Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Women's Lobby Day" or "Is It Time for You to Run for the ND Legislature?"

© 2009 Karen Van Fossan

I probably never mentioned this, but my career in politics started early.

At age 16, I found myself in Springfield, Illinois, a member of the "38th Session of the Illinois Youth Legislature." We deliberated in the chambers of the real, live capitol, which, as we said at the time, was totally awesome!

The first (and only) bill I ever cosponsored would have (had it passed) created a committee in each school to evaluate the competency of high school teachers. I had hoped that the next generation would get a fair shake at a good education.

Apparently, I'd had enough of the chemistry teacher who named the two smartest boys on Day One and henceforth ignored the rest of us -- as well as the history teacher who blithely joked that Amendments 18 and 19, Prohibition and Women's Suffrage, were just one mistake after another.

Sadly, my high school foray into politics (not to mention chemistry and history) was less than rewarding. But I never quite gave it up. As an occasional lobbyist and forever activist, I've been called everything from sinful to anti-American to a "kook" -- by legislators themselves.

For the above reasons and more, I loved Women's Lobby Day, or Women Empowered Rise, which the ND Women's Network sponsored this Wednesday. The North Dakota capitol felt like home to me that day. I could just about taste the urgency and the hope, a potent combination.

Eight Joys of Women's Lobby Day:

1) Being one of over 100 eager women crowding the halls of the capitol.

2) Hearing women legislators urge all 100+ of us to run for office.

3) Getting newsflashes about bills to better our lives.

4) Listening to Kris Kitko's rousing rendition of "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves."

5) Chatting with hungry legislators in the lunch line.

6) Sitting on the Senate floor as a special guest.

7) Sharing smiles with both Republican and Democratic legislators, whom I hadn't seen since last session.

8) Being the official photographer of the day -- and having license to put my nose in other people's business.

Half as Many Heartbreaks:

1) Feeling dismissed by my legislator when bending his ear.

2) Hearing the Senate's prayer of the day, in which the guest Pastor praised the North Dakota Senate for being "conservative" and "Bible-believing," and then asserted that in our time, "the consequences of sin" no longer appear to be what they should be.

3) Watching Senator Tim Mathern's bill -- to provide health insurance to 100% of North Dakota's children -- die on the floor of the Senate.

4) Seeing a woman legislator do her part to kill it.

The death of this bill, and the process by which it died, would have shocked me more at age 16 than it did this past Wednesday.

But I can't help believing the next generation will get a fair shake -- one of these days.


JGH said...

Wow! I wish I had been there. I once had a history teacher tell the class the war was the best thing to boost the economy. I wonder what he's thinking now!

blogslut said...

Nice piece! Sisters ARE doin' it for themselves! Great photos, by the way!!!

Senator Tim Mathern said...

Thanks for the view of the legislature from Karen's experience. I am happy that someone at least witnessed health insurance for children go down, most of my contacts outside the legislature don't believe such a thing can happen in a state that proports to be "prolife".

Today my grandson asked what I do, I told him we change the world.

T. S. said...

thanks for letting the world know WE are everywhere & WE matter & WE will make our voices heard!

louise said...

Wonderful photos and writing! THIS IS THE TIME AND WE ARE THE WOMEN IN THIS PLACE TO BRING ABOUT THE CHANGE WE WANT!! Let's go for it! In light of our fears, tears, and heartbreaks, we can not wait!