Is Getting Elected to Public Office The Best Way to Effect Change?

I’ve been thinking about voting and change in general lately, especially since Election Day just passed and I voted.

The truth is I can’t stand politics.

2009 Election Day BostonI dislike the advertisements, phone calls, and people knocking on my door during election season, but I especially dislike how politics is so black or white. Yes or no. Liberal or conservative. Progressive or regressive. One or the other.

I dislike how in nearly every election I’ve ever voted in, I find myself voting for the candidates I dislike less. Isn’t that terrible? I find myself getting really excited about a candidate’s position on one issue that’s important to me, only to find that he or she has a view on another important issue that I find absolutely asinine.

I dislike how much money is spent on campaigns. In the?most recent gubernatorial race in Pennsylvania, one candidate spent just shy of $24 million and the other spent just shy of $28 million. Seriously????! I don’t know about you, but I can think of THOUSANDS of better ways to spend that money. Mouths that could be fed. Jobs (long-term ones) that could be created. Small businesses that could be funded. Kids who could get scholarships or grants to attend colleges. Animals that could be rescued. Schools to be built or renovated. Homes that could be rebuilt.

I dislike that even though there are independent, green, and other “alternative” parties–there really are only two. In the last presidential race, I really wanted to vote for a candidate who wasn’t one of the big two. That candidate really had no chance of winning.?I was considering casting my vote for that candidate to just “make a statement,” but to whom? So I ended up voting for the one of the big two who I disliked less. And for the first time, I didn’t feel like a proud American citizen when I cast that vote. I felt like I sold out, and I felt ashamed that I wasn’t true to myself. I told myself that I wouldn’t do that again, but to be honest, I probably will.

Most of all, I dislike the notion that one can only effect change by being elected to?public office.?

It was recently suggested to me that I should run for office if I really wanted to be a leader and effect change in my community. That simply sharing my message and the messages of thought leaders I admire, and creating community on my website and social media isn’t enough. That working with people one-on-one and in groups isn’t enough. That teaching classes, speaking on national stages, preaching from the pulpit, and writing books isn’t enough.?At first, I laughed it off and joked that I’d put it on my to-do list. But then I wondered…is he right?

I think about Joshua Rosenthal–the fearless innovator, leader, and founder of my holistic nutrition school, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition? (IIN)–who started off talking about healthy foods in his natural foods store, then started teaching small groups of students live in New York City, and now nearly 20 years later can fill entire stadiums with international students who have experience the program he created and positively affect and empower the lives of many on a regular basis just by spreading messages about holistic health and wellness, and helping the public navigate through the sea of conflicting and misinformation about what’s healthy and what can kill you. But the biggest way Joshua taught me to affect change was to genuinely care for my clients and my audience–to be truly present for them, listen to them, hold space for them, and guide them with love rather than judgment or fear tactics.

Joshua and IIN are very active in politics these days, because they realized that while an army of light-working health coaches can make a gigantic positive impact on public health, it will be much easier for people to work with us if we have more support from the food and healthcare industries–and that’s all politics. So while I’m grateful that Joshua and his team are working so hard in Washington to effect change and make health coaching more accessible to everyone who could benefit from it (and that’s really everyone)–his work has literally affected and changed millions of lives for the better.

I also think about Marianne Williamson, who ran for congress in California earlier in 2014. Marianne Williamson is a vibrant thought leader who makes the world a better place by helping people understand their interconnectedness to all beings as well as to the Divine–and she also teaches people that it’s the right thing to hope and to expect miracles, and that miracles aren’t just for the lucky blessed few–they’re for everyone. Marianne didn’t win, and I don’t know if she’ll run for office again. But I can tell you that I have NEVER seen such a huge rush of loving support for a political candidate–and I’m not talking about what I see on the news and the big papers–because those are political too. I’m talking about what I saw from actual people on blogs and all the different social media platforms. I was actually sad that I didn’t have a residence in California so I could vote for her.

Will I ever run for public office?

White_House_staff_meeting_in_the_Oval_OfficeIt’s highly doubtful. I certainly agree that as one person, and as a small business owner, I might have limits as to how many people I can help through my work. But I know that my work isn’t just limited to my individual clients, students, and readers because what they learn becomes part of them–and who we are always rubs off onto people with whom we come into contact because that’s just how it is. Joshua describes this as a ripple effect, and it truly is–and until I?started this website and then became a health coach and interacted with people I didn’t know just how significant that was.

I plan on continuing to do what I’m doing, and I’ve got future plans that will help my work spread to even more people–but it won’t be in public office. You know why? Even if I was to get elected, the amount of red tape I’d encounter, people I’d have to schmooze with and appease, and hurdles I’d have to jump would likely take longer to overcome than my actual time in that position.?The biggest reason is that I know I’d have to compromise along the way. Compromise my time mothering my children and being a solid partner for my husband, and possibly compromise my own values and platforms as means to an end. I’d have to choose a party–pick sides in a system that I believe is outdated and dysfunctional–and I don’t think I’d get very far in either party because holistic health and skincare, and my kind of spirituality is just a bit too outside the box to be considered conservative or liberal.

