On September 6th, the Program on Law and Government, the Women and the Law Program, and the Women’s Law Association hosted a panel on Women in Politics: Campaigning and Serving in Office in the Year of the Woman.
This year has been called “the year of the woman” because of the record number of female candidates running for office at all levels, as well as the role of women as voters and donors. This year witnessed the impetus driving increased political participation, including women’s movements like the Women’s March 1 and 2, and the prominence of movements like #metoo and #timesup. Joining as panelists to discuss and provide insights on campaigning and serving in the year of the woman were Hon. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), Hon. Eileen Filler-Corn (WCL ’93, D-VA), and Ambassador Connie Morella (R-MD).
Ambassador Connie Morella stated that “having women at the top—it makes a difference as you look down.” Similar to Ambassador Morella, each speaker emphasized the importance of choosing language that demonstrates respect and caring for one’s constituents and their needs; this is particularly vital given recent changes in public policy. In addition to this respect for constituents, a public servant “need[s] a purpose, a reason for getting involved, need[s] to like people, need[s] a passion, need[s] a plan,” according to Ambassador Morella.
In the Year of the Woman, Rep. Filler-Corn stressed that it was particularly important to “focus on the issues [because] your own identity is just one part of why you are in politics; remember what brought you there.” When campaigning and serving in office, it is imperative to continually focus on the issues most important to one’s constituents and to ensure continued advocacy for these issues.
Rep. Donna Edwards told students in attendance, “even on the bad days, it’s a good day. Public service is great. It’s not the big stuff that you do or the things that people pay attention to, but it’s the smaller moments. Politics can make a difference in people’s lives. It’s not about the debate but the ways that you can affect people’s lives.”
At the end of the session, the floor was open for students to ask the panelists questions. WCL 1L student, Eliza Collins asked, “We have seen a lot of diversity in the candidates across the United States in the upcoming primary elections, including women, minorities, and LGBT candidates—what has been done to promote diversity for those working behind the scenes on campaigns?” Each panelist gave an enthusiastic response to this question. The promotion of diversity in campaigns includes hiring campaign and legislative staff from diverse backgrounds, as well as tapping into local organizations’ resources to encourage diverse participation in campaigns.
Our panelists were incredibly inspiring and we hope to see more WCL women graduates become politicians!
Many thanks to our wonderful panelists, Hon. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), Hon. Eileen Filler-Corn (WCL ’93, D-VA), and Ambassador Connie Morella (R-MD) for joining. A big thank you to participating WCL students and faculty! We look forward to seeing WCL students at our other exciting events this fall!