my audience who to vote for and I don’t want to indoctrinate an entire generation of young women to lean a certain way politically. I just want girls and women to think about politics, the issues, to vote, and to hopefully run for office; and whether they are Republican, Independent or Democrat, that is their choice. Raising Ms. President advocates for growing female political leaders across the board and so do I, but today, in this blog, I want to take a moment to go a little off script and to express my own opinion of who I will be supporting for president in 2016.
This month is Women’s History Month. While reflecting on the women who came before us, namely women who have done great and note worthy things in politics as it applies to my work, I started to ask myself how do I want to be remembered? At 34, I’ve done and seen a lot for someone my age, but looking towards the future, I realized I don’t really have a plan.
February is Black History Month, a time to reflect on African American accomplishments throughout the centuries. I think it is important for us to recognize certain segments of the population who are often overlooked in history with a month celebrating them, as it gives school children and society a chance to think about not only the achievements they have made, but the obstacles they have overcome. When researching this month for social media though, I realized that something was consistently missing: the women.
Notoriously, and I think some of you may agree, women’s contributions are often overlooked or minimized in our history books. Abigail Adam's puts it the best in a letter to her husband, future president, John Adams, in 1776. She urges, “I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.” (history.com) She continues, indicating that women fought side by side for Independence. She was advocating for equality, although it would be almost 150 years later when the U.S. House of Representatives would vote to pass the 19th Amendment (1920), giving women the right to vote, and another almost 40 years when Congress would pass the Civil Rights Act (1964), outlawing discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin.
Needless to say, women’s history and black history seem to coincide, which is why perhaps celebrating them back to back throughout February and March makes sense. Many of the first suffragists were also abolitionists. As women in general have fought for a seat at the table, so too have women of color, starting with Shirley Chisholm in 1968. Four years after the Civil Rights Act passed, Chisholm became the first African American woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress, representing New York’s 12th Congressional District. In 1972 she also became the first women to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the first major-party black candidate for U.S. President. (Biography.com) Chisholm was a force to be reckoned with. She faced opposition from her own Black Party Caucus, of which she was a founding member, and told them to shut up and get out of her way. It turns out that the men did not want her to run for president because they thought a black man should be the first to win. (Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed, 2004)
Today, only one African American woman has ever served in the U.S. Senate, Carol Moseley Braun (1993-1999). Currently, there are 18 African American women out of 104 serving in the 114th Congress. Only one African American women is serving in a state wide elected office (Denise Nappier (D-CT) State Treasurer) and out of our country’s top 100 most populous cities, three African American women serve as mayor. (Rutgers) African American women continue to run, win and make waves. Just this past election cycle, Mia Love became the first black female Republican ever elected to the U.S. Congress and the first black person ever elected to Congress from Utah.
There is no doubt that politics is a man’s world, but women of all colors are slowly starting to chip away at the rough exterior. And while the male perspective may continue to overwhelm our history books and recollections, many of us know the truth: Women were there, always have been, raising the children being sent off to battle, making the beds wounded soldiers slept and died in, protecting the homestead and helping to support the men whose stories would later be told without mentioning them in detail. It is good to reflect on the women who came before us and on the women who are currently taking bold steps to break down barriers and to make a difference in this world, for all of us.
Happy Black History Month, from Raising Ms. President!
What would you do if you were elected to serve in Congress? What would be your first item of business? The environment, national security, education, health care, the budget? Unfortunately, for many, when you are first elected to Congress it seems you're treated much like a freshman in high school, you're even called a freshman. For many, their first time in Congress is just about getting their feet wet and learning the ropes, mostly due to the system of seniority, which means the longer you serve, the more power you receive. It takes many years, decades even, to serve at the head of a committee. So, if you are expecting to do a lot in Congress and make big waves, unfortunately, you may not be able to, right away.
Senator Barbara Boxer was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1983 as a Democrat from California and served there until she assumed office as a senator in 1993. She was elected into office during the 1992 wave dubbed the 'Year of the Women', when four new Democratic women were elected to the U.S. Senate, the largest number of women ever elected at one time. It was also the first time a state had elected two women to represent them. California sent two Democrats to Washington: Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. It took 21 years for Boxer to amass the power and influence that she has today. Add the 10 years she spent in the House and that's 31 years as a Washington insider. She is currently chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee and of the Select Committee on Ethics, and is the only senator to preside over two committees simultaneously. Boxer is the third most senior woman in the U.S. Senate and eleventh in seniority overall, which is why her announcement of retirement in 2016 means women are losing an ardent supporter. And with only 20 women serving in the U.S. Senate that doesn't leave many to take her place.
I used to think that being a politician didn't mean making a career of it; that one should serve a few terms and then get out to let the next person interested have a go. I'm still in favor of term limits, which would probably reduce some of power and seniority struggles within, but if you think about it, in the current system, if we want good, experienced policy makers, we need to have dedicated people in office for a long time. It takes awhile to get the lay of the land and to cultivate the relationships you need to pass laws. Now, I'm not saying that the longer one is in office necessarily means the more effective they are. In fact, there are many people in office who do a whole lot of nothing, but we have to acknowledge that change doesn't (and shouldn't) happen overnight, and it hardly seems to happen in one term. So why not look at politics as a profession?
Perhaps if we treated politics as something to aspire to for the long term we could return to the idea of serving communities and the nation as a badge of honor. Parents don't advocate for their children to be president like they used to. In fact, many parents probably discourage it. Being a politician has a bad name. Perhaps if it was considered a position of prestige and not just power more women would want to run and get involved early.
