Running For Office Is Like Taking Your First Steps. It’s Hard, But You Can Do It.
Like a toddler discovering she can walk, I took my first steps on the path to political activism.
Up on my own two feet, I felt propelled toward beckoning distances. I would run for office, U.S. Representative, maybe one day President; for a moment, I stood there exhilarated by this newfound vista.
Scanning the horizon, I started researching the obstacles ahead. I read about the current public officials, the ones I imagined replacing. Farther down the path I saw my representative, a doctor. He had received his medical degree, served in the military, and after being a private citizen for some time, changed course and ran for state senate, receiving overwhelming support. Following over a decade in state office, he continued on to election in the Federal government.
I paused. A U.S. representative was too far away. Taking a step back in my mind, I pulled up the bios of my state legislators. Several small business owners, a radio talk show host, a teacher — I could see myself there, yes. Then I noticed: board member of this non-profit here, manager of someone’s campaign there, awarded this or that for some civic action. Looming before me was a pattern of long-standing community involvement and leadership, and I stumbled. No longer sure of my footing, I clung to the side-rails.
I had now been to several meetings of my local grassroots political activism group, a chapter of Together We Will. I had attended a regional organizational meeting for Our Revolution. I had signed up to work with a MoveOn affiliate. I was standing up at meetings, offering my ideas, and helping the local group with website development. I had written a few pieces on my blog about my very nascent political activism, and here I am at Voices of the Revolution offering my perspective on stepping up to run for office. So maybe that’s it, I would be a good citizen and assist those true leaders striding confidently forward.
The story of my attempts to step up could end here, but it doesn’t have to. I have overcome fears that held me paralyzed. Fears that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough, and that people didn’t like me. I am my own worst critic, but I have learned to appreciate my strengths. I take pride in my ability to communicate passionately and clearly. I see myself not just as an educator, but as a perpetual student: every day I accumulate new knowledge and skills. Attending meetings, reading books and articles on various issues, listening and participating in discussions — these are all small steps I take.
After a recent TWW meeting, a small group stayed late to discuss strategies to combat the Affordable Care Act repeal, which one member of the group is particularly passionate about. Every single one of these people has the drive to step up and be a leader in their own right, and we truly need each of us with our own set of expertise and abilities to step up, but few of us have been in a leadership position. However, there was one woman who seemed to know how to get on that path. A stay-at-home mom with a business degree, Dawn had successfully run for chair of the local Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee. She had been chair for two years and was talking about taking the next step, perhaps running for a Board of Education position. We talked about our special needs kids and exchanged numbers, and I thought about what she had done. Could I follow in her footsteps?
The next day, at noon, Dawn called me. She had been talking about me with her co-chair, Rachel, who wasn’t happy that her chair was ready to abandon her. Would I consider running for chair with Rachel? Yes, I had been thinking about that as well.
I am excited about taking this next small step, running for a position that, as a parent and advocate for my own children, I had never realized I was perfectly eligible for until I met the chair herself. She gave me the insight and confidence I needed to continue on this path of being a leader.
I have found my footing again, and I see the small steps I can take going forward. Most importantly, I realize that I am not alone. I have companions beside me and models of leadership ahead of me, and I will be one of many to draw our fellow citizens into stepping up on this journey towards empowerment.