Saturday, July 26, 2014

Who Inspires You?

This week, our theme is, “Who Inspires You?” I knew that, so I don’t know why it came as a surprise to me that at our opening staff meeting, we were asked to briefly speak about a woman that inspires us. The first to respond was Director Trish Ward and then we went through the rest of the staff. Fortunately, I was more than halfway around the circle so I had time to think…and my mind started racing. Should I go with a family member or with a famous person? Who would be a unique enough response that I wouldn’t be repeating the others?

As the first few staff members spoke, I didn’t know who to mention as my source of inspiration. Maybe I should pull out a safe response from history. That could work, right? Should I say I am inspired by Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister in Great Britain? Regardless of whether or not one likes her policy choices, she was a very powerful and important woman and she defied many of the traditions of her time, regardless of what men, or other women, said about her. Not to mention, she is the one who once said that in politics, “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” How can a young lady not be inspired by that?!

But maybe someone else in the group would talk about Thatcher…who else could I pull from history that others might not mention? Oh, I could say I am inspired by Abigail Adams, First Lady to our second president. As we have learned from her letters, she was a strong supporter of women’s rights and wrote against slavery and racism. Eleanor Roosevelt? Margaret Chase Smith? So many choices!!

A lot of staff members mentioned they are inspired by their grandmothers, mothers and sisters. I am too, and could stand up to talk about my mom. Should I do that? My mom, who did not go to college herself, recognized the importance of education and instilled a thirst for knowledge in each of her four kids. All of us excelled in school, attended private colleges, and all four of us hold graduate degrees. Even when money was tight, we were always fed, clothed and happy. My parents have been married for 43 years this year, and that is also an inspiration for me when I think about my own future. But so many others said their mom, and I still wanted to be unique.

But maybe, I should stand up and talk about my sister? She is seven years older than I, and I have always looked up to her. Kelly serves as an Assistant Dean for the School of Pharmacy at her university. She works full time, but also has three children. Somehow she finds a way to balance her workload with taking care of her family, being active in the church, and offering advice to me, her baby sister, whenever I need it. Kelly is an amazing mom, a great dean, and the world’s best sister. She inspires me more than she probably will ever realize.

Or perhaps I should talk about someone in the American Legion Auxiliary who inspires me? I first met Ilene Bailey when I was a delegate to Hoosier Girls State. She was Government Director that year and, prior to her retirement this year, she served 45 years on HGS staff. As a junior in high school I could see how important she was to the HGS program, and serving alongside of her on staff for 12 years, I realized how important the program was to her. Although I doubt I will have that many years on staff, I understand the importance of giving back to the program that had a tremendous influence on my life. Or, I could talk about Vickie and Jane who were, when I first met them, my party leaders, but who are now the Director and Government Director at HGS respectively. Both of these ladies have become a part of my family and I look up to them and they inspire me to excel and serve.

Or maybe I should tell my fellow staff members how much they inspire me. We have so many people who are dedicated to the Auxiliary and to their Girls States programs. There are staff members who have been planning this year’s Girls Nation since the last session ended. We have eight junior counselors whose enthusiasm is frankly a little overwhelming, but certainly contagious. We have a PR staff that inspires us to laugh, have fun, and to eat ice cream. We have senior counselors that inspire me to remember why we serve. Our director has a vision for a Girls Nation program unlike any other from the past 67 years. My fellow government team inspires me to stay on top of things and believe in myself – and remind me that sometimes we need to “do something death defying.” My fellow turtles are fun to work with and inspire me daily.

Oh no - My time was running out and I still didn’t know who to mention as my source of inspiration. Maybe I should mention my students? I teach in Kansas City, MO, and I have a lot of non-traditional students. I am constantly inspired by the veterans and the single parents who are returning to school to get degrees. I have had a student who was formerly homeless, one who was sexually abused as a young girl, a domestic abuse survivor and so many more other situations that I cannot comprehend. Yet, they sit before me, eager to learn about how government works, and how to make a positive change in their world.

By the time it was my turn to speak, I was overwhelmed. I can’t remember what I said aloud that day, but I do remember feeling so thankful that I have so many points of inspiration in my life. And, the list of who inspires me has grown. All week I have seen, from among our 98 senators, young ladies who are incredible. From my vantage point on the stage at Senate, I have seen many of these ladies grow. Your questions, your debate, your conversations on the bus or in the lunch room…do you realize how unique you are in this world?

It has been a pleasure serving this week and I want to thank everyone for being such an inspiration!

Government in a half shell!

Katie Cochran

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