News

On Her Own Terms

August 2, 2016

This post originally appeared in US News & World Report, here.

Hillary Clinton, our country’s first female major party nominee, presided over a Democratic National Convention last week where the feminine side of leadership was on strong display. From the speeches on the floor to the buttons on sale in the street, unity, love and empathy were the watchwords of the convention. That Hillary didn’t feel the need to exert a macho leadership style at the convention was a tipping point for women’s equality. There was hardly a macho moment to the whole affair, and that in itself was groundbreaking.

download (2)The buttons and T-shirts I saw while walking around the convention were almost all positive. There were some people wearing “Dump Trump” T-shirts, but they were overshadowed by the hundreds of buttons, signs and T-shirts proclaiming “Love Trumps Hate” and “I’m With Her!” All week the theme in the hall was unity and empathy, even in the face of contentious news coverage and lingering dissenters. Michelle Obama spoke about how “when they go low, we go high.” Tim Kaine spoke about how America has “an incredible cultural diversity that succeeds when we embrace everyone in love.” AndPresident Barack Obama asked us “to reject cynicism and reject fear, to summon what is best in us.” Especially compared to Cleveland the week before, Philly was a love fest of epic proportions.

When Hillary took the stage Thursday night she spoke to us not just as a candidate, but as a woman. She spoke openly about the historic nature of her race and what it means for the country: “Standing here as my mother’s daughter, and my daughter’s mother, I’m so happy this day has come. Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between. Happy for boys and men, too, because when any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone.” She spoke about her faith and her values: “No one gets through life alone. We have to look out for each other and lift each other up. … Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can as long as ever you can.” She spoke about the importance of uniting people as a leader: “I will be a president for Democrats, Republicans, independents. For the struggling, the striving, the successful. For those who vote for me and those who don’t. For all Americans together!” And she spoke about how kindness and love are crucial to what makes us Americans.

All of this is remarkable because women historically have felt great pressure to show toughness: to make sure the voters know that they may be women, but that they are as strong as men, as hard-hitting as men and as unsentimental about serious issues as men. As a senator and secretary of state, Hillary has had ample opportunity to show her toughness and to prove herself in the hyper-masculine worlds of defense and diplomacy. No one can say she isn’t tough and battle-ready. And maybe this is why she is now free to show her softer side.

Women really do have a different style of governing, but they have not always felt comfortable emphasizing this uniqueness. When women are elected to positions of power, they tend to be more collaborative, more creative in solving problems and more willing to work across the aisle than men. (In fact, because of these traits, women in Congress really do get more done.) As those most often in the caretaking roles, they are especially cognizant of the needs of the weakest in society. They tend to govern in a way that gives power to others rather than keeps power for themselves. I know these are stereotypes, but I have spoken with so many elected women over the years, up and down the ticket, that I feel strongly that there is great truth in these generalizations.

Last week we reached a major milestone in women’s rights because the tenor of the convention, and Hillary’s remarks show that we are not only at the point where a woman can be her party’s nominee; she can also do it on her own terms.


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Susannah Wellford
founded two organizations to raise the political voice of young women: Running Start (which she now leads) and the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee. Susannah previously worked in the Clinton White House and for Senator Wyche Fowler. Ms. Wellford is a graduate of UVA School of Law and Davidson College. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her twins, Ben and James.

Political Disruptors

August 2, 2016

This post originally appeared in US News & World Report, here.

Politics is in need of a makeover. The current party-controlled system has left us with elected leaders who aren’t representative of the people they serve and with barriers to entry that repel those who aren’t already part of the elite. People feel they have no voice, and this is especially true for the millennials generation. Millennials could have real power to affect elections, but they still don’t get out to vote or run for office in numbers that would make a real difference to the political status quo.

So it was refreshing to meet up with several groups at the Republican National Convention who are working to turn politics on its head and make it more accessible for everyone. These groups are using technology to open politics up, make it cool to the younger voter and get rid of barriers that keep youth disaffected and politically disengaged.

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The first is Brigade, which is working to create a social media platform like Facebook – but for politics. Brigade’s app allows users to explore their positions on policy issues and then share them with their friends. Even better, the app tells voters which candidates align with their positions, so that they can be knowledgeable when they go to the polls. Brigade is still relatively new, but as more people join it has the power to make politics cool and fun in a way that will get youth to the polls as informed and enthusiastic participants. During a quick chat at The Washington Post hub, Matt Mahan, the visionary behind Brigade, told me that the goal is not to further silo people into issue ghettos but to get people talking to each other about the issues of the day and what they believe, so that they can better understand the other side.

