Finding Your Voice through Public ServiceMarch 01, 2011
Are you ready to run?
When Greenville, South Carolina, Councilwoman Jil Littlejohn was first asked this question, she didn’t immediately answer yes.
Last weekend at Coastal Carolina University, 34 students might not have been ready to run for elected office, either. But that was before they participated in Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a training program designed to inspire women to run for student government and beyond. They represented a diverse group, from sorority sisters to nontraditional students, out-of-state visitors, and South Carolina locals alike.
We began the day with a great introduction from Natasha Hanna, Coastal Carolina University alumna and board of trustees member. She encouraged students to run for office “not only because they are women but because they are smart, intelligent, and dedicated women.”
Then we took a look at the numbers: Women make up only 17 percent of Congress, and only 3.6 percent of those lawmakers are women of color. Although the women of Coastal Carolina were not shocked or surprised by these statistics, the numbers drove the point home that women’s voices are missing from government.
During lunch, we had our most dynamic speaker of the day, Jil Littlejohn. Not only did she inspire us with her passion for public service, she gave us a realistic glimmer into the life of a public servant.
When Littlejohn’s mentor decided move on from the city council to run for the South Carolina House of Representatives, she asked Littlejohn to run for the newly vacant seat. Despite the motivation from her mentor and friends, who created a Facebook group to encourage her to run, Littlejohn didn’t jump into the race. It was only after taking a hard look at the other candidates that Littlejohn decided to run. She wanted her community to have public servants who would be a voice for their needs.
With a margin of 24 votes, Littlejohn won the election and is now bringing community leaders together and supporting the citizens of Greenville. Her passion and enthusiasm inspired us all to consider the possibility of running for office. We hope to see this councilwoman serving in an even higher office one day!
Elect Her–Coastal Carolina Women Win was a fantastic day of learning and inspiration. A few women made the decision to run for student government that very day. I know the women who attended can now see clearer paths to public service in their futures. The Coastal Carolina community will greatly benefit from their leadership, and I hope they go on to continue serving as voices in their community.
This post was written by Women’s Campaign Forum Political Programs Manager Julie Daniels.