Today, I had the great pleasure of getting to meet and speak with Governor Maggie Hassan from New Hampshire. She told us about how she got into politics at the local level, and how it has propelled her to be the only female sitting Democratic Governor in the country. Gov. Hassan started to get involved because her son has special needs, which reminded me very much of my story and the story of Susan Rzucidlo, my friend and mentor, who is also running for the PA State House, in the neighboring 158th District. It also reminded me of the time I got to meet Sally Smith and interview her for the LD Podcast, about how she came to start The Lab School in DC and helped transform education of children with learning disabilities along the way, while advocating for her own son.
All of these women are forces of nature, and all of our stories have the same theme. We have children who have had special needs, and we have had to become advocates for them. We’ve navigated complicated medical and education systems, and we’ve looked under every rock and unlocked every door possible to help our kids. We also know how hard this process can be. We know bureaucracies can be soul-crushing, and time always seems short, but our kids can’t wait for someone to finish up the paperwork somewhere- we need help now. And we know, personally, if the process was hard for us, it’s got to be next to impossible for folks who have less education, less resources, or are simply trying to juggle a mountain for family and workplace issues, to the point where they want to cry at the end of the day. We are all looking to make government and education work better for every family and every child, at every level, because it just shouldn’t be this hard, all the time.
I started the LD Podcast because I wanted more information to be available to parents of kids with LD. They needed not only information of where to go to get help and how to talk to doctors and educators, but they needed help just understanding their own children and how the children learned, and how they could succeed if they had the proper help and support. Parents need the advice of someone who has been there, and exposure to the experts who can help them understand why some things may or may not work- to sort out reality from the magic bean cures that promise the world but deliver very little.
That’s exactly the approach I want to bring to State Government as well. We need to help fix the things that don’t work, starting with streamlining the navigation of the State website and making it mobile friendly. We have to make sure starting a business and complying with local city, county and State laws is as easy as possible, so entrepreneurs can spend more time developing their business, and less time on compliance issues. We have to make our approach to governance one that is people-friendly, and bring a sense of community and responsibility back into the job.
Running for office is simply applying for a job to be an advocate for everyone living in your community. Whether folks voted for you or not, as a legislator, you have to be accountable to everyone, even if you disagree. When my opponent contacted folks to have a counter protest when community leaders wanted to discuss gun safety issues with him, I thought that crossed a line, and was a violation of the public trust. Legislators won;t agree with every constituent, but they do have to take the time to listen and weigh their viewpoints in- that’s the job- not just listening to people who agree with you.
I’m running for office to make a difference and to advocate for folks who can’t always do it for themselves, just like I started this process, advocating for my children. And like so many other women in politics, we do this to have an impact on our communities and to make things better, and hopefully just a bit easier, for everyone involved.
Politics is the debate about priorities, but we’ve got to remember, the job itself is about governance. We need people in government who understand this is a fiduciary responsibility to work for the people, and that is the core mission. Public office is the ultimate community service job, and we need more people like Gov. Hussan, Susan Rzucidlo, and me working for you, because we understand from our own experience how important advocacy and lending a voice is to getting things accomplished.
I am sure, of course, that many men feel the same way about public office. But there is something special about moms working hard to make things better not only for their own children, but for all children along the way. We have a north star to look to for inspiration, even when things get tough, and that’s seeing things get better for our children and the many others just like them in families all across the Country.