During the second weekend of Emerge training, I decided to stay with a good friend and colleague, who lived close by and who I needed to do some catching up with. After an exhausting and exciting day of stump speech writing and campaign finance 101, I found myself winding the back roads of Windham County, eagerly looking forward to a meal and good conversation with my friend.
“I have something to tell you. I’ve been asked to run for an open seat in the VT House of Representatives. I think I’m going to do it. What do you think?” she asked. “You should RUN!!” I squealed. “You have to RUN!” I immediately ran to my bag to grab my Emerge binder so I could start sharing tips and tools. I think she was a little taken aback by my enthusiasm, but I was thrilled to hear that she was ready to run – and I was ready to do whatever I needed to do to support her candidacy.
It’s one of the best things about being a member of the Emerge inaugural class – bearing witness to incredible women from all over the state stepping up this year to run for office. While 2014 is not the year for me to run, I feel so fortunate to be able to support and assist those who are running in any way I can. And the information and insights I get from our trainings ensure that the advice and support I can give now is actually likely to help!
A perfect example occurred last month at Emerge when we had a messaging consultant work with us on telling our story. “Campaigns are not about candidates, they’re about voters,” she said. “Voters won’t vote for you if they don’t like you or trust you.” She reminded us that as women, we tend to lead with our resumes and credentials, sacrificing opportunities to personally connect with voters on issues that matter to them. Her message to us was clear: dig deep to find out who you are, what you care about, and why that should matter to voters. Find your voice, tell your story – connections and trust will follow.
Two days after that training my friend who is running this year asked me to review her press release announcing her candidacy. Predictably, her piece led with her experience and credentials, making little mention of who she is as a person, why she lives where she lives, or why she cares deeply about serving in public office. It was exactly as I would have written mine before I had my Emerge training. I felt so grateful to have the phrase “tell your story” running through my head as I helped her edit her piece. The final product told a compelling story about who she is and what she cares about – supplemented by her credentials, of course, but not centered on them.
For a variety of personal and professional reasons, my story this year is to support other candidates in their pursuit of elected office. I could not be more excited for them and for the future of this state. There are tremendous women out there who have so much to offer the citizens of Vermont. Whether your time is this year, or the next, if you have a passion for public service and a desire to make a difference – you should run. Run enthusiastically, bravely, wisely, and compassionately – and have fun doing it. RUN!