Where Brigade uses technology to connect voters and keep them informed, Crowdpac,the brain child of British political insider Steve Hilton, uses tech to make it easier for people to run. Fundraising is one of the biggest obstacles to running for office, and people who don’t come from wealth are severely disadvantaged when it comes to launching their campaigns. So Crowdpac has developed an online fundraising tool, like Kickstarter, to help people solicit campaign donations online. Mason Harrison, their head of communications, told me that the best part is that the app allows prospective candidates to gather pledges to weigh support, which become active when the candidate decides to run. Young people don’t give money to political candidates and so they have little influence on who is elected. Crowdpac offers the millennial generation an easy, familiar way to give to political campaigns. Combine this idea with Brigade’s more informed young electorate and we really might see some new people getting into power.

Democracy Works was also there spreading the word about their TurboVote app, designed to make voter registration foolproof and easy. This is good for everyone but could especially help millennials whose voter registration numbers have fallen steadily since 2008. The app takes away a major barrier to youth voting: Millennials move around so much during college and first jobs, and it can be time consuming and difficult to figure out how to vote absentee or register in a new place. TurboVote holds your hand and makes the process easy.

Combined, these new ideas have the power to really change youth engagement in politics. And they are not the only ones working to disrupt politics as we know it. The teams atFairVote and Representation 2020 are working to change our voting systems by encouraging rank choice and proportional voting, systems that many in the rest of the world use because they work better and produce more fair results. And groups like She Should Run, All in Together and of course my organization Running Start are working to break down the barriers that keep women, especially young women, from becoming political leaders.

It was important for these groups to be at the RNC because political reforms that target youth engagement are often dismissed as surrogates for the Democratic Party. Young people do tend to vote more on the progressive side, but getting millennials more informed and active will help create a more robust dialogue around politics that ultimately will help both sides. The growing number of under-40s who are registered independent is a sign that younger people want to be open to vote their mind rather than be told by a party what to believe.

I have always admired the disruptors. We tend to get complacent with the systems we are used to, and the disruptors remind us that we can and should strive for better. There is real hope that the future of politics will be something we can all feel good about.


susannah-5
Susannah Wellford
founded two organizations to raise the political voice of young women: Running Start (which she now leads) and the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee. Susannah previously worked in the Clinton White House and for Senator Wyche Fowler. Ms. Wellford is a graduate of UVA School of Law and Davidson College. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her twins, Ben and James.

Feminism at the GOP Convention

August 2, 2016

This post originally appeared in US News & World Report, here.

The fact that I am bringing my women’s empowerment organization to the GOP convention has raised some eyebrows and sprinkled hate mail in my usually cheerful inbox.

Sixteen years ago, I helped create the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC) to support young women from all parties running for Congress. My work with the PAC illuminated a much larger issue: There were not enough young women of either major party running for political office. This realization led to the 2007 creation of Running Start, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to educating high school and college-age women on how and why they should run for office. At Running Start, my goal is to make elected office accessible and acceptable for young women, regardless of political party. My job is not to shape the political ideologies of these young women but to give them the confidence and tools they need to fight for the issues they believe in at the highest levels.

downloadThe Republican National Convention is a perfect place to spread the word about Running Start. The convention will be attended by politically minded women from all over the country who are interested in politics and curious about what it takes to run. There aren’t a lot of role models for women in Republican politics. Democrats outnumber Republican women 76 to 28 in Congress, and many conservative women tell me that it is refreshing to find a nonpartisan group interested in getting them elected.

The nonpartisan nature of my organizations has raised eyebrows before. Years ago, the head of a major women’s organization pulled me aside at an event to tell me, “Honey, we all say we are nonpartisan, but that doesn’t mean you have to allow Republicans on your board!” There seems to be an unwritten rule that if you are working to empower women, you must be a liberal group. And even when women’s groups do support Republicans, many of them only open their doors to the pro-choice crowd. At a meeting of women’s organizations that I attended, a prominent Democrat declared that women who aren’t pro-choice aren’t real women.

I disagree. I made Running Start nonpartisan because I believe that electing women from both sides of the aisle is the key to a better functioning, more effective government. And the research bears me out: Women are more likely to cosponsor legislation across the aisle and to work harder to find common ground. The idea that only certain women should be encouraged to run is extremely counterproductive. There should not and cannot be a standard for how women in politics should think and act. Right now Congress is arguably the most divided it has ever been. The collective effect of having women in office is strengthened by having women on both sides of the aisle working together to sponsor legislation and push important issues otherwise left untouched. Bipartisan legislationsuch as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, The Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act, The Women’s Business Ownership Act and The Violence Against Women Act, to name a few, shows that regardless of a woman’s political ideology, she understands what is it to be a woman, and will legislate accordingly.

