(this is a republishing, since the last version of this decided to format weirdly and no one could actually read it)
One of the best things about college is the fact that I actually feel like my opinion is respected. In high school, I was kind of "below average." I was actually technically above average, but I hung out with such crazy smart, type-A people, so if you took me and my friends and put us on a scale of intellect, I would probably be about the middle of the spectrum, and I did stay with the pack grade-wise, but I didn't really feel respected. Like, because I had slightly more of a conservative view on politics, I was completely shut down whenever I opened my mouth, so I just stopped trying. Even from the conservative point of view ins Sussex, I still wasn't heard, because I wasn't a crazy suburban white man with no logic to my arguments. So I knew nothing about local politics, and I kind of just kept my mouth shut. Girls don't talk about politics where I'm from, and if they do, they're either liberal, or not listened to at all. But now I'm here. And here, I actually have a job IN local politics. And here, I'm not pigeonholed into the "gifted kids" group, included and compared with them constantly.
One of my favorite things here is when guys start talking about politics, and I pipe up and share something, and they just freak out... like WOW. She has good points! I feel respected by the guys here, and that's such a rare and cool thing. Like, I had a small political debate with a really good friend of mine, and he actually respected my opinion enough to disagree with it. In the past, I've tried to push a little, to disagree, to make a slightly controversial or different statement, and either the guy I was talking with would completely shut me down, or he would immediately agree with me because he didn't care enough about me or the topic to actually hash it out. But this friend, he actually seriously considered my argument, and listened, and then he DISAGREED. And that was fantastic.
I think the person who I would consider one of my major roles is someone I actually discovered quite recently. She's a woman named Mary Fisher, who is credited with giving one of the greatest speeches of all time, titled A Whisper of AIDS. It was given to the Republican National Convention in 1992, and it literally rocked the house. I guess I respect her so much because of the reactions of the whitewashed male Republican members. I'm paraphrasing, but one man said something like, "If anyone else had said what she said, we might not have listened as well, but to hear this Republican princess, this near-angel get up there and talk commanded our attention." I feel like there aren't a lot of strong, sane Republican women. If you have a passion for social issues and you are loud about it, women usually have a more attentive ear on the Liberal side, so they support that side. But, at the same time, even though it is true that the Republican side tends to be a bit of a sausage fest, the lack of female voices on the Republican side is partly because Republican women are either taught to be quiet and not so strong-willed, or they become kind of like the Republican men, aggressive, overly confrontational and overbearing.
I very recently went to this conference for the Colorado Women's Alliance, and I was so incredibly inspired by the women there. They were tough, and smart, and absolutely terrifying. However, they also had this kind of aura around them, a gracefulness that made them so beautiful, and you couldn't help but have a deep, deep respect for these women. I met a women who was the founder of her own Cotillion School, where she taught etiquette. And she was awesome. I guess that's the kind of woman I aspire to be. I want to be a woman who is respected and intelligent, and tough as nails, but who also knows how to be gracious and genteel and composed. People lose respect for women because women let themselves get dragged down into drama and cattiness, and start pulling each other down, but what we really should be doing is simply aspiring to great things ourselves, taking the hands of the beautiful women around us and pulling them along with us.
Women are negotiators. They inspire. They build fires in the hearts of people.
That's just a little something I've been learning lately. I am made to inspire. I am made to encourage. I am made to be gracious, and kind, and loving, and to bring up important issues and talk intelligently about it. Conservative women are smart, and strong, and they need to speak up more, because I think the world needs to hear what they have to say.