#VoteIrene

I am very rarely at the cusp of trends. I tend to watch from the sidelines to see if a fad is here to stay, and then decide my plan of action.

This is something I miss about living in a sorority house. Information travels fast, and at Alpha Gam specifically, I could get ten different takes on a new place, fashion item, class, or topic just by sitting down for dinner.

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One of my greatest takeaways that I brought into the working world was how to collaborate and delegate. I learned it the hard way, by drowning in silent auction donations as a freshman holding my first leadership position as Philanthropy Coordinator. I silently made note when I noticed the boundless skills of the diverse women around me.

There was too much to be done, and too much that could be done, to do it alone. If I didn’t have an answer, someone did. If I didn’t have a skill, a connection, a resource, a sister did. Slowly, I realized our network was limitless, and that we might all be able to bring that spark to the communities and groups we encounter.

I remember one day, our alumnae Chapter President, Irene Fernando, and Recruitment Advisor, Ashley Harville, came to the chapter house during Monday night dinner. I was struck by their approachability. They showed me how I wanted to be an alumnae to the chapter. To be involved, relatable, and connected.IMG_0030 copy

In 2015, they stood in front of me and one hundred other senior sorority women, at an event Ashley planned and Irene was the keynote speaker.

She shared how the thought of “if someone is going to graduate and transform leadership, why not me?” changed the scope of what she believed was possible.

This question led her to wonder, in a dorm room with friends ten days into college, wouldn’t it be cool if we changed the world and Students Today, Leaders Forever (STLF) was born. (Find full speech here)

Last week, they stood in front of me again. This time in Ashley’s backyard, introducing Irene, this time as the DFL endorsed candidate for the Hennepin County Commissioner for District 2.

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#HypeCrew Meet and Greet at Ashley’s cozy NE home

Despite my delayed awareness for trends, once Irene announced her campaign last fall (the first candidate to do so) I knew I needed to be involved somehow.

Now, when I see the Vote Irene lawn signs, I have the reaction of Will Ferrell in Elf finding out Santa is coming- “I know [her]!!!” Working closely with Irene in our community makes me truly certain of her ability to lead, innovate, and transform Hennepin County.

Before this campaign, I didn’t know that the Hennepin County Commissioner was a role. I didn’t know it managed a 2.4 billion dollar budget, which put into perspective is more than the combined income of Beyonce and Jay-Z. I didn’t know how many decisions were being made and dollars allocated that directly impacted my neighborhood and community.

“In the face of outrageous circumstances, we are called to fight for the common good.” Irene Fernando

With this administration and current state of politics, I think everyone is wondering aloud or to themselves, what can I do. Sometimes that question is so overwhelming and the solutions seem so grand, that we do nothing at all.

I was stuck in this place for quite some time. I wanted to learn from all sides of the aisle that I stayed stationary and listened. As someone who rarely stops talking, I had a feeling this wasn’t the worst thing. What I was reminded of in this time, is that we didn’t need to figure this out alone.

For some, the curious question of “Why not me?” will lead to starting an organization or a campaign. For others, it’s recognizing how you can support what already exists.

Ashley and Irene have again paved the way for me, to display how sisterhood evolves. Irene’s #hypecrew is made up of Alpha Gams. And in that crew, there is a role for me, off the sidelines, that answers that scary question of, what can I do?

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Ashley is the queen of hosting
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Can we take a moment…

Today, Hennepin County Distict 2 Minnesotans, that answer is you can take part in a local primary election, and believe in what’s possible by voting for Irene Fernando.

“My future, and our future, is thanks to the told and untold stories of those who came before us. Ordinary people who chose to pave a path when there was none. Everyday people who risked some of themselves for the opportunity, for the responsibility to make a change.”

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Maya’s on the lookout for voters

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Namaste, Voters

44563Four years ago today, I was elated to see my state had struck down two laws I had bubbled in “No” for the day prior. A few days ago, I was able to take 15 minutes over the lunch hour to register and vote early in the general election. With my Wisconsin ID and bank statement in hand, I was grateful for my state’s decisions four years ago. My voting experience was seamless, efficient, and most importantly, safe. Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee this effortless experience for all. But what I can do is vote with that intention in mind.

I didn’t vote against the marriage or voter ID law for myself, even though I believe I benefit directly and indirectly from both results. I can’t give equal access for a leisurely skyway walk over to the polls, but I can share my positive experience to convince one more voter that it’s worth their time. I can’t guarantee a safe and welcoming polling experience, but I can vote for candidates who make this a priority. Candidates whose rhetoric protects and promotes all American citizens, and encourages every voice to be heard.

Now, that can be easier said than done. Wanting more voter turnout means voters regardless of what bubble they will fill in. Wanting more voices to be heard means voices regardless of if their opinion aligns with yours. Mindsets of a “wasted vote,” or hoping a person doesn’t “cancel out” your vote don’t fit that bill. Deleting Facebook friends for their opinions, avoiding alternative points of view, or shunning certain headlines don’t fit that bill.

Tolerance is being genuinely happy for the involvement of third party voters, voters of one’s opposing party, and voters who will leave the presidential candidate bubbles blank. Because they’re voters. If you want to see tolerance, practice tolerance.

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Cheers to you, voters

It’s not easy. I think that’s where we’re all the same. For the most part, we all want the same things. It’s human nature to desire, to demand, safety. That’s innately our highest priority- whether to fight or flight  (it’s even our first chakra). But how we think our country will remain safe, and what it means to be protected, is incredibly unique to each person. Understanding this doesn’t necessarily solve anything. It’s a simplified view of one issue. But for me, it provides an example of a shared experience with people that I might otherwise think I have nothing in common with.

For me, practicing tolerance calls for talking (and writing) less and listening more. It means not reacting to an opposing opinion, but rather wondering, with curiosity not judgement, what makes someone feel that way. What experiences have they had that I haven’t? For example, Trump’s recent stance on minorities in Minnesota wouldn’t gain traction if it resonated with no one.

We all have our individual lens through which we see the world. Because these recent comments don’t align with my opinions and values, it can be difficult to accept that point of view. But tolerance doesn’t need to be silence, which is why it’s just as important for it to be made known when a comment or speech does not represent the worldview of a person, group, or community, as Betsy Hodges, Al Franken, R.T. Rybak, and others have done.

What’s helped me (a news junkie who tries to also keep her heart rate below 60 bpm) is remembering that my vote counts, the vote of that loud-person-on-Facebook-you-can’t-remember-where-you-met-but-are-for-some-reason-FB-friends-because-they-wished-you-a-happy-birthday-once counts,  but there’s also a lot more that counts outside of the voting booth and on days other than November 8.

It’s easier than ever this year to be an informed local voter, a simple google search of “What’s on my ballot,” will fill you in on what names to prepare for. If there’s something that is an essential outcome for you after this election, think of how you can be involved in that on a local level. And if you wish this election season’s climate was more tolerant, less divisive, and more balanced, let that start with you. 

Props for my election day viewing party- because we all need something to celebrate
Props for my election day viewing party- because we all need something to celebrate