Two weekends ago, I faced a tough decision— see the much-anticipated Sex and the City movie and discover if Carrie and Big tied the knot, or become part of the first Michigan Go Run Political Leadership Training 2008, to which I’d already been accepted. I hoped to become more politically savvy in my work as author, national speaker and advocate on special needs issues.
Many families are unaware of how policy/funding issues impact their children. Parents have little time to tackle system-wide advocacy while addressing tremendous daily demands. I have time, passion and skills to advocate for them, so I put on cute-but-comfortable shoes, passed up popcorn and Manolo Blaniks, and joined 124 other women for training.
Michigan Go Run’s! slogan is Go Run. Go Lead. Go Girl! It’s an effort of The White House Project, a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in New York City that trains, supports and empowers women of diverse means to run for office. “When you ADD WOMEN, you change everything,” the website proclaims. Accomplished founder and President, Marie Wilson, was on-site overseeing her charges. The author’s credentials include co-creator of national ‘Take Our Daughters to Work Day’.
Most attending were well informed, championing causes as diverse as our backgrounds. Several are running for office this year; others plan to join them soon. Key training included media, fundraising, and campaigns. At times, the experience was a bit like a church revival, an intoxicating blend of too little sleep, too much caffeine and high energy from a unified force serving notice. If we bottled the energy, passion, and vision of those present, I think we might fuel our cars and turn our state around.
Public servants were panelists/speakers, including State Representatives Joan Bauer, Barb Byrum, and others who openly shared rewards/challenges of political life, term limits, and the working to resolve the state’s budget crisis.
The number of women of color in attendance was impressive, their vocal commitment to change, contagious.
I was deeply moved by a young college student who told of growing up in a tough Chicago’s South Side neighborhood, where she learned early that education was her ticket out. She’s now passionate about impacting change that helps ensure equal access and affordable education and heath care for inner-city youth.
Several twenty something women expressed frustration over negative perceptions of their generation, fueled in part by overtly sexualized, narcissistic media messages, including by MTV. These women want more. Audrey works for the Grand Rapids Obama campaign and plans to run for office.
Melannie, a spirited young Michiganian employed by Sotheby’s in NYC, volunteers for the Younger Women’s Task Force (YWTF.org) a grassroots movement that organizes young women to tackle issues. Once the job market improves, Melannie may return to Michigan and run for office.
This valuable weekend training left me with a shiney new Certificate of Accomplishment, an ‘invitation’ to run for office, and some great new friends from across the country. It also left me inspired, energized and refocused on my calling as a storyteller/advocate who through journalistic/speaking skills creates needed awareness, while challenging policy makers to implement needed change for social justice.
Recent times have been tough, but if Michigan Go Run! is any indication, our future is in great hands—the hands of Michigan’s remarkable, capable women.
To find out more about The White House Project, visit http://www.thewhitehouseproject.org/
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