All of the Republican women I know believe in gender parity. As one of our alums, Antonia Okafor, told me: “Being a feminist and being conservative are not mutually exclusive. A conservative feminist believes that women should be able to reach any height because of ‘equal opportunity.’ True feminism does not diminish the role of men but rather focuses on the right of women to become everything they want to be.”

My goal at the RNC is to offer conservative young women a home where they can learn how to rise up in a party that doesn’t always do the best job to encourage women’s participation. There is no EMILY’s List for Republican women; they need all the help they can get to increase their numbers in politics.

Running Start’s presence at the convention is in no universe an endorsement of Trump. (In fact, as a nonprofit Running Start can’t endorse.) Trump’s misogynistic, racist rants are an affront to everything that Running Start stands for. My dislike of Trump isn’t a partisan thing’ it’s a moral thing. There have been plenty of strong Republican women who have spoken out against him, including Rina Shah who was removed from her position as a Washington, D.C. delegate as a result, and Kendal Unruh, a high school teacher and RNC delegate who raised $3.5 million to spread the message that convention delegates can and should vote their conscience.

We need to embrace strong female leaders who will force party officials to think about women’s issues and sponsor legislation that affects women. I am a Democrat, but my organization is not a reflection of my party views. Running Start embodies the idea that if Congress is a more representative body it will serve all people better. Staying home next week sends the message that Running Start doesn’t care about all women. So stop sending hate mail and come watch us inspire young women to run in Cleveland!


susannah-5
Susannah Wellford
founded two organizations to raise the political voice of young women: Running Start (which she now leads) and the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee. Susannah previously worked in the Clinton White House and for Senator Wyche Fowler. Ms. Wellford is a graduate of UVA School of Law and Davidson College. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her twins, Ben and James.

Summit 2015 Podcast: Episode 4

July 2, 2015

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Summer 2015 Interns with Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev

Join Running Start’s amazing crew of summer interns and find out what they’re excited about for this year’s Summit. *BONUS* blooper material at the end, after our ending tagline. Get behind the scenes with the people who are making this amazing day happen! (Learn more about this year’s Summit and past Summits here.)

Get tickets now!

Summit Invitation

Our wildly popular Summit is back for a third year on Saturday, July 11, 2015! The Summit will bring together young women from across the country for the opportunity to hone their leadership skills, strengthen their political connections, and take their leadership to the next level.  This exciting forum will feature nationally acclaimed speakers and highlight the work of some of our incredible partners working to empower women in politics.

In this podcast, interns discuss the speakers and panels they’re looking forward to and give a sneak peek into what Running Start’s office is really like on the eve of one of our biggest programs!

Get tickets now!

Summit 2015 Podcast: Episode 3

June 29, 2015

 

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Join Running Start’s President & Founder Susannah Wellford and Liz Matory, Candidate for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District! (Learn more about this year’s Summit and past Summits here.)

Get tickets now!

Summit Invitation

Our wildly popular Summit is back for a third year on Saturday, July 11, 2015! The Summit will bring together young women from across the country for the opportunity to hone their leadership skills, strengthen their political connections, and take their leadership to the next level.  This exciting forum will feature nationally acclaimed speakers and highlight the work of some of our incredible partners working to empower women in politics.

In this podcast, Susannah and Liz talk about what it’s really like to run for office as a young woman. Hear more from Liz and other young women candidates at this year’s Summit and get more tips and inspiration!

Get tickets now!

Summit 2015 Podcast: Episode 2

June 19, 2015

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Join Running Start’s President & Founder Susannah Wellford and Summit speaker Laura Cox Kaplan, Principal-in-Charge of U.S. Government, Regulatory Affairs & Public Policy at PwC. Susannah and Laura briefly discuss the topic of Laura’s upcoming Summit panel, How to Look the Part But Still Be Yourself. (Learn more about this year’s Summit and past Summits here.)

Get tickets now!

Summit Invitation

Our wildly popular Summit is back for a third year on Saturday, July 11, 2015! The Summit will bring together young women from across the country for the opportunity to hone their leadership skills, strengthen their political connections, and take their leadership to the next level.  This exciting forum will feature nationally acclaimed speakers and highlight the work of some of our incredible partners working to empower women in politics.

In this podcast, Susannah and Laura highlight some of the most critical tips and pitfalls faced by women figuring out how to navigate how to dress for their careers. From jewelry, to weather, to family–these successful women give an enticing taste for the insight and advice you’ll get at the Summit itself.

Get tickets now!

Summit 2015 Podcast: Episode 1

June 10, 2015

 

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Join Running Start’s President & Founder Susannah Wellford and Co-Chair of Running Start and Founder and Principal Strategist at Solid Grounds Strategy Jessica Grounds as they preview the exciting schedule for this year’s Young Women’s Political Summit! (Learn more about this year’s Summit and past Summits here.)

