I ran in my first election in the eighth grade. I was running for class president against what I considered a tough opponent. He had the highest grade in Algebra, was one of the stars of the basketball team, and everyone had a crush on him at some point in our elementary years. The election was expected to be close because it was a boy and girl running against one another, and there were nine boys and eleven girls in the class. In eighth grade it seems that rather than vote by party, or by campaign promises, you were supposed to vote along gender lines. This bothered me greatly, and when I won the election, my opponent said it was only because there were more girls in the class than boys. This is when I learned the importance of polling in politics. Lucky for me I had friends that served as my pollsters. After asking several classmates about their voting behavior, to my satisfaction, it had turned out that some girls had voted for my opponent, and some boys had voted for me, proving my point that the voters cared less about gender than he thought. I was pleased to capture some swing voters, but a little sad not to get all the girls’ votes. Either way, the election was over and my first campaign promise had to be fulfilled. I had to convince a Catholic Bishop that we should be allowed to host a dance, as long as the proceeds were donated to a worthy cause.
Flash forward to eight years or so later, and my interest in women’s leadership has not wavered. However, thinking of me in a leadership position has changed. I never shied away from student government, and went on to be senior class president. Then, I got to college. I didn’t run for, apply for, or take on any leadership positions. In my defense, I went to a women’s college, so every level of leadership was filled by a woman. Maybe all those years I ran for office was in order to see a female win. I could justify my lack of initiative in college with the women-centered argument. I don’t think this was the case though. I think I “suffered” from what many women do: I underestimated myself.
I always thought somebody else who seemed more qualified would be a better fit than me. Truth was though, I would have loved to be a part of student government, or served as a leader on one of the various boards. Coming to Washington, D.C. has led me to really take the time to question myself, wondering if I am the teenage extrovert I once was, or if I am turning into my mother—a complete and total introvert.
Can introverts run for office? Are they suitable for campaigns, leading, and just getting things done in the tumultuous world of politics? I’ve read that Abraham Lincoln was a natural introvert. I’d say he was successful considering he did keep the United States united. However, can women “get away with” being introverts when running for office? I would argue yes, and I hope that they try. I’m guessing those women will need a little extra push to decide to begin a campaign.
Women of the world, tell your fellow women to run! Maybe that’s what I needed during my college years. And maybe that is what the future first women president of the United States needs to hear as well. So, to the young women, professional women, stay-at-home mothers, working mothers, sisters, grandmothers, daughters, students, teachers, girl-scout troop leaders, and every other woman: run. To the women who thought they could never do it and the women who know they were born to do it: run!
-Sarah F., Star Fellow Spring 2010