Look no further. I have a solution for you; in fact, I’ve got two—take your pick. You can run for office, or serve on hundreds of different boards or commissions. You may say: “I don’t know how to do this!” I am here to share my own experience, to tell you how to run for office and have a chance to change the world, one step at a time.
The United States has fewer women serving in legislatures than in other Western democracies. In Scandinavia, women hold more than 40 percent of the seats in elected office. Sure, they have better child care, but that is not an excuse for not putting your spare time to use. Although women are as likely to win as I was when they do run, according to the Rutgers institute’s research. . . [t]oo few women are choosing to run, and party officials are less likely to encourage them to try.” We don’t run because we aren’t invited to run. Rutgers calls for innovative methods for recruiting female candidates.
I am asking you to run for public office. Don’t forgo becoming an officeholder by not running in your local or state elections because political officials have failed to ask for your contribution. You give up a place in history, a great opportunity to learn about yourself, and the chance to bring about the change you want to see. Consider this an invitation from a politician—I used to be in the leadership of New Hampshire’s state legislature. And when I ran for office I already had two young children and went on to have two more.
I used to be like you, not thinking that I could run for office, until someone suggested that I run for State Representative. I had never licked a political stamp before. I had no clue about how to start the process of running, until a friend told me to go to City Hall and sign up. It was as easy as that.
All I needed were a few thousand signatures. This seemed daunting, until I mentioned it to my friends, who said they would be happy to help me collect signatures. One of them pointed me toward the local political party, which provided me with more recruits. The process had begun, and with it, for me, a whole other postgraduate education. I met hundreds of people; some were polite, and others were rude. I heard “yes” and “no” in more ways than I thought possible.
One of the local party members offered to be my campaign manager, and explained to me what that was. She guided me through the process of running. Back in the 1970s, one knocked ondoing so, I found myself knocking on the lives of my constituents. I learned the complexity of every social issue. It was a learning curve in many ways; I was insulted and praised, and I came to understand that neither defined me. I learned about myself, and became more secure. Part of my own journey was learning to take rejection. When I moved to a different state and ran again for a new office, I lost my election for Governor’s Council by 10 percent of the vote. It hurt, but I had learned to separate personal and political rejection. The experience of running was well worth the time and adventure of learning a new state, and the attitudes of its people. For me, and other extroverts, the demands of public service and engagement are exciting. My friends rallied around me and one, in the direct mail business with her husband, wrote, designed, and printed my campaign materials. We all have different talents to bring to any public endeavor.
You may be an introvert; but political roles are cut from many different kinds of cloth. Find new frontiers in signing up, or volunteering on a local or state committee; there is a committee for everything: zoning, environment, schools, etc. Here, you get a different kind of education. You will learn about a specific topic, and meet people in a more intimate setting. Go to your City Hall or State House, and ask for a list of all boards and commissions; then, choose the ones that interest you the most. Call them up, experiment with different areas of focus, and try for as many positions as appeal to you. You may not get your first choice, but keep trying. New perspectives, new frontiers, and a new lease on your free time are worth the commitment.
If you think about who has been in your state legislature, Congress, and yes the White House over the course of your lifetime, you will see that you are as well qualified as those successful politicians to run for—and hold—public office.
Editor’s Note: Looking for something that will spark a change in your life? We have just what you need! On May 17, 2017 come to betterafter50.com’s SHE DID IT event, a day of workshops that will motivate and inspire you into your next phase– Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts– Check it out here.