Summit Invitation New

Get tickets now!

Our wildly popular Summit is back for a third year on Saturday, July 11, 2015! The Summit will bring together young women from across the country for the opportunity to hone their leadership skills, strengthen their political connections, and take their leadership to the next level.  This exciting forum will feature nationally acclaimed speakers and highlight the work of some of our incredible partners working to empower women in politics.

In this podcast, Susannah and Jessica highlight some of the amazing panels and speakers and emphasize what a fabulous opportunity the Summit provides to learn important leadership skills, to meet high-power DC connections, to practice networking, and to leave knowing that you have what it takes to run for office.

Get tickets now!

Walmart Announces Three Year Commitment to Washington, DC-based Running Start Star Fellows Program

April 27, 2015

Walmart Transparent
Walmart Contact
Amanda Henneberg
1.800.331.0085
amanda.henneberg@wal-mart.com
news.walmart.com/reporter

 

Walmart Announces Three Year Commitment to Washington, DC-based
Running Start Star Fellows Program
Walmart Supports Local Not-for-Profit Dedicated to Helping Young Women
Experience Capitol Hill

Washington, DC, April 21, 2015 – Today, Walmart Stores, Inc. announced that the company is committing to donate $500,000 over the next three years to the Running Start/Walmart Star Fellows Program. Running Start is a Washington, DC-based program dedicated to providing young women and girls with the skills and confidence they need to become the political leaders of tomorrow.

The Running Start/Walmart Star Fellows Program brings college-aged women to Washington, DC each year to learn about politics by working in the offices of female Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. In addition to honing their policy and political skills, the Fellows take part in a seminar each week conducted by Running Start which gives them the skills and contacts they need to become political leaders. The Fellows emerge from their semester in DC with a deeper understanding of the need for more women to run for office, and confidence in their own abilities to lead, whether at their schools or on the national stage.

“Walmart’s support of Running Start has been invaluable in helping us attract a diverse and highly talented pool of Fellows for our Star Fellowship,” said Susannah Wellford, President and Founder of Running Start. “This program is one of our most in depth trainings, offering students housing, a stipend and a challenging job working for a female member of Congress.  Our graduates have gone on to win elected office, find policy jobs on the Hill, and work in public service. We are so grateful for Walmart’s support!”

Walmart’s support of the Star Fellows program helps provide housing and stipends so young women of all socioeconomic backgrounds have an opportunity to participate in the potentially life-changing experience of working on Capitol Hill. Since 2009, the Star Fellows program has helped support 70 young women to come to Washington, DC and work on Capitol Hill.

“We are thrilled to continue our support of the Running Start/Walmart Star Fellows Program,” said Jana Barresi, Director, Federal Government Relations Walmart. “Running Start is an honorable organization that energizes young women to seek change through the political process and provides them with the programs needed to support them in achieving their goals.”

With the addition of the newly committed $500,000 over the next three years, Walmart’s donations total $1.5 million since the start of the Star Fellows program.

About Walmart
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) helps people around the world save money and live better – anytime and anywhere — in retail stores, online, and through their mobile devices. Each week, more than 245 million customers and members visit our 11,000 stores under 71 banners in 27 countries and ecommerce websites in 10 countries. With fiscal year 2014 sales of over $473 billion, Walmart employs more than 2 million associates worldwide. Walmart continues to be a leader in sustainability, corporate philanthropy and employment opportunity. Additional information about Walmart can be found by visiting http://corporate.walmart.com on Facebook at http://facebook.com/walmart and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/walmart. Online merchandise sales are available at http://www.walmart.com and http://www.samsclub.com.

About Philanthropy at Walmart
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committed to helping people live better through philanthropic efforts that draw on the strengths of Walmart in the arenas of sustainability, economic opportunity, and community. As part of our commitment to creating a more sustainable food system worldwide, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are leading the fight against hunger in the United States. They recently exceeded a $2 billion goal to fight hunger one year ahead of schedule and have donated more than 1.5 billion pounds of food to those in need across the country. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit www.foundation.walmart.com.

 

Elect Her Featured in News Broadcast

February 25, 2015

High Point University’s Elect Her training was recently featured on Time Warner Cable News!
Learn more about Elect Her, a one-day conference held on 50 college campuses each year
to train women to run for student government.

Running Start is proud to announce our most exciting ad ever!

November 6, 2013

The 10 second ad below is playing every hour on a 500+ square foot screen in the heart of Times Square from now until January 10th. That means it will play more than 1,000 times! During this holiday season, more than 3 million people per day will pass through Times Square. We hope this ad will draw attention to Running Start’s mission of bringing young women to politics.

Please click to nominate a girl to lead today!

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Running Start is grateful to Con Edison for making this ad possible.     conedhorizontal