When I was in fourth grade or so, my dad took me on a trip to Washington, DC. You know, here's your capital city! This is where that Schoolhouse Rock video happens! Here are some monuments to history and war! Then we went to go look at the actual Senate floor, and we stopped by the office of our fairly new Democratic senator: Patty Murray.
By way of background (or foreground) I interviewed Senator Patty Murray for last week's paper about why more women don't run for office. And part of the reason I got this interview with Murray—who The Nation recently dubbed "the most underestimated feminist in DC"—is because I told her office I had this conversation with Murray as a kid.
Here's how it went: In Senator Murray's office, instead of being handed a free pen and shown the door, which was what we expected, the person at the desk went to grab Murray herself and bring her out to say hi. At 9 or 10 years old, I was already noticeably taller than her. We shook hands, she thanked us for coming, and then, right off the bat, instead of patronizingly asking me what my favorite subject was or if I played a sport or how I liked DC, she asked me: "Have you thought about going into politics?"
She was serious about it, too. I told her I hadn't thought about it, that I was pretty sure I wanted to be a teacher instead. She urged me to reconsider and said that we need more women in politics, I should really think about it. I was so impressed, not only at not being cheek-pinched but at the directness and force of her request.
When I got in touch with her office recently, I told them that story and said I wanted to ask her about it, and when I ended up on the phone with her, her first words were, "I understand that I encouraged you to go into politics years ago, and now you just write about them." I laughed and said yeah, I do, but it's part of the process, right? "Well, okay, I’ll give you that," she replied.
I asked her if she'd encouraged lots of 10-year-olds to run for office, and she said of course. "I say it all the time, because I think often young people, particularly young women, don’t see it as a career or something they can do. If I plant the seeds, someday the US Senate will be half women."
- The Stranger