Experts say that our worldview is shaped by our youthful experiences. As a child of the 60's this empathetic, eager-to please, hard-working daughter of a teacher and a salesman, hit the “born in the right place and time” lottery. A free-range Kansas kid, I explored my world with a shiny blue bike I'd purchased for $62 (many years of carefully saved Christmas and birthday checks) and with a reading perch up in the pine tree, devouring my library books.
When I came down to earth, I viewed real life drama through my black and white TV. It showed me a world of racial injustice, war, assassinations of beloved leaders, and, eventually, a moon landing.
My world view evolved when I saw the image of a tiny black girl walking to school flanked by two huge guards, in awe of her bravery. It rebelled when my German grandfather spewed racist hate on a St. Louis drive-by of the new “projects”
My world view evolved when I sat in the rock hard pew of the Methodist church learning to turn the other cheek and share with the poor. It rebelled while viewing Vietnam carnage or race riots in the comfort of my living room.
My world view evolved in high school as I learned to be entrepreneurial and show up for leadership as the president of four Junior Achievement companies. It rebelled in the real world as I repeatedly experienced sexual harassment as an employee.
Evolution and rebellion. It became my life story.
Finishing my OB-GYN residency it became clear I would not find the work-life balance my family needed nor the time and attention my patients needed in existing medical practices. I created my own, taking care of my family and 4,000 women a year in Southwest Ohio.
Two decades later, after a successful career as a gynecologic surgeon, my hands failed. Several surgeries to my hands left me without the use of my thumbs. Career over. But I couldn't turn off the caring and signed up to volunteer with Team River Runner, a veterans organization formed to heal through kayaking.
Evolution and rebellion.
In my work with veterans I heard their stories of homelessness, poverty, anger at the VA, difficulty in finding jobs after incarceration, depression and PTSD, despair and lonliness. Often, after a transformative day on the river, tears would flow (by all of us) as a veteran would declare it had been the best day of his or her life. We lost three young veterans to suicide/overdose in my six years with the local TRR organization but I believe our efforts made a difference for most. We did our best for them, opening the door to a new skill wrapped in love and respect.
During the course of my work with Team River Runner it became acutely clear to me that veterans needed a voice in Washington D.C. So did my neighbors in New Richmond (Clermont County) and my next-county neighbors in Brown, Adams, Pike, Highland, and parts of Hamilton, Ross, and Scioto. Over the years the balance of power had shifted to the ultra-rich and well-connected. “We the People” had lost our power along the way and needed a champion to help our voices be heard.
Since there was a clear void of representation in Washington, I made the decision to volunteer for the campaign of the Democratic candidate Ronny Richards against the Tea Party incumbent U.S. Representative in 2016. Ronny was a pragmatic Progressive who worked hard and had a big heart, understanding the needs of his Appalachian neighbors in Scioto county. I planned to spend a significant portion of my time volunteering for his campaign.
Except Ronny lost the Democratic primary. What? He lost to a Pike County truck driver named William Smith. A man who never shook a hand or made a campaign website. A man who had run in 2012 and received 137,000 votes for his generic name with a D beside it. The un-Representative for OH-2, a Tea party podiatrist, was going to run unopposed in 2016 because an “imposter Democrat” had won the primary. Disenfranchisement with a capital D!
Rebellion against my personal disenfranchisement and that of my District 2 neighbors came in the form of a whirlwind Write-in campaign against the Tea Party incumbent and the DINO (Democrat In Name Only). We knew we wouldn't garner many votes but we “won” by building a network, exponentially increasing my name recognition, educating voters, and promoting the campaigns of other Democratic candidates. By spending 23 days outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections during early voting, I shook thousands of hands, passing out many thousand write-in cards and Democratic sample ballots. Dems throughout the district supported the campaign by stapling my cards to sample ballots and canvassing neighborhoods (eventually passing out 80,000). The Ohio Democratic Party recognized my political courage by endorsing me as a write-in (it made the national news!), as did the UAW local and state CAP Council, and the Cincinnati Women's Political Caucus. The DINO received 30,000 fewer votes.
Evolution and rebellion...