Last session, I was walking through Lawyers Mall in front of the Maryland State House, when I met a group of elementary and middle school students who were advocating for school funding. Their teacher introduced me as “a politician.” I was uncomfortable given the negative connotations that cling to the term. A girl then asked, “What is a politician?”
What should I tell her? How could I counter the ugly stereotypes she might have heard? Images of politicians I’ve admired – President Obama, for example – flashed through my mind alongside wispy definitions from graduate school. But what would any of that mean to her?
The answer came to me in a flash, and I responded to girl, “Politics is the art of making the world a better place.” Because that’s truly the work I humbly attempt every day, on behalf of her, and on behalf of you.
Since then I’ve thought a lot about this career I’ve entered – one traditionally filled by white men, some of whom have been champions, in their own eras, for the rights of others. I respect such men and their work, but, nonetheless, our elected leadership should look like the electorate; that’s the basis for truly representative democracy.
I am the first black woman to hold elected office in the 46th Legislative District, and I’m keenly aware of my duty to represent folks who look like me and who haven’t always had a voice. My granddad, George Lewis Sr., ran for school board in Madison Illinois in 1944, but never had a chance to help shape the future of his community. Today, I have that chance, and I want that little girl Annapolis to know that she can one day lead, and shape, and fight for her community. She is part of #ourmovement.
Let’s make sure every child in Baltimore sees her face reflected in her community leaders. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of that change.