Where were you when you had your "ah-ha" moment? The moment when you knew exactly what you wanted to do in life? Were you a child writing on the chalkboard explaining a math problem to your peers when you realized you were destined for a life in academia? Maybe you were watching Barbara Walters on television and you decided that you wanted to be a news anchor.
My "ah-ha" moment occurred in the sixth grade as I stood in front of my class waving a large poster board made by my campaign manager (a.k.a. my father) encouraging my peers to "Be a Schuster Booster! Vote for Ingrid Schuster for class President!" I won the nomination and knew at that moment that I was destined for a life in public service. It is my hope that millions of young girls and women will read She"s Out There! Essays by 35 Young Women Who Aspire to Lead the Nation and say, "Ah-ha! I, too, want to be President of the United States!"
As women, we each come to the table with different experiences and unique talents. Over the course of my life I continue to have experiences that have highlighted my strength in leading people. I led troops in the combat zone in Baghdad, Iraq, and earlier during peacekeeping operations in Macedonia and Kosovo. I considered serving in the military as a career officer but chose instead to pursue other goals in the civilian sector. One experience that led me to my ultimate goal of running for public office occurred while I was deployed in Baghdad. I operated the Commanding General's daily video teleconferences to various military and political leaders. I profited from being a "fly on the wall" and listening to the Commanding General briefing leaders such as Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.
During these real-life and deadly serious sessions I witnessed foreign policy being made in Washington, D.C., and then implemented all the way in Iraq. The need for pragmatic and prudent leaders in both the military and politics was evident to me during these teleconferences. Witnessing all this made me realize that my military service would be especially helpful later as a public servant, in making sound decisions in foreign and public policy. I decided to leave the military and run for public office, hoping to contribute to political dialogue and wise policymaking.
I honorably separated from the Army and volunteered with several political organizations to learn more about running for public office. I have experience gained from volunteering for my town's Republican committee and other organizations. In addition, I empower women to be stronger leaders through my organization, SPARK. I train women with leadership and management skills so that they can more effectively and efficiently run their organizations.
I still plan to run for elected office in the near future, but in the meanwhile plan on obtaining a Master's in Public Administration. I believe the Master's will supplement my real-world experience with academic theory and practice. All of these experiences and knowledge will continue to help me on my path to attain my dream, my "ah-ha" moment, that I envisioned many, many years ago in the sixth grade. Hopefully, She"s Out There! will be the catalyst that causes more young ladies around the globe to join movements they support, sparks girls' interest in volunteering, and motivates women to run for office. All of these experiences will better equip American women to realize their "ah-ha" moments.
By Ingrid Schuster Tighe