Tomorrow, 98 young women from across the country, two from each state excluding Hawaii, will descend on our nation’s capital. They are coming to Washington D.C. to represent their states as senators in one of the American Legion Auxiliary’s most prestigious programs: American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation. Over the course of their seven-day leadership, civic engagement, and mock government experience, they will be asked and challenged to ask one another, “Who inspires you?” This question and the process of asking and answering it is the theme of ALA Girls Nation 2014.
And trust me—they are inspired. They’ve demonstrated it, making it through the highly competitive selection processes imposed by their respective states; they’ve showcased it, letting their confidence, determination, and intelligence shine; and they’ve earned it, working through their doubts, insecurities, and fear of the unknown (or in some cases flying) to give themselves this once in a lifetime opportunity. Undertaking all of that requires a certain amount of inspiration, but where does it come from? Who inspires them?
It could be anyone. For some it may be a family member who is selflessly serving our nation in the military. For some it may be one of the twenty women currently serving our nation in the US Senate or one of the 79 serving in the US House of Representatives. It might even be 2016's all-but-confirmed woman presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton. For others it may be an immigrant relative who has given them the opportunity to live in this country or someone they know who is struggling mightily to live here themselves. Teachers, grandparents, government leaders, celebrities—these are all potential sources of inspiration.
The American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation Chairman, Trish Ward, is passionate about the “Who is your inspiration?” theme. She believes that it will be meaningful for the senators because, “When you’re 17 years old, a lot of people inspire you for a lot of different reasons—you’re just starting out. I hope ALA Girls Nation will show these young women that they can derive inspiration from people of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and professions—people in the public sector, the arts, and in their very own communities.”
I asked Trish who she is inspired by. Without hesitation she said, “Nancy Brown-Park, 2013-2014 American Legion Auxiliary National President.” When asked why, Trish shared, “Nancy has an innate ability to reach people on a human level in a purely genuine way. She accepts everyone for who they are and encourages everyone she encounters to be themselves, whoever that is. That’s the type of leadership that inspires me.”
At this year’s ALA Girls Nation we will ask the senators to reflect on their inspiration, to share it, and to channel it into each of the challenging tasks and moments they are sure to experience while here. The American Legion Auxiliary believes that these young women are up to the challenges and that they will debate, innovate, and collaborate until they overcome them. The senators will leave here with the skills, confidence, and inspiration—old and new—to tackle the much greater challenges and opportunities that await this next generation of women leaders.
The senators have been chosen and they’re on their way. Be sure to follow them through their week on this blog! Learn who inspires them and share #whoinspiresyou!
2008 Girls Nation Senator
2010 Junior Counselor
2011 Dean of Junior Counselors