This I Believe

Louis - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on October 2, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that the only way to settle disagreements and misunderstandings is through hard work and communication. I learned this from my mother when I was 14 years old.

In 1972, a year after our family moved from Chicago to a farm in rural southern Illinois, my mother decided to run for State Attorney of our new county. She was a graduate of the DePaul School of Law in Chicago, had passed the Illinois bar exam, but had not given law a thought until 17 years and 9 children later.

The Democratic county chairperson regretfully informed her that the heavily Republican constituency of this county had never elected a woman for anything, let alone a Democrat from the big city. At that point she decided to meet these folks face –to –face so that, at least, they could get to know who they weren’t voting for, and she could better understand them.

So, she began the job of visiting every farm house in the county to meet the voters and give them the chance to question her on the issues. She dismissed the advice to bring a ½ pint of Jim Beam and a box of chocolates to each home, which was the tradition of past elections. “Not my way of doing things,” she said, concealing the fact that we really couldn’t afford it. Myself, I remember months of making dinner for the rest of the family and one less plate at the dinner table.

Soon my high school was a-buzz with stories about the woman who would drive right up to your house to discuss your opinions and ask what you wanted in your next State Attorney. All the kids were saying, “The Democratic city woman came by my house last night and she talked to my mom for the longest time, even though Dad didn’t say much of anything. Has she come by your house yet?”

But all wasn’t easy going.

Soon enough, Billy Smith announced, “My Daddy says that if that Democratic city woman sets foot on my farm, I’m going to show her the door!” On hearing this Mom just replied “Looks like I’m going to have to pay Mr. Smith a couple of visits. It appears he has a lot on his mind and it’s going to take a while for him to get it all out.”

My mother completed her tour of the county days before the election, and, as you might have guessed, she won that race. Shocked the pants off of Duane T. Leach who had run unopposed in the last two elections.

But that’s not the triumph of my story. No, that’s not the point at all.

The real victory was that my mother went on to diligently serve the people of that county as a public servant for two decades, and, today, she is a much loved and well-respected member of the community. She was the right choice.

Her battle to be chosen was not particularly fair. It was hard that some could not vote for a woman, a different party member, someone from a different background. But it was what it was. Sometimes, when a goal is important enough, you just roll up your sleeves and do what you have to do. Even if you risk missing your goal. You see, Mom only won that election by one vote: 436 to 435.

At a time when countries are at war over cultural and religious differences, I believe the only way to settle disagreements and misunderstandings is through hard work and communication.

I learned this from my mother when I was 14 years old.