I was asked to do an interview after the election and I declined. I couldn't talk about it. I didn't know what to say. In fact, I was extremely cynical and had a few months of wondering if it was all-for-not. But in recent months, I'll tell you, the message of Raising Ms. President is stronger than ever.
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.
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.
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.