There’s nothing more beautiful than the sound of high heels clicking on glossy marble floors through the halls of power. This is the sound of feminine resolve, determination and momentum. It is the sound our group of 20 Emerge Kentucky women created as we marched throughout the Frankfort, Kentucky Capitol—led by our fearless, female legislative leaders. These tour guides of democracy navigated us through their world, that we are working to one day make our own.
Our day at the Frankfort Capitol began with a meet and greet with female democratic legislators. At a long, shiny, cherry wood table we paired off with legislators and planned our shadow days, which would include visits with constituents, legislative committee meetings and special briefings about the Kentucky Democratic Party’s 2016 reorganization.
The highlight of the day for our Emerge Kentucky 2016 Class was the Appropriations and Revenue Committee meeting. We had the opportunity to hear from representatives and beneficiaries of many worthwhile community organizations that serve women and disadvantaged youth. These stories of success and triumph were couched with requests for sustained or additional funding. These requests were especially urgent, in light of 9 percent, across-the-board budget cuts facing the state of Kentucky.
Hollywood actress Jennifer Garner was among those asking for support from the Appropriations and Revenue Committee. She is the celebrity spokesperson for the Save the Children, an organization that works to provide early childhood education and other pre-school services for under-served populations. Even the legislators—female, and especially male—seemed enthralled with the actress. The committee paid close attention to each word Garner spoke, and the line for photographs with the celebrity included hundreds of people. Garner’s visit highlighted for me the power of a celebrity advocate working to support legislation or a cause. None of the other speakers, no matter how heart-wrenching or uplifting their tales, drew and kept the attention of the legislators as did the well-coiffed, soft-spoken and undeniably beautiful Jennifer Garner. This reality serves as both a lesson of caution about being star struck, and a lesson of how to get tough legislation passed.
The most educational portion of our day included a briefing on Kentucky’s Democratic Party structure from David O’Neill, the Property Value Administrator in Fayette County, Kentucky. He outlined the importance of inclusivity, parity and representation within the party. He also explained to us the importance of precinct conventions, and the 2016 delegate selection process for the Democratic National Convention. His talk inspired me to make plans to be in attendance at my precinct convention and attempt to become a DNC delegate. It will be a rewarding and educational experience.
All in all, the legislative shadow day was a memorable, helpful and educational experience. The Emerge Kentucky program provided us with unparalleled access to legislative mentors and the legislative process. It gave us a glimpse of what could be, and put us on the path to get there—one high heel click at a time.