“Sugar, you can change the world,” my Nana told me as she tucked me into bed at night. “We sure did.”
Five years ago, I was the kind of person who always had a plan. I was working at a law firm with plans to attend law school and followed a predictable roadmap to success. Yet as I lay in bed at night, I kept thinking about my Nana’s words: I could change the world.
I don’t recall how I learned about the League but just knew about its reputation as one of non-biased political information. When it was time to vote I would often check the League’s positions on issues to expedite my information gathering as I was making my voting decisions.
After attending a League event and learning about rampant voter discrimination in 21st century California and meeting many passionate and knowledgeable long-time League members, I felt compelled to join the League. I wanted not only to further educate myself about the political process and learn from these strong and inspiring women leaders, but also help increase civic awareness and engagement in my local community.
I joined the League of Women Voters in the summer of 2014 at the recommendation of a college friend. She was involved with the board and thought it would be a good way for me to get to know San Francisco, since I had just moved to the city. When I joined, I had never worked with voting advocacy specifically, so I was a little intimidated.
For as long as I can remember, I have always craved knowledge, wanted to understand the world around me, and found a way to be a part of positive change. Some of my favorite courses in my undergraduate degree touched on social change and social inequities on both a national and international scale. I had always been interested in political issues but my International Affairs degree really opened my eyes to the world around me. After some very enlightening courses, I realized that there is still a lot of work to be done – not just on a national or international level, but here in our backyards.
I joined the League of Women Voters of San Francisco in the summer of 2014. After being out of law school for a few years I was missing the civic extracurricular activities I used to be engaged in through school. I started looking into San Francisco commissions and committees with vacancies that needed support and then one of my mentors, a past President of the League of Women Voters of San Francisco, recommended the organization and told me about the League’s work with the Sunshine Ordinance Taskforce.
It was 1975 when we moved to my hometown, Oak Ridge, TN with 2 toddlers. We knew the schools and community were solid and would be good for our children. After a few months I saw a notice that the League of Women Voters had a program about development that included the developer of our subdivision on the panel.
There are many issues I want to spend my life addressing–violence against women, pay equity, public education, equal access, welfare and poverty, mass incarceration, structural racism and sexism, military reform, homophobia and heterosexism, freedom of information, the role of the media, and the list goes on.
It was during my last semester of graduate school when I was first introduced to the League through a 60 Minutes special about the history of the US presidential debates. As a I sat in class, I remember thinking two things: 1) how infuriated I was that the debates were allowed to be overrun by both political parties and the TV networks and 2) how incredibly proud I was that the League stood up to these self-interested superpowers.
I grew up in a household where everything was fair game for discussion at the dinner table. Religion, art, politics and football were all hotly debated topics on a regular basis (along with whether we had to eat our carrots or not.) As a result, I believed then, and still do today, that we are all free to have our own opinion and that discussing it in a public forum is not only the right thing to do, it is the “might of the innocent” thing to do.
Membership and participation in the League has enabled me to see various sides of the issues and positions we take. The activities in which I have participated (mostly on the Voter Education side) have been incredibly interesting. My fellow members are a wonderful group! My role, for the past several election cycles, has been putting together candidate forums for elections of local, state and Federal offices within San Francisco.
I first turned to the League when I became an American citizen and became eligible to vote. I was very excited but overwhelmed by all the propositions on the ballot and looked to the League for guidance. A co-worker recommended that I look at the League of Women Voters’ Pro-Con Guide to better understand the ballot measures. I was very impressed. Since then, I have been recommending the League’s website to people so they can gain an understanding of issues prior to casting their votes.
I had become concerned about the problems that can occur when votes are counted without a paper trail and the implications for the integrity of our democratic procedures. I read articles about the issues arising from the use of these machines, and decided to get involved with local election integrity groups in San Francisco to learn more about the electoral processes and how security and integrity are preserved. A friend suggested I join the League of Women Voters to explore this area further.
My first role in the San Francisco League was Treasurer where I recognized the importance of funding for this great organization. Funds to support the League’s education efforts come from grants, donations, membership revenue and fundraising events. Without this funding, the League cannot do what it does best, which is provide informed, nonpartisan, detailed information on candidates, propositions, and local measures for every election.
I was reintroduced to the League a few years back. I realized that my job was all-consuming and wearing me thin. I did not have a moment free for a personal life, let alone time to give back to the community. I finally gained the courage to quit my job and start my own engineering consulting firm. At last I had control of my own schedule. I knew I wanted to be more involved in the San Francisco community.
My first contact with the League came more than 40 years ago during the 1960s in New Jersey. As a suburban mother of young children, I was very interested in the local public schools, which were struggling with the problem of de facto segregation. I went to a League of Women Voters meeting because a friend told me it was a group of women interested in local issues.
My journey with the League began during my junior year at San Francisco State University. A course I was taking called “Women in the World” required volunteer work in order to pass the class and receive full credit. I found myself overwhelmed in my search to find an appropriate non-profit organizational match. Little did I know the perfect match would soon find me.
During my presidency of the LWVSF (1979-81), California was in a water crisis—very similar to the situation we see today. A drought-prone state with the largest population in the U. S. will always find managing water resources a challenge. After completing my term as president, I found that the Water Study had captured my interest. I became active with the LWV Bay Area Water Committee.
Alas, I cannot remember what led me to the League. They still had unit meetings then – in different neighborhoods and one downtown at headquarters. The latter was not far from the Archives, and met at 6 PM, which was convenient for me to get there after work. That’s where I went (in 1999, as I recall) to become acquainted with the activities and philosophy of the League, and meet the San Francisco members and officers.
Like so many others, I joined the LWVSF because I wanted to help educate voters so they could make informed decisions when they cast their ballots. My interest in doing this was sparked because, before I became a member, the League had helped me in just this way. It all began in November 2001. I was looking for materials to help me understand the issues I would be voting on in the local election.
I joined the San Francisco League back in the mid-90s because I thought it would be a good addition to my CV. I had just completed a Master’s program and had, of course, heard of the League. I was very interested in environmental issues and understood how San Francisco politics works so I thought it would be a good fit for me.
As I look back on my years with the League of Women Voters I realize that there was a direct correlation between the hours I spent on projects and the friendships formed with the people I worked with. I got out of League what I put into it.
Though I wasn’t a League member, I had worked on League-like issues when I lived in Portland, Oregon, and realized that a great way to learn more about this city would be to join the League of Women Voters here.
A few years ago I realized I was mad about the direction in which the country, my country, was moving. I also realized that being mad and not taking some positive action wasn’t going to accomplish anything.