The first woman elected to the highest office in the state of Vermont encouraged women to seek positions of power and reminded us that the intention to help others should be the prime motivation of all prospective office holders.
The Wisdom of Madeline Kunin
Lately I’ve encountered the tales of many women who have changed history, yet whose names never became household words. I am inspired by their stories and I turn to them for inspiration when my confidence to stand up for the rights of myself and others wavers.
I read of Madeline Kunin’s message to young women seeking to empower themselves or perhaps run for political office in Secrets of Powerful Women – Leading Change for a New Generation, published in 2010 by Lifetime Entertainment Services.
In addition to being the first female governor of Vermont, Madeline was the first woman to serve three terms as governor of any state. She also served as a U.S. ambassador to Switzerland.
Following is a paraphrased summary of her message to women (or anyone) hoping to make the world better for others, accompanied by my own interpretation and comments.
Developing Personal Style and Voice
Women running for office need to be “tough enough for the job, yet feminine and likable, says Madeline.
She advises women to find their own voice and trust their beliefs. Don’t feel you “have to conform to a political stereotype,” she declares.
Yes, when you step out of your comfort zone, you could be criticized and attacked, but Madeline encourages us: “Don’t be afraid of dissent and debate—enjoy it.”
On the topic of dressing for success, she says a power suit isn’t a necessity. Dress well, don’t wear clothing that detracts from your message, but be comfortable.
Why Women Should Run for Office
Madeline relates that she governed like the men 90 to 95% of the time. But the 5 to 10% of issues on which she took action were issues most men relegated to the sidelines. She imparted a positive impact on the lives of many, by addressing them.
Controlled Anger as a Motivating Factor
Madeline’s original decision to run for office was a response to her anger at the fact it was so difficult to engage those in power—to prompt them to address issues important to her.
If we don’t let anger consume us, it can be a great motivator and confidence builder. Standing up for one’s principles to help others can be very rewarding.
If Elected, Never Forget Your Job is to SERVE the Public
Our country and the world face daunting problems, many caused by greed of politicians and top corporate officials who serve, primarily, themselves.
We are in need of candidates who care about all citizens; who will step up and run for office in the interest of passing legislation of benefit to everyone, not only the upper echelon of income earners and other politicians.
To elect such candidates, all young persons must become informed voters. Casting ballots for those with a sincere intent and a well-developed plan to empower others is essential to everyone’s future.
If You Do Nothing Else, At Least Vote
Whether you intend to run for office or simply want to develop power and confidence to change your part of the world in some positive way, I recommend the book referenced above, Secrets of Powerful Women. Though published a decade ago, the messages of the many women quoted are just as true as at any time in history.
Even those of us who don’t wish to voice our opinions in public, must cast ballots. Our ancestors fought for the right to do so regardless of income, race, or sex so that we could improve conditions for every citizen. We owe it to their memories to utilize the right for which they sacrificed.