I've never spoken to Senator Boxer, but I'd like to. I'd like to know about her journey into politics and navigating those marble hallways. Not many women do it and she did start honing her leadership skills early relative to most women. She was a journalist, aide under U.S. Representative John L. Burton, and was the first woman to serve as board president on the Marin County Board of Supervisors. She was in her early 40s when she headed to Washington and is a long time supporter of equality and reproductive rights. While it's important to encourage women of all ages to run for office, we will never see an equal amount of women serving with men if we wait to encourage women to run for office after they've done everything else first. We will never see men's attitudes fully change when it comes to women in leadership positions, and we will never see policies that have more impact on women and children having the attention they deserve. Boxer will leave behind a legacy, but who will pick up where she left off? So I ask, if you were elected to Congress, what would you do? Start thinking about it now.
*Check out the full article about Senator Boxer by Lucia Graves in the Washington Journal HERE.
I have been interested in American history and the electoral process since as long as I can remember. As a child growing up in Washington D.C., I took every opportunity to attend political rallies and events from my childhood, well into my teenage years, which influenced my pursuit to study politics in college. I was both fascinated and empowered by the courage and strength of many elected officials and their dedication to making a positive difference in the lives of others through governance. I have always been vocal and involved with a multitude of political issues. As I grew older, I saw just how difficult the political field is for women, and I knew that I needed to put myself into politics to make government more representative of women and to eliminate the negative culture that deters women from pursuing political careers.
I was three in 2008. During the presidential election I watched the presidential debates and was rooting for Hillary Clinton because I wanted a girl to be president/ But then I started to really like Barack Obama even though he wasn’t a girl, and I began to like watching Barack Obama speak on television. A few years later, when I was in the third grade, student government started to interest me and it was in this year that I was elected to the student council.
I am interested in politics because I believe in handling issues in the most fair way possible. Politics is about resolving conflict and creating better opportunity. I am also a firm believer in giving back to the community. It really bothers me how women are under represented in every aspect. If more women are in politics, we would be living in a better world.
With less than a month to go, our nationwide Day of the Girl screening of Raising Ms. President is in full swing! We already have several RMP Team Leaders and partners hosting multiple screenings across 15 states...so have you signed up? Be the first in your state to sign up and help change the Gender Parity Index!
Monday celebrated the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted the right to American women to vote, but what does this mean in the 21st century? As polls indicate, voter turnout in our country is abysmal. It's less than 50 percent in any given election and barely that, if at all, during our presidential elections. We are a representative democracy, which means elections put in place the people who decide policy that affects us most. They decide local, state and federal budgets, taxes, education, health care, environmental issues, minimum wage, rules and regulations that garner our safety or lack there of, and we are seemingly apathetic to those who lead us. This is a disservice to the women who fought so hard to get us the right to exercise our right to vote almost a century ago.
I gave my first political speech from a hospital bed when I was in the 9th grade. This situation was certainly not by choice; somewhere in the brief window between Class Officer sign-ups and Election Day I managed to find myself in a head-on collision that left me immobile for a week and in recovery for months after. At the blissful age of fourteen, I didn’t give much thought to the concept of a ‘pity vote’ (ten years later my adult self begs to differ). Ultimately, I won the position I was vying for and set off a chain reaction that would eventually lead me to become the woman that I am today.
I’m Amber Herrle and I was a part of the Running Start Summer program in 2012. When I came into Running Start, my goal was to learn how I was going to save the world. Although I have much to learn, Running Start gave me a very good idea of how I could take on my world-saving through public service at the local, national and international level. At the end of the week-long program, we each wrote down three different goals we had for ourselves-- among mine were to intern for a US Senator, work on a presidential campaign and later run for elected office.
My life simply put, has become a letter of intent. I have a passion for politics and international affairs and have spent my life since my early teens developing the skills needed to pursue this passion to its fullest extent. I am now a rising junior at Northern Arizona University studying International Affairs and Spanish and plan to continue my education and peruse a Masters in International Development.
Who we become in life depends on two things: the things that happen to us and how we choose to respond to them. How we choose to respond is the more important of the two. I was not born the daughter of a senator or a CEO. I was not born into an upper class household. I was not pushed to want to become a politician at a young age; that was a choice I made.
The International Day of the Girl Child is a time to reflect on issues that most affect girls around the world. Since the United Nations adopted the resolution in 2011, this day has focused on the challenges women and girls face, in hopes of empowering them to reach their full potential.
This is why we are so excited to be partnering with Day of the Girl in an event that is sure to inspire.
Day of the Girl is not just about a single issue. Today, women and girls all over the globe face injustice, violence, and abuse. I believe that with more women in office many of these issues would get the attention they deserve and this could lead to real solutions - even here at home.
This is where Raising Ms. President comes in.
Raising Ms. President hopes to inspire the next generation of female political leaders. How do we do this? By understanding where political ambition starts. We want every girl in America to have the opportunity to see this film. So, with the help of our sponsors, partners, and YOU, we plan to bring a special element to Day of the Girl 2014.
I am calling on girls, mothers, fathers, Girl Scout troupe leaders, city council members, and anyone who believes in the power of girls to volunteer to host a screening and invite your neighborhood or even just your closest friends to your house on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 3 pm EST.
You all will watch the film and then tune into a LIVE Google+ Hangout that I will be moderating with some of the young women featured in the film. You will be able to ask us questions via social media and can even carry on discussions of your own. You will officially become an RMP Team Leader, which means you’re part of the RMP club and will receive direct updates and information about Day of the Girl and our screenings.
As a former girl, I know the importance of encouragement, mentors, and how difficult navigating through life can sometimes be. This is why I created Raising Ms. President, so that hopefully I, with the help of our many partners, can inspire women to lead, because more women need to be seated at the decision-making table.
I look forward to bringing you Raising Ms. President on October 11, 2014, I hope you will join us!