A Call to Action: New American Public Leadership Model Needed

22 Oct

By Gayla Schaefer

When Dawn Mays and I first started talking about this project back in March, we were driven by the bi-partisan desire to change the divisive dialogue that is plaguing our country right now.  As life would have it, we had to shelf the idea for several months because I was busy with my final months of grad school and she was busy with a very tight Sheriff’s campaign.

During that break time, we were both deeply disturbed by the attempts by some to re-spark the so-called “Mommy Wars” and felt this was also the venue to address some of that silliness.

Controlling the Definition is Key in Politics

Although we live in the real world where SAHMs, working moms and Hybrid Moms (the category we both feel closest to) do on occasion have difficulty relating to one another, we flat reject this “Mommy Wars” notion and felt the emphasis on it was a ridiculous waste of time and divisive distraction.

Perhaps if women could redefine the politically charged notions of feminism to better reflect the core definition I was raised with that that women should simply be afforded equality of choice with men and support one another’s life choices for those privileged enough to have them, we could put this ridiculous “War” idea aside.

War. What is it Good For?

War certainly seems a male metaphor for conflict that simply does not apply to most mothers we have ever encountered. It seems to us that strong mothers realize they must support one another to advocate for our children’s education and safety, maintain our communities, and preserve our children’s future economic opportunities – knowing that we do so not as a united front of agreement on every single issue.

We do not war with one another as we are working the school bake sale or cleaning up the neighborhood park because we do not agree on the politics of Israel or on a particular political candidate’s latest gaff.

I am sure that I am not alone as a mother who has friends and a neighborhood support system made up of mothers from every point along the spectrum from home to executive career work. It is this model of shared respect for mutual common core goals that bonds us together in MOPs groups, PTA groups, church and civic organizations. We do not look at other mothers and fathers and see political creatures, we see fellow advocates for certain shared values that transcend the political back-biting of the moment.

Inspired by Pakistani Teen Voice

As Dawn and I re-grouped and finally started to slowly build the Leadership Voices idea into something tangible, we initially started on a book.

However, after the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani child leader shot by the Taliban for using her voice to advocate for education, we were inspired to follow this brave girl’s lead and make our voices heard now as well. Women and girls too often temper our voices when we have something important to say, we decided. So we launched the Leadership Voices blog on the eve of the first Presidential debate.

As American women, we enjoy freedoms not universally enjoyed the world over – as evidenced by stories such as Malala’s.  In addition to our desire to support efforts to promote equality of voice in other lands, we are especially interested in supporting that right here at home.

Third Debate

Now, as we prepare to watch the third and final debate this evening, I am again struck by how our nation’s political system seems so broken and our nation more polarized than at any time since the Civil War. Republican versus Democrat. Progressive versus Liberal. Men versus women. Rich versus poor.

Compromise and solutions will never be agreed upon until we can quit labeling and name-calling one another and sit down together with open minds and respectful tones. It is really just that simple.

Do we expect to see any glimpse of that kind of leadership in tonight’s third Presidential debate? Not really.

A House Divided — Needs a Strong Mother

Dawn and I  have struggled over the past few weeks to work out some of the kinks in our call for a new public service leadership model based on a new Strong Mother archetype rather than the Father Knows Best model, however, our resolve that a new model is needed has only strengthened as we watched the debates. Our passion to find a model that will reinvigorate civilized debate has been even more solidified simply from the occasional glance at our Facebook feeds as we watch friends and family come to online blows with repeated name-calling, false characterizations, and fear mongering.

There is more than a breakdown in civil discourse. We no longer even seem to speak the same language as one another. This is reflected rather starkly in our two primary choices of candidates this year.

As we hope to prove, a model based on the Strong Mother who knows how to advance compromise for the sake of the family is one worth much exploration in these oft tantrum inducing, divided and troubled times in which we live. As we have said before, we are not calling for all female leadership. We are calling for a new leadership model based on how mothers make sure the siblings don’t kill each other, the bills get paid, the school library stays stocked, and everyone feels like their voice is heard and MATTERS.

Ready to Roll

Driven by our mutual dissatisfaction with the continued national arguments, we are now ready to begin our efforts in earnest. We have started to contact many of those who have told us during the past year that they would like to become contributors to this effort and are inspired by their exemplary ideas.

We invite everyone – women and men, parents or not, Democrat, Republican, Independent, and representatives from academic, spiritual, and community organizations alike – to contact us if you would like to join in the conversation.

It is time to demand better leadership practices at the national, state and local levels. It is time to heal the divides between ideologies, congregations, neighborhoods, and families.

It is time to get down to business and lead.

We hope you will join us in the effort.

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