What a journey the last 10 months have been for me. After a rigorous application process last year, I was honored to have been selected as one of eight Republican women across the state of Arizona to participate in the Dodie Londen Excellence in Public Service Series. A truly life changing experience. While in Washington DC, our executive director Kim Owens explained that we needed to select a representative among us to give the speech at graduation. I was stunned to have even heard my name as a nominee. So honored and humbled to have been selected. Below you will find the speech that I gave, as well as a very bumpy recording of the speech.
Tip to others - setting your tablet on the table to record your speech, while others at the table are cutting up their steak dinner, does not make for a very smooth recording :)
Graduation Speech - Class of 2016 - Dodie Londen
Good evening. On Aug 12th, 2015, I sat across the table from a group of women, most of whom were complete strangers to me, interviewing for a coveted spot in the Dodie Londen Excellence in Public Service Series. After about a dozen questions starting with "Why are you a Republican?", Kim Owens, the executive director of the program asked me, "What do you think you'll get out of being a part of this program?" I chuckled and replied, "I have no idea". Now in hindsight, which all of us knows is always 20/20, that probably wasn't the most well thought out answer, but it was an honest one.
I really had no idea what this program was going to do for me. All I knew was that I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be a part of something bigger. I wanted all of the noise and chaos in our party to somehow make sense to me.
While we had incredible speakers over the last 9 months, who presented more data and information about a variety of topics than you could imagine, it’s the little things that really stuck out. Like Gordon James’ comments about the US Flag stage right and the state flag stage left. Lisa Atkins comments on not having a plan, Jessica Pacheco’s telling us to just "do it afraid" and Congresswoman Martha McSally telling us to “jink” when needed, as well as a few other things better left to share in a different setting. Then there is Kim Owens who told us to keep our written speeches at the top of a ½ page of paper & single sided in a large font, so we don’t have to turn pages over, or put our head down when reading. (Show speech). Point taken Kim.
In just the first few months, we all realized that this course was going to give us an education of a lifetime. We were taught what makes communication effective & how important it is to know your audience. We learned about the history of the party, campaigns & the election process. I kept taking notes and leaving each session with my head spinning, always thinking on the long drive back to San Tan Valley, what am I going to do with all of this stuff? Where do I fit? Why am I doing this?
In November, Lisa Atkins came to speak to us and her story was and is inspiring. I remember being almost confused as Lisa mentioned that she never had a plan. She just walked through whatever door was open, every chance she could. After spending my entire life trying desperately to plan out every step of it, I realized that maybe my first lesson was to learn to “let go”. So without a plan, I contacted Lisa and asked her to meet me for lunch, just to be sure that I heard what she really wanted me to hear. That conversation and experience is one I will never forget. So real, so honest, so inspirational. Thank you Lisa.
Then in January, Deborah Johnson, with High Stakes Communication, said seven words that really sealed the deal. She said, “Everyone has the right to be heard.” While on the outside, I was simply taking notes, on the inside, a gasped and a lightbulb went off in my head. I finally realized why I wanted to be in this program and what I wanted to get out of it. I had spent years trying to be heard. Heard in my community, in my business, in my family, within the party and while I was successful in most of those areas, it was within the party that I was really struggling.
Was it something internally that was stopping me from being heard or had people just stop listening? Why did I feel more and more removed from the party? I had spent so much time analyzing and reviewing my core beliefs, my foundation and I knew I belonged here, but I felt like it was an uphill battle and one that at times I struggled with whether or not it was worth fighting for.
That is when I realized that while our speakers were amazing, the incredible women who were part of this journey with me, were going to make the real difference in my world.
Rachel Gray, Julia Graham, Nancy Cottle, LaCinda Lewis, Margo Treece, Jennifer Szatkwoski, Brittany Keeney and of course our fearless leaders, Kim Owens & Lisa James. All amazing women, from different backgrounds and faiths, with different personalities, thoughts, opinions, and you know what … it’s okay. None of us have to fit into a Republican box. We can be different and still be heard.
I had spent so much time trying to fit into a stereotypical box of what I thought being a Republican was about, that I became afraid to step out ... with my own voice, move forward and make a difference.
What I believe or have to say may not align with your thoughts all the time, but all of us have the right to be heard and all of us need to be willing to communicate so we can be. As Reagan once said, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally - not a 20 percent traitor. “
Being different is what makes our party strong. Bringing different ideas and experiences to the table allows us to grow and get better every day.
As a Jewish Republican woman, I used to feel pushed out every time a Republican meeting started with a prayer that ended with “in Christ’s name”. Then I attended the GOP awards ceremony this year and Robert Graham opened that meeting with a beautiful Jewish prayer sung in Hebrew. With tears in my eyes and my heart swelling with pride, the noise and the chaos was finally starting to go away.
Over the last 9 months I’ve watched my Dodie Sisters grow and evolve. I’ve watched LaCinda Lewis’ confidence grow, so much so that she is now a candidate for the House of Representatives in LD12. I’ve seen Nancy Cottle embrace all of our differences and realize that even though we may look at things differently, all of us are here to help, to encourage and to motivate each other. I’ve watched Brittany Keeney realize her strengths and find her voice and I cannot wait to see how she changes our world.
I’ve seen sweet little ole Julia, become Julia Graham. A bold, confident woman stepping out on her own with a voice that will be heard. Robert, look out! I’ve watched Jennifer Szatkowki find her passion and what she stands for. Margo Treece stopped being that woman who wouldn’t acknowledge all of the amazing things she has accomplished and became a woman who knows she has mad skills and having her on your team is a true benefit and blessing.
Then there’s my Dodie roomie, Rachel Gray, who has been a true inspiration, a sounding board, and an amazing friend who is completely capable of functioning before 11am, no matter what she tells you.
As for my journey, after recognizing in April that I would walk on glass for anything that I truly believed in and that forward movement was empowering, I realized that it was time for me to "just do it afraid".
As a result of the hundreds of hours of conversations with my Dodie Sisters, the incredible speakers and education received throughout this series, I pulled my petitions to run for Pinal County Supervisor on Friday, yes as in 4 business days ago, looked through my notes where I was taught that if I can only do one thing, knock on doors and I spent Memorial Day weekend knocking on doors where I collected almost three times the required signatures and filed them 2 days later on Tuesday, May 31st securing my spot on the ballot. I would have never had the confidence or strength to step out and do this if it hadn’t been for this amazing program and the support of my Dodie Sisters.
We have a fierce class of amazing woman standing before you tonight. Look at them, get to know them, support them and remember them. These are the women who will be changing the world we live in.
To my Dodie Sisters, I ask that you all continue to grow, to evolve and to apply your skills to leave this world a better place than when we got here. Let’s commit to mentoring other woman as we knock down barriers and rise up through the ranks. Let’s pave the roads for future female leaders, as our male counterparts have done for centuries.
To Kim and Lisa, thank you for your support, your lessons, your passion and your encouragement. You are appreciated.
To the rest of you … let’s make sure that we give everyone a chance to be heard. Let’s stop being the party of opposition. Let’s stand together united as Americans.
I’ll leave you with this quote that Brittany Keeney shared by Lily Tomlin that truly encompasses this program for us. "I always wondered why somebody didn't do something about that, then I realized I am somebody."