Your Candidacy Begins Today

  • May 14, 2014
  • Christine

“Your Candidacy Begins Today”

Molly O’Brien

Emerge Vermont, Class of 2014

As we walked into the room Saturday morning for Day 2 of Emerge Vermont, I think it’s safe to say that we were all just a little outside our comfort zones, or at least on the edge of them. This is a good thing. This is what I’m here for, and what makes this training so worth it to me. For many women, even those who hold advanced degrees or leadership positions at their jobs, running for office feels like a stretch at first. So, if the purpose of Emerge Vermont is to encourage more women to run for office, we have to be challenged, to stretch that comfort zone to incorporate experiences previously outside of it.

One of the activities that definitely challenged me was crafting a stump speech. We did this on the afternoon of Day 3, so even being able to bring our best energy to the assignment was a challenge. Going into the 15-minute time period in which we had to write our speeches, I was really not sure what was going to come out of it. Until Day 3, I had been undecided as to which office I would run for. There was no space for vagueness in this exercise, though. so I boldly wrote at the top of my paper, “I’m Molly O’Brien and I am running for City Council.” There, I said it. Whew! Now I had just a few minutes to jot down why I would represent my city well, experience that made me the best candidate, and what issues I would champion. Earlier in that afternoon we had talked about crafting your message, and one of the presenter’s slides had asked us, “who are you, and why should we care?” It was blunt, but effective, and the question stayed with me as I started scribbling my stump speech. No time for long explanations or building the back story. Get right to the point. Those who know me can attest to how brevity is another of my challenges. Ah, so much personal growth in one day!

The thing that is so interesting about comfort zones and personal challenges is that they are just that, personal. Before each one of us was recorded giving their speech, everyone had their own little rituals; reapplying lipstick or adjusting a jacket, pacing and reading their notes, practicing power poses in the corner. For me, the public speaking part was not as stressful as the writing and planning what to say. Making my speech include compelling examples, strike the right tone, and deliver a clear message in under 3 minutes was where I had to really work. When I managed to come up with something I was satisfied with in the allotted time period, I was relieved and proud of myself. The self-criticism and desire to revise would kick in later, but in that moment my reaction was more like, “wow! Look what I just did!” I volunteered to go first, giving my speech to the whole room. I smiled, took a deep breath, and did it. The applause made all that discomfort well worth it.

So, yes, my comfort zone was stretched over Days 2 and 3. And just like the physical stretching I did that Sunday night after three hours in the car, it felt good. This weekend was the one where the words printed on the front of my orange binder, “Your Candidacy Begins Today,” began to really sink in. I needed to be told to just do it. Now.