Those Among Us

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Three things happened to me recently. I attended the 8th Annual Women’s Luncheon hosted by Kathleen Rice, the United States Representative for New York’s 4th congressional district, secondly, in route to Las Vegas, I watched the movie The Post, a film about Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, who found herself, following the death of her husband, in the unenviable position of running a metropolitan newspaper, that no one, not even she, envisioned for herself, and thirdly, crawling totally outside of my comfort zone, I decided to enter two tournaments, one for golf and the second for Pickleball.

For the past three or so years, my political spirit has given rise to a burning desire to “do something.” I really don’t recall what the actual catalyst was but I do know that Kathleen Rice’s win as Nassau County District Attorney and subsequent election to the House of Representatives had something to do with it. Donald Trump’s surprise, at least to me, election, sealed the deal.

What struck me most about Kathleen Rice was her ambition, competitiveness, loyalty, and commitment to the people she served. As the Nassau County DA, I read about her programs targeting “at risk” youth, choosing education, drug prevention, and the opportunity for first time offenders to have a real chance at life. She was more interested in creating bridges instead of mass incarcerations for her own political gain. Bringing a women’s perspective and insight into political office was a game changer. I was immediately a fan. From that point forward, I became an advocate for changing the face of political office.

I sat at this most recent luncheon listening in disbelief to the numerous obstacles women running for office currently face regardless of party affiliation. I realized that as an African-American, a woman, and of a certain age, I was a member of at least three protected classes of people. The battle cries for all three groups are interchangeable. Equal pay for equal work, having to work twice as hard as our male counterparts in order to receive equal, if that’s even a reality, opportunities and never knowing if the reason you did not get the job, the promotion, the pay raise, the house, the mortgage, or wherever your dreams would like to take you was because you are a minority, a woman, or over a certain age can be maddening. Unfortunately, this state of being is often alien or dismissive for privileged white males many of whom are masters at networking, going to the “right” schools, belonging to the “right” country clubs or “right political” party.

As a woman, I am my most ardent critic, a trait I believe I share with many of my “sister” women. In Sheryl Sandberg’s eye opening memoir “Lean In” one of her truths, and I am paraphrasing, is that men will look at a job description and feel more than qualified if they meet 60% of the requirements posted. Women, on the other hand, will look at the identical posting, and unless they meet 90% of the requirements they will pass on that opportunity. It is a common belief that minorities including women, feel that in order to be successful, they have to work harder, faster, smarter, stay up later, never apologize for children being sick or heaven forbid, need to take time off to see their children in a school play. Women, in particular, are always fighting the “perception” that their commitment is to their family and not to their career. The perception that you are not committed to the company is a sure fire way to bounce head first into that glass ceiling. The truth is regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, or any other identifying markers you align yourself to, the well being and health of the family has to come first.

Achieving work life balance is the ultimate barometer of a successful and happy life.

A recent article by James Gherardi, posted on February 14, 2018, stated that “millennials, minorities, women, Muslims and members of the LBGT community are running for elected office at historic rates. The number of women running for Congress is up 350% from 2016.”

Whether this is a direct result of the 2016 Trump Clinton election or the fervor ignited by Bernie Sanders’ ability to awaken younger Americans, we will never know. Whatever the cause, it’s an awakening, an awakening we, as a country, must embrace by getting behind these non-traditional candidates. Candidates must be vetted based on their education, experience, body of work, resume and fitness to do the job but we must look beyond “traditional” resumes in order to assess transferrable skills. Grass roots campaign funding is the only way, these non traditional candidates may have a sliver of a chance combating the political machine of entrenched career candidates…. one phone call, one dollar, one volunteer at a time.

The trickle down effect will be far reaching. It is only through our shared collective experiences and a diverse legislative body that we will finally achieve parity in pay, work, education, housing and employment opportunities. Success breeds success. It is only when we reach back in order to lift someone else up is change possible.

Matthew 25:40

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

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