Recent media coverage has questioned why anyone would run for office given the calculations and hostility of campaigns, and particularly whether women are or should be election averse, continuing the outdated notion that women are somehow too delicate for competitive arenas.
If we want to rise above the entrenched politics we claim to hate, we need to stop regurgitating tired language that is designed to maintain the status quo. Instead, we must urge innovative thinkers and change makers so valued in other sectors to run for political office and call the best and brightest of everyday Americans to step up to lead.
The truth is that given the state of our country -- the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, are just the latest example of how deeply divided we are -- we need truly revolutionary individuals in office who are devoted to making meaningful change. And yet, we continue to describe running for office using words like "dirty" and "soul-killing" that besmirch the nature of true political leadership: the power to change your community.
There are thousands of local leaders doing extraordinary work in local political offices across this country. When we constantly focus on the competition and dirtiness of the process, especially at the highest levels, we are masking all the good that is happening in communities in every state.
Language is power. Instead of spouting outdated ideas that women don't run for office because of traditional gender roles or because they are not as involved in team sports, we need to focus on the solutions that research has brought to ligh t-- women don't run because women are not being asked to run (by the parties, their friends, or leaders in their communities) -- and start asking.
We need to invite and inspire women to lead and change our communities. And we don't just want a few women leaders scattered across the country to rise to our call. We want to create a tidal wave of new women leaders who will fight for equality at every level of government across the country.
As congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis said earlier this year in a conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival, we have an obligation, a mission, and a mandate to run for office: "We need more young people, more women and more minorities to get out there and run for office and help each other get in. Go out there and be a headlight and lead the way."
We need more headlights, not headlines. But the brightest lights are not going to choose politics unless we make it an appealing, even noble, calling. We are leading an unprecedented call for women to serve called Invitation Nation that is inviting women to run at every level. By 2016, we pledge to recruit five million people across the country to invite 500,000 women to run for office. Think about the inspiring women leaders in your community and join our call. By tapping those who will collaborate across the aisle and who can turn new voters out at the polls, we will begin to build the political system we want to see in this country.