by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand| March 1, 2010 |
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (RIGHT) with her deputy chief of staff Anna Bradley (LEFT) and deputy communications director Bethany Lesser (CENTER)
Although they make up more than 50 percent of the population, women fill only 17 percent of the seats of Congress. I always encourage young girls to get involved in public service, and I think that to fix the nation’s problems we need more women in office. That means we need more role models from the political world to mentor young girls today.
I was fortunate to grow up with a strong role model in my life who inspired me. It was my grandmother Polly Noonan, who was a secretary for the state legislature in Albany, New York. She decided that to have a voice on issues she cared about she would have to join with other women to be heard; as a result she started organizing to be part of the democratic process.
My grandmother and her friends focused on grassroots efforts—they stuffed envelopes, knocked on doors and ran the fundamental nuts and bolts of campaigns—and the group eventually became a major force in Albany. As a young lawyer working in New York City, I wanted to do the same with my life.
Today as a US senator, I’m working on ways to pass on to younger generations the lessons I learned from my grandmother and other mentors. Last fall, I introduced the Roosevelt Scholars Act to encourage outstanding students from across the country to pursue careers in federal public service and, on a much smaller scale, I did my own part by hiring intern Katie Shorey. Katie is a St. Lawrence College University senior studying government and she’s also a Star Fellow from Running Start. The nonpartisan, nonprofit group is designed to inspire girls and young women who someday want to run for office by bringing them to Washington so that they can learn more about the political process.
Efforts like these, no matter how small, coupled with grassroots programs like Running Start, will inspire more young girls to pursue public service and give more women the tools they need to run for office, win and craft legislation that will address the challenges we all face.