|Ready to Run participant (with pink hat) and Moderator Ingrid Reed)|
The two keynote speakers this year--one for each day of the conference--were Senator Nia Gill and Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, Majority Conference Leader, both members of the New Jersey legislature. Also participating in this year's conference as our own freeholder, Linda Carter, who spoke on Friday night. The conference was sold out well in advance this year, no doubt due to a greater interest because of last year's election of a racist, misogynistic narcissist who gloried in the idea of assaulting women.
The Saturday panel I served on, "Finding Your Political Voice and Influence," was packed and had to be moved to a larger room because of the high turnout. Moderated by the great Ingrid Reed, Senior Fellow of New Jersey Future (and former Director of the New
Jersey Project at Eagleton), our panel focused on ways to become active in politics and/or school board elections, and how to go about positioning yourself to be appointed to a public board or commission. As always, the panel included both Democrats and Republicans: Azra Baig, of the South Brunswick Board of Education, Lizette Delgado-Polanco, Vice Chair of the NJ Democratic State Committee, Judith Lieberman, Senior Counsel to the Appointments Office, Office of the Governor, Margaret Nordstrom, Executive Director of the NJ Highlands Council, Mary Melfi, Hunterdon County Clerk, and me (offering a look into local politics and community service).
I have known Azra for a few years, as we have served on previous panels together, and it was great seeing Lizette, whom I know from her work as one of the state's top Democratic operatives, as well as from her labor work in SEIU--with whom we have marched for years in support of immigration reform, DREAMers, the Fight for $15, and in support of the Earned Sick Leave Law, which was finally passed in Plainfield in 2016.
Each woman brought her unique perspective to the panel, and we received great questions from the audience, which was composed of women of all ages, ethnicities, and from all walks of life. I met many young women who expressed interest in running for local office in their own communities--we all exchanged cards and talked about mentorship and what it means to commit oneself to public service. As the panel ended, I was able to hand out pink hats (made by a friend) to a number of women, who pledged to wear them to the next advocacy march, and to make donations to their local libraries. I look forward to continuing to work with the Center for American Women and Politics, and ensuring that we get more young women "ready to run!"