NEXT GENERATION FORUM--Turning from Fear to Hope in Politics and Leadership
December 5, 2008 posted by admin
Kyla Bender-Baird: What are your thoughts, as a young woman leader, on women, leadership and politics?
Julie Zeilinger: My friends and I always agreed that if a global warming-induced, Mount Everest-sized ocean wave surfed by polar bears doesn’t eat New York City, we’d probably kill ourselves due to the absolute ineffectiveness of our government. My generation was raised in fear; if we’re not afraid of death by the environment, it’s terrorists infiltrating our school or gas prices preventing us from getting a car. I guess adults expected us to cower in fear, but instead we responded with defense. We’re more sarcastic, determined and imperturbable than anyone before us. So, when watching election coverage with the pre-determined attitude that Obama couldn’t win because Americans can’t do anything right, I was astonished at the results: 349 to 189. He could, we could. He did! We did! I was crying, an act I usually reserve for death and severe pain, now used for extreme happiness in the name of politics. The concept of politics is one I’ve always been interested in. But it has frustrated me. I was raised during an administration run by men, one that hurt more than helped. It took me awhile, even after identifying as a feminist, to realize that women could and should enter politics. I had never considered being a politician. It seemed like a lost cause, and that’s how everyone described it. Even if you want to help, everyone will shoot you down. A defeatist since elementary school, I thought, “What’s the point? I don’t want to waste my time convincing people of something I know is right. I want to go and make it right. Let someone who likes to fight be a politician.” And most of the guys I know do like to fight. And that’s just it: to me, politics was a fight. I never realized that by wanting to implement change, I was fighting anyway. Whether I was berating people for littering or raising money for cancer research, I was always fighting for the change I wanted to see. I didn’t realize that that type of fighting is political, too. It’s time for my generation of girls to see this. We’re able to lead our schools to collect hundreds of cans for food drives; we’re able to lead our friends in city-wide races to fight disease. But somehow we don’t see that this type of leadership is political. Maybe if we brought this authentic type of leadership to Washington, we’d live our parents’ favorite cliché: we’d be the change we want to see in the world. Our generation of women can introduce a new, authentic type of leadership into Washington, adding a few sarcastic quips along the way. In my opinion, that’s exactly what we need.