These days, more women are running–not from fear or away from challenges. Rather, they’re running for office on all fronts because they’ve realized that marching in protest simply isn’t enough.
At the national level, I recently saw that 390 women have announced plans to run in 2018 for the House of Representatives, a figure that’s higher than at any point in American history.
Even more exciting is that 22 of these newly announced candidates are African American. If elected, they would more than double the ranks of black representatives in Congress. Meanwhile, 49 women have tentatively announced plans to run for Senate, more than two-thirds than had announced similar plans at this point in 2014.
This political awakening is taking place everywhere. Women are going to the polls with their daughters and mothers and forcing discussion among their husbands and sons about issues of equality that must be addressed to strengthen and protect civil society in America. Political activism among women is on the rise in America once again, and I am thrilled by it.
Having grown up in the sixties and seventies, I have always been a keen observer and participant in efforts to strengthen our institutions at the local, state and national levels.
I admit, I have political biases. And, while we all get caught up with what’s happening in Washington, I agree with former Speaker of the U.S. House, Tip O’Neill, who once commented that all politics is local. After all, it’s the communities where we live and where our children attend school where ideas for governance are born, incubated, tested and ultimately become ingrained in our nation’s political process.
Encouraging citizens at all levels to participate in the political process is more important than ever in preserving the well-being of our democracy. Over the course of my academic career, I came to respect and understand the role of politics; after all, decisions made by the local city council all the way up to the White House could have an impact on our work as educators.
As a teacher, principal and district administrator, I learned during school board elections, teacher negotiations and contract recommendations that there was often an underlying political agenda at work influencing decision makers. In most cases I was privileged to work for excellent board of education members, both women and men, who agreed that our children were our first priority.
My first position as superintendent of schools was in Stoughton, Wisconsin, located twenty miles from Madison, Wisconsin’s state capital. Donna Shalala was the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the first woman to lead a Big Ten University. State, county and local politics were clearly active and embedded at the local level in Stoughton. Community members were vocal about their political beliefs, making it especially important that my recommendations to the board of education and my positions had no hint of partisanship. I had to assure everyone that our responsibility was always to achieve the best possible educational opportunities for their children.
At that time, few women aspired to state and national posts. I remember when my mother, president of the teacher’s local organization in our hometown, worked tirelessly with the local teachers’ association and on behalf of Ann Richards in the 1990 election. Richards, who is a personal inspiration of mine, was elected as the second woman to serve as the governor of Texas and became a colorful figure in American politics.
I encourage you to join this movement. Get up close and personal with your city and county officials who make decisions that impact your family’s everyday life. Attend a city council meeting or write letters to your newspaper on issues you care about.
I’m thrilled that more women are running for office regardless of the party they represent. It reminds me of the 60s song written and released by Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A Changin.” It’s a good thing for women, and a good thing for America.
© Tyra Manning 2018