Sharing Democratic Values…and a Little Longhorn Spirit

During the last two election cycles, I have spent the days leading up to the election in battleground states, like Ohio, making phone calls and knocking on the doors of prospective voters in an effort to Get Out The Vote. But this year my travel plans didn’t include a swing state. Instead, my travels took me to Africa on a very different mission.

Regardless of political persuasion—left, right, center or tea—every American should exercise the most precious privilege of casting a vote for the leader of their choosing.

Last week I had the privilege of volunteering with the Women’s Democracy Network—an initiative of the non-partisan, non-profit International Republican Institute—to conduct a candidate training in Nairobi, Kenya. Recent gains in the constitution there have paved the way for more participation for female officeholders, and we were working with prospective candidates and their campaign managers to build their skills to effectively run for office and win.

The candidates—from a variety of Kenya’s political parties—had incredible life stories that fueled their desire to run. One woman lost both her parents to HIV at the age of 14. Another was forced to leave school at 15 and marry her brother-in-law after her sister passed away. Many had come from abject poverty. Two had lost their husbands due to violence. One by one, the women told their deeply personal stories and spoke about their desire to affect change in a system that has been plagued with corruption for far too long.

It was tremendously inspiring. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to help them develop messages that will resonate with voters, strengthen their public speaking skills, and communicate more effectively with the media.

I credit my education at the College of Communication at UT-Austin with developing in me a skill set that has enabled such a rewarding professional career. I credit the blessing of being born an American with the ability to pursue that education, and also with the freedom to speak my mind, own land, travel without the permission of a husband or father, and vote for a candidate of my own choosing.

Indeed, I enjoy so many liberties which I often take for granted.

Today, as millions of Americans go to the polls, most do so without ever having faced the kind of challenges that those Kenyan women have overcome. Many Americans will not even bother to vote, and that’s a shame. Regardless of political persuasion—left, right, center or tea—every American should exercise the most precious privilege of casting a vote for the leader of their choosing. And after the dust settles and the winners are proclaimed in races up and down the ballot, we will stand back and marvel at the peaceful transition of leadership that is the true hallmark of our democracy. While many elections around the world are often marked by violence and instability—Kenya included—by and large, America remains stable and peaceful.

Yet one more thing we should not take for granted.

P.S. I couldn’t help but share my Longhorn pride. After determining that the “Hook ‘Em” sign was not offensive in Kenyan culture, I asked all of the candidates and campaign managers to join me in hooking their horns.

 

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