Run, woman, run
After Hillary Clinton lost the presidential race, there were a few days there when it looked as if a lot of women would be done with politics.
If we couldn't elect the most qualified person ever to run for president, what was the point, right?
Being women, however, we quickly recalibrated. Many in our ranks are doing something rather extraordinary, historically speaking.
They are considering a run for office.
"We've been inundated," Debbie Walsh told me Wednesday. "In a good way."
Walsh is director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, which sponsors a national network of campaign training, called Ready to Run, for female candidates and women who want to help them get elected.
Walsh said applications are up around the country for training, including at Rutgers. Normally, 150 or so sign up for a session. In March, CAWP had to change venues to accommodate 270 women -- and still had to turn away some.
Emily's List, which helps female candidates who support abortion rights, states on its website that more than 14,000 women have signed up to run since Election Day, and another 7,000 people have agreed to help them.
Those numbers aren't the only thing that has changed since Election Day.
"What I'm seeing this year are women who aren't waiting to be asked," Walsh said. "You know that line, 'If we aren't at the table, we're on the menu'? Well, a lot of women feel they're on the chopping block. What they care about is in jeopardy, and they're not sitting on the sidelines anymore."
Movements take time, and progress is incremental. The looming question: How do we sustain this momentum?
Walsh says history is instructive. "No movement happens overnight. Civil rights, same-sex marriage, women's suffrage -- even the Tea Party took time. We must be in this for the long haul. This change in our country -- despite what we saw in the last election -- takes time. We cannot expect that this will turn on a dime, and we can take satisfaction in victories along the way."
Patience, in other words -- as focused as it is willful.
Also, we must support one another across generations. I implore more of my fellow baby boomers to step up and support the next generation of female leaders. I'm not suggesting we step aside; rather, I'm saying we should make room.
As I write this, I am looking through the windows at the trees we have planted in our backyard in recent years. One for each grandchild. I see them as extensions of these children we love. Clayton's Callery pear. Jackie's serviceberry. Leo's lilac. Milo's Japanese maple. Carolyn's white pine. We just planted a wisteria for the granddaughter on her way.
All of these trees are as young and vulnerable as the children they honor, and I hover over them like a new parent. We never water our grass, but I regularly douse the roots of these trees. I may not live long enough to see their tops tickle the clouds, but it is enough to know that one day, somebody else will.
Already, the trees nurture other lives, as birds build nests in their branches and feast on the purple berries of our first granddaughter's tree. Every winter, I stare at their bare branches and will them to survive. Every spring, I snap photos of the grandchildren standing next to their trees to track the growth of both, celebrating every inch of progress.
Had you told me in my ambitious 30s and 40s that I could take such joy in a handful of fledgling trees, I would have laughed you out of my way. Like so many women my age, I still possess plenty of ambition, but I have reached that point in life when one must decide how to parcel it out.
If our success is our only legacy, it dies with us. If, on the other hand, we channel some of our ambition into the future of others, the best parts of us will never die.
Isn't that a glorious way to go?
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