Women to Watch Awards

May 7, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, the next time you are searching for a little inspiration or you’re feeling downtrodden and like nothing you do is good enough, Google-search a few of these women and be reminded that one person, one woman, can make miracles happen around the world. Last night, I was honored to attend Running Start’s Second Annual Women to Watch Awards at the National Press Club. There, I got to witness history happen. And I don’t care if you don’t see it on the national news – it was history because I got to see women who will someday be on a much larger public stage than mine be recognized for the incredible work that they do.

This year’s nominees included, Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, Chief of Police Cathy Lanier, Nicole Lee, Executive Direct of the TransAfrica Forum, Dana Perino, Press Secretary to President George W. Bush, and Linda Rottenberg, founder of the nonprofit Endeavor. Not only did these incredible women accept their awards and speak briefly on women in politics, the Women to Watch Awards brought together women and men from all walks of life and all manner of careers for an evening of conversation and recognition of the impact that women can and will have on the public arena in the coming years.

I was reminded last night, by a young woman who attended last year’s Young Women’s Political Leadership Retreat, of Mahatma Ghandi’s truth, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” and again wanted to be the change in the world as we in the audience listened to the stories of these female leaders who are everyday living a dream and breaking through glass ceilings that will help young women later.

During the reception before the awards were actually presented, I was lucky enough to meet some of the attendees and some of the award recipients. All everyone was talking about was how great Running Start is and how exciting they find the organization. There was no talk of the election among the groups among which I wandered. There was no talk of partisanship, although a friend much more versed in Washington “Who’s Who” than I observed that Dems stuck with Dems and Republicans stuck with Republicans, as Running Start is a completely nonpartisan organization. It was awe-inspiring and so exciting to see this complete removal of the all-pervasive politics at a political gathering.

In the end, I walked away from a beautiful evening inspired to go out again and try my hardest to be the change I want to see in the world. Plus, I got to meet Dana Perino, which – as a writer and a young woman pursuing a career in communications and politics – was pretty awesome.

-Rachael Berkey

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