I survived last week’s crush of events to celebrate AAPI heritage month. It’s always a lovely time re-connecting and forging new relationships with those who are interested in uplifting the AAPI community. There are 21 million AAPIs and we represent 6% of the population so we’re encouraging talented individuals to look at public service as a career. Oftentimes, you’ll find people who aren’t interested in running for office because the sacrifice to run and be in the public eye can be daunting. Compared to pop culture, the majority of elected officials are not “Frank Underwood” or “Fitzgerald Grant”. As a political consultant, I can attest to not ever stealing an election or playing dirty to win. To make policy and politics “sexy”, writers have schemed scenarios that are simply way past anything that any boring campaign/election could ever contrive, with the possible exception of the 2016 presidential election. When faced with squeaky clean candidates, policy discussions and the minutiae of facts and figures can be boring. That doesn’t really draw people’s attentions. If during opposition research, you find information that can be used against your opponent, do you? Whose the messenger? How is that executed? As a political consultant, I’m still a human being. I may compartmentalize my own emotions to work with a candidate/public official but that doesn’t affect how I treat them as a client. I’m helping them to sell their views and ideas, not mine. I’m certainly not going to do anything to jeopardize my reputation and relationships and most definitely I’m not going to jail for them by doing an illegal activity just so we win. Understanding the limits of power is also essential to really understanding what it means to be an elected official. I go to bed at night with a clear conscience that I’m using my skills to help those who are interested in serving people. Working in politics is an honorable profession, regardless of what my counterparts on tv may do.
Here’s Tuesday Truths!
- I get asked about what makes a good candidate and I always say that it’s important to be an active citizen. Regardless of your constituency, you have the ability to be a part of your community. I’m a DC resident and I travel across the country training and speaking about getting involved in your community so that you can think about being a public servant and get into elected office. That being said, I’m not particularly an active citizen in my own neighborhood. I trust the people who are my neighbors to help me make informed decisions about how I should vote about particular initiatives affecting where we live. I quietly volunteer for a local nonprofit and have gotten to know the people who serve our community in the everyday work that they do. If I were to run for ANC Commissioner, I would need to show up to the meetings and listen to the concerns of my fellow neighbors. I would need to understand what challenges we face and the history of the relationships that have gotten us to this point. Listening is a key factor to understanding what needs aren’t being addressed and learn how I might join the already existing infrastructure to help get those concerns remedied. If you didn’t already know, I read music and have performed for many years playing guitar and have taken many years of voice lessons, particularly in opera. My voice instructor suggested that I switch it up and take jazz instruction. Well, that was a novel idea because as a performer or instrumentalist, I’m supposed to play the music as it’s written and most people have an idea that jazz is an impromptu performance. Let me inform you that it is and it isn’t. In my jazz class, it was required that we learn the pieces as written and then and only then were we allowed to “blow it up”. In other words, learn it as it was intended and then bring your own spin. I can say the same thing about politics and activism. Being an elected official doesn’t mean you are a know-it-all. Most people like the humble aspect of public servants and when you see a problem, learn from the people who have spent years/decades/more time than you on trying to solve the situation before you decide to blow it all up. Although I don’t know the particulars of this election, it’s my understanding that a younger person challenged an older more established person who was the sitting mayor and won. People voted for the younger person in the primary because it appeared from the article that the young person had spent a lot of his youth tending to the needs to the community by revitalizing an amphitheater and voters paid attention to this individual’s enthusiasm for their shared hometown. That is the kind of candidate you want to be, regardless of age, ethnic background etc..
- For all those who are in leadership positions in non-profits please take heed of these myth busters. So important that we don’t perpetuate the ugly cycle that causes all of us to have burnout creep. For those who work in non-profits, share it with your leadership so that they can understand that it’s not meant to be normal. Campaigns with its limited life span has similar attitudes but we campaign hacks know that it will last for only so long because election day is looming. There is a way to have work life balance and work shouldn’t consume your life, unless you’re an entrepreneur and it’s just a way of life (totally different topic with a broad array of answers & attitudes).
- Going back to the basics when you need to de-stress. Make time for family/loved ones and your tribe who will help you re-charge and release negative energy. I try to not complain because life is bound to have peaks and valleys and so goes work. I enjoy politics and the energy that comes from it (#politicscanbefun) so when there comes a point to when I wonder why I’m doing something, I remind myself of why I got into this industry in the 1st place.
- I haven’t yet watch The Handmaid’s Tale (am I the only one?) but I read the book many years ago when I was a college freshman and it was required reading (considering that I went to an all women’s college, Newcomb College of Tulane University, it makes complete sense). Just like in feminism, solidarity to the sisterhood is defined by power and where you are in proximity to it. This article really reflects on how the women villains are so terrifying. This fictionalized novel will hopefully never become reality, however we have had very real situations in history where the women villains have played a significant role. Think back to the Holocaust, slavery, the civil rights movement and there are women who are complicit in the evils that were enacted.
- Going from women villains to SHEROS because these Latinas are investing in other women. This gives me so much energy and I love sharing the accomplishments of women, especially those from diverse backgrounds. These stories are about inclusiveness and bringing new stories to the table.
- People who work in politics should already know that Black women are a core constituency for the Democratic Party. Getting them into leadership, whether by electing them to public office, through promotion within “mainstream” organizations or within the African American community, it is a concerted effort to bring them to the spotlight. It’s critical that the ecosystem also include Black women from different industries so if you’re looking to follow leaders, check out Business Insiders list of notable Black women.
- My alma mater graduated over this past weekend – Go Tulane 2017 graduates from this 1994 graduate! Which means that there will soon be an influx of interns and new graduates commandeering the halls of Congress, the streets of DC and the metro tunnels. Every year I want to take a group of these young professional women and give them my 2 cents on what is deemed professional attire. Each industry has their standard and it’s totally up to you if you want to blend in or stand out. What’s important is that you have a work attitude that goes with your attire, one that screams, “I’m a go-getter and I have the brains to match this awesome outfit too”. People will take you seriously if you look the part with your own personality thrown in for good measure. Here are other professional women’s suggestions on what to wear if you’re an intern or if you’re starting your first career job. For the record, most people say that I always look “dressed up” (trust me, I’m not wearing a ball gown) but their definition of “dressed up” is just my regular way of putting on my armor (white hat not included, Scandal reference BTW). Occasionally I’ll get mistaken for a Member of Congress and that’s probably more a combination of someone confusing me for a real Member of Congress, the way I dress & my demeanor. That tells me that I’m wearing clothes that allows people to make that assumption because if I dressed like a “stereotypical intern” then people would mistake me for one.
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