In early May I had the opportunity to attend a conference called Homefront Rising, in Washington D.C.
Homefront Rising is a one-day non-partisan leadership boot camp for military spouses. It focuses on running for office, advocacy and teaching military spouses to speak up.
I’ve always loved Social Studies and served on the Youth City Council as a teen. I even graduated college with an Interdisciplinary Studies degree with a focus on Political Science. Recently, I’ve been thinking (with the non-kid brain space I could find) about how I could be more involved in my community as a military spouse. A little googling brought me to Homefront Rising. I saw that there was an upcoming conference, and I decided I’d try my best to make it happen.
I didn’t know a soul going to this conference, but decided to go anyway. I’m glad I did because I made new friendships and connections. You know that feeling after hanging out with your girlfriends — how when you leave, you feel like you can take on the world? That’s how I felt after leaving the conference Homefront Rising.
My Day at the Conference
To start out our morning, we heard from U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers about the need for more women in Congress. She encouraged us to “take a seat at the table.” She also shared her personal story of being encouraged by a mentor to run for office. Representative McMorris also has set the record for the most children (three) born to a Congresswoman while in office. She discussed working with Representative Sanford Bishop, across party lines, to help military families and talked about their unique challenges. She encouraged us to get involved and know that we belong in the world where change happens.
An Amazing Panel of Speakers
We had the opportunity to hear from a panel of women who found varying pathways to service. The panel was comprised of Tatiana Matta (candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, 2018), Meg O’Grady (Vice President Purdue Global University), Kalish Morrow (2016 Candidate for Hanford City Council, CA), Joyce Raezer (Executive Director of National Military Family Association), and Chastine Bobbitt (Former Capitol Hill Staffer).
Chastine Bobbitt, who has worked on Capitol Hill in multiple roles, encouraged us to do our research on issues we care about and those we’d like to work with. Some of her jobs were brief, but the connections she made paved the way for further opportunities.
“No one is going to do it for you- Military spouses are the most brave, tough-skinned, hardcore, and resilient people I’ve ever met-just take the leap.”
Meg O’Grady talked about instead of looking for a job, searching for a way to help in our communities. She mentioned that to help in our communities, we have to have a network. She likened a network to a sourdough starter for bread and explained that you have to start it and feed it to keep it alive. Kalish Morrow spoke about her run for city council and what she learned about canvassing, financing, and local politics.
Tatiana Matta gave great advice about being yourself when you decide to run for office because people really want to see you. All of the women spoke about how authenticity is key and how you find your “why” for running for office or advocacy when you are true to your self.
In this stage of my life, I feel like an advocacy role is a better fit for me, so I loved hearing from Joyce Raezer. I was able to be in a breakout group with her where she invited us to problem solve advocacy issues together. We discussed advocating in the military system and searching where on the ladder to go to resolve issues. Not all problems on an installation need to have the installation commander notified.
Before going to Homefront Rising, I made a list of questions about how we military spouses could increase our civic engagement. When Clare Bresnahan English spoke to us, I knew I was getting my questions answered.
Clare most recently served as the Executive Director for She Should Run, a non-partisan organization expanding the talent pool of future women elected leaders. When Clare started, I was already feeling motivated and empowered by the other speakers, and I didn’t know how much higher I could go. When she talked about women supporting each other, saying “When you shine, I shine,” and encouraging us to believe in ourselves and not discredit our own unique experiences, it felt like the room was on fire.
“The path [to office or advocacy] is different for all us, but we get to create it.”
~Clare Besnahan English
What I Learned
Attending Homefront Rising reminded me that military spouses from all branches are uniquely qualified to serve their communities and be involved. From PCSing all over the country and world, you know people of different cultures and ways of life. You’ve seen what works on a military installation and city and what doesn’t. You’ve seen different examples in education, healthcare, and housing, and you have smart ideas on how to improve. You have a lot to offer whether it’s running for local offices, getting involved with your school board, joining a planning commission or emailing your representative, canvassing for a campaign you are passionate about or another way that works for you in your life right now.
Your voice matters.
So let’s get to work!