In early 2008 I was being shepherded through an abusive relationship by my parents and a very dear friend. When I finally left him in March (those were a very long and very terrible three months) my friend found a new nonprofit on the scene. The White House Project, dedicated to empowering women and giving them the skills to run for public office. My friend said “You’re a woman, you need to be empowered!” and convinced me to sign up for their first ever training specifically for rural women. It was taking place at Fortune Bay Resort & Casino in Tower, Minnesota very near to my birthday in April.
After that, I caught the bug (although I didn’t realize it at the time). Over the course of the next eight years, I ran for and won, Director of Communications and Vice-President of my Student Senate at Mesabi Range College. I ran for and won, an open alternate seat for my region to represent my peers on the LeadMN Governing Council. I ran for treasurer of LeadMN and won. After a hiatus from elected leadership, I ran for a school board seat in my community and won (despite a recount after the election). I have considered running for city council at some point.
Sadly, The White House Project closed its doors just a couple years after I went to my first training. The recession was especially unkind to nonprofits. It exists today as Vote Run Lead, and they have fabulous programming designed to meet women where they are and give them the skills necessary to run for public office. I cannot describe how excited I was when one of my favorite podcasts, Stuff Mom Never Told You, interviewed VRL Executive Director Erin Vilardi (who was a WHP intern at my first training!) about running for office a few weeks ago.
I share all of this because I want you to know that when it comes to running for elected office, I know what’s up. I’ve been in the trenches and know full well that while it can be intimidating running for office is also completely manageable. Serving in elected office is manageable. If I can do it, you can do it too.
2018 is already proving to be The Year of the Woman. Record numbers of us are running for political office on all sides of the aisle. We are running because we care about our families, our communities, and about creating positive change. We want the government to help everyone, not just a few. We are finally angry enough to storm the castle, rush the gates, and start making change at every level.
One thing I learned at my first White House Project training was that it takes at least 3 people to ask a woman before she will put her name on the ballot. Consider this one of your asks. Will you run, will you be a player in the political process to give our nation the healing we all need?