I also know myself–and I know how extremely frustrated I’ve gotten in the past when I tried to “convince” people about the benefits of a holistic lifestyle. It was like banging my head against a brick wall and it was exhausting. I don’t want to be in a position where I feel like I’m fighting battles at every turn, or that for every step forward, there are two steps back. I don’t want to be the subject of heated political debates that cause families to fight and give people more reasons to be at odds. I’d rather reach people who are already a little bit curious, open, and interested and be their guide rather than act as a missionary trying to convert people.

I’m happy that I get to do work I love, be present for my family, and truly?help people effect meaningful change in their own lives.

Comment BelowWhat are your thoughts on public office?

Do you think that the only way to effect meaningful change is to get elected to public office? Please tell me in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “Is Getting Elected to Public Office The Best Way to Effect Change?”

  1. Yes & no. I have been in local offices and in reality there isn’t much that can be changed because there is no funding – until someone from the outside is making such a monster deal out of something to get the boards attention – hence lobbyists. In my experience, lobbyists are the real people who can effect change. So, in my opinion, I, personally, would back Joshua’s efforts in Washington and make a monster deal out of an issue locally. It’s very hard work and exhausting. Just my thoughts and I agree with you wholeheartedly – change is necessary.

  2. Cathy Sutherland

    Hi Rachael,

    Very interesting article. I support you in your final thoughts. Your primary vocation is to your husband and family, the rest are secondary. Although, there may be times when things are switched around; temporarily.

    My husband and I were very pleased with the national results of this past election where there is a shift in the senate majority, as well as the state level, in particular, the office of governorship. Now, do I think we will see a monumental change? Simply put; no.

    I think for someone in your position you could look at the possibility of there being potential in the people you educate. We, the people make up this great nation of ours. You must believe not only in yourself, but in your followers and their gifts, talents, and callings.

    I’ll share a little example in my Mom’s life. My Mom is a very bright woman; she skipped the second grade, yet she was humble in her approach to life and still made a difference. Actually, this past weekend my Dad shared a newspaper article that was more than fifty years old. It was a short article about my Mom and a fellow college student. They were doing pioneering research about the effects of ACTH, cortisone, on rats. Their results indicated its negative effect on the heart, in particular, the result being hypertension. Their study was published in Nature; The British Journal of Science, and their work was also presented in Syracuse, New York. Soon after they were receiving international mail from doctors and scientists at the Hypertension Research Lab in Scotland, The Max Planck Institute in Munich, Germany, and the National Institute of Health in Washington D.C.; all of whom were impressed by their work. Now, others were able to complete further studies based on their research. Bear in mind, we are talking about an era without the internet. She then spent some time in grad school, but fell in love, married and had four daughters.

    After being married for fifteen years and her children now school, she began teaching Physics at the local college where my Dad also taught. This led her to her next job where she began tutoring underprivileged high school students during their study hall period.

    This past summer, she received a personal letter from one of these students she had tutored twenty-five years ago. In it he thanked her for all her help and devotion. He then went on to share his success story; he is now the head litigation attorney at a VERY prominent political action committee in Washington D.C.. I might expound a little on the degree of his poverty; they slept on dirt floors! And yes, my Mother made sure they were provided with carpet throughout.

    In my own personal life, I have embraced my vocation to family and was open to having 9 children. When my eldest was in kindergarten she shared how the 5 and 6 year old boys were talking about bodily functions, like excrement. My husband and I thought to ourselves, do we want to have our children raised in this environment? What will they be talking about in middle school and high school? We also saw how the schools did not embrace our values; they did not promote chastity, rather they promoted how to have sex. They still do, starting in kindergarten.

    Soon after, my husband and I decided to home school our children. It can be quite daunting at times, but it has also been my greatest pleasure. I relish the fact that I was able to have private talks with my daughters, and explain what was happening with their bodies at the appropriate times in each of their lives. As adult women, we still have these intimate conversations.

    Being an educated school teacher, I enjoy selecting each child’s particular curriculum. I enjoy spending time with my children and developing a personal relationship with each one of them. We have one son who is on the autism spectrum; he didn’t start speaking until he was 4 1/2. That has been quite challenging, but we were able to nurture him in a loving, “safe” environment and he has flourished and become quite charming. Had he been in school, he would have been the child everyone picked on due to his quirkiness and inability to clearly express himself due to his improper word choices.

    You may wonder why I babbled so much about education. Well, it is all government run and funded at the state and local level; politics! Now, we are beginning to see the goal of the new common core; a nationalized school system with federal funding. I shudder at what that might be, and I sit back and wonder how “they” could possibly know what is truly best for each of my children when we don’t even know one another.

    Perhaps THEY have learned the true value of OUR children; they will become our future and form the future of our nation. I suppose THEY might have learned this from one of their predecessors, along with the value of propaganda and its ability to control the masses. My father would always say, “if you tell a lie loud enough and long enough, the people will believe it!” Sadly to say; they did, and many were gassed and then incinerated.

    In summary, I believe we must believe in those we mentor. My mother believed in that young man and he went on to see his own potential and achieve his goal. I believe in my children and in the fact that they will each contribute to our great nation by becoming the person they are called to become in their own unique way. Finally, I believe in your followers and that one of them will one day become the political activist they are called to become. It is not only our labors, but also the fruit of our labor that goes on to produce even greater fruit.

    1. Cathy, what AMAZING stories you shared–your mom’s, her student’s, and your own. What wonderful examples of how one person can affect many with education, conviction, and determination. Thank you so much for sharing–I am humbled 🙂 –Rachael

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