Photo from UPI.com, 2009) I originally read this at the great site, Off the Sidelines. I appreciate an organization that encourages and supports women to becomes active in public policy and more, but more than that, I appreciate seeing examples of when Washington (that dehumanized amorpohous entity) works: because people work with other people to accomplish important acts that improve how our country functions.
It seems as if we forget all too often that Washington, citizenry, constituencies, companies, everything…is made of people. Because I’ve always been people-focused and because I’m reading this mind-blowing book called Humanize (which is so good I actually put a review up on Amazon), it’s really on my mind, and that’s probably why this post so spectacularly resonated with me that I was moved to shift from reader to poster.
When I see action coming from Congress that is true grassroots beneficial legislation, time and again it seems to come from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. What makes some politicians so accessible, their actions so transparent, and their efforts so targeted to what citizens want…and how, in a House (and Senate) divided, are these politicians such as Gillibrand able to consistently succeed in their efforts?
Connections with people. Connections to the people.
Those bonds of connection–of being people-centric (as Humanize explains it)–are crucial to actually accomplish and be productive, successful. That’s because it enables the person to hear the people, talk to other people, and enlist people to help get what needs to be done, done.
Gillibrand has spent her tenure (and she’s one example) building connections with people in and out of Washington. In Washington, in particular, she has connected with Gabby Giffords and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. This article, which I was graciously given permission to repost, showcases exactly how these bonds and connections have not just supported Giffords, Gillibrand, and Wasserman Schultz, but have encouraged and empowered them to succeed—despite tragedy.
Most importantly, it shows that women can work well together (despite a lot of media and culture rumors to the contrary), can encourage each other’s success, and can, by connecting, accomplish what this country needs now most.
Here’s the article:
The new issue of Good Housekeeping has an inspiring article about the bond Kirsten has had with Gabby Giffords and Debbie Wasserman Schultz ever since they all served in the House together and became fast friends and a tight mutual support system.
Early in their careers, they met, bonded, and became one another’s champions, helping one another through crises ranging from minor to major to unimaginable. All young by Washington standards (Gabby is 41, Kirsten is 44, and Debbie is 45), the three represent a significant part of the roughly 20% of the Congressional voice that is female—of 535 Senators and Representatives, only 93 are women and the average age is 53.
As the article makes clear, their bond is unique in Washington, D.C. not just because of the dearth of women serving in the Congress, but also because of the unique way women work together.
The reasons behind the trio’s friendship are the reasons why women are so valuable in Congress, and the clout that they embody is changing the way business is done on Capitol Hill. They have committed not only to meaningful alliances with Republican Congresswomen, but also to a concerted effort to get more women involved in politics and elected at every level of government. [...] The women who enter the battlefield that is Capitol Hill have to be warriors, and courage—mixed with a decidedly female bent toward consensus—is at the heart of not only this friendship, but also a new generation of women leaders, Republican and Democratic, that is emerging across the country.
The article also explores another key part of the relationship among the women: the mentor role that Debbie Wasserman Schultz — who had been elected to Congress in 2004 — served for both Gabby and Kirsten as they considered their runs for Congress in 2006. For example, in 2005, as Kirsten weighed the decision to run, she, as Good Housekeeping puts it: “was able to ask [Debbie] the kinds of questions she couldn’t ask a Congressman:”
“How did you juggle a newborn, an election, your husband, and your child—with the two homes a Congress member needs to keep?” [...] During these talks, Kirsten recalls, “Debbie was very inspiring. She said, to both Gabby and me, ‘Not only does your voice matter, but, as women, you can weigh in in ways that can help move an issue. Because we’re women—because we’re mothers—we have a different perspective, a different lens. We’re able to bring people together, to consensus-build.’ ”
And then when Kirsten and Gabby were elected and arrived in DC in January 2007, that bond only grew tighter.
There were events for the freshman Congressional class, but the two women had their own orientation with Debbie. “The three of us became immediately close,” Kirsten says. “We’re all fighters. We’re all policy wonks. We’re all consensus builders.” They would talk about substantive issues—and make private jokes about Congress still being a Good Ol’ Boys Club “all the time, all the time,” Kirsten says…They had so much in common, but the deep trust and loyalty that blossomed among them, in a town where the term “friend” is thrown around lightly, felt like nothing short of a gift. As Debbie puts it, “Our friendship is a refuge.”
The entire article is well worth reading. It explores not only the relationship among these three extraordinary women but also their individual journeys both throughout their careers in Congress and as they’ve dealt with the attack on Gabby and her miraculous recovery. Through the prism of Kirsten’s, Debbie’s and Gabby’s friendship, the article really delves into what makes women unique in public service and why we need more women to get off the sidelines. But it also highlights one of the most important aspects to what will make women successful once they do embark on that journey off the sidelines: the support, mentorship and guidance that only other women can provide.