Why I (still) want to run for office

Clinton to all girls: 'Don't doubt you are valuable'
Clinton to all girls: 'Don't doubt you are valuable'

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Story highlights

  • Jazmin Vargas: The election outcome was a setback, but I want to run for office now more than ever
  • It's hard to imagine how other women candidates will get as far as Hillary, she writes

Jazmin Vargas graduated from Barnard College in 2016 with a degree in Political Science. She is currently a Running Start Star Fellow in Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty's office. Star Fellows intern for a female member of Congress and receive political training and mentorship. The views expressed here are her own.

(CNN)Before the 2016 Election, I was excited at the prospect of Hillary Clinton making history as our first woman President. She wasn't my first pick, initially, but I supported her in the primaries, and by the time the general election came along, I was fully behind her candidacy. When the election went the other way, I was deflated. Instead of excitement about women breaking another barrier, I felt disillusioned.

Jazmin Vargas
At work on Capitol Hill the next day, there were just two of us watching Hillary's concession speech. I was tearing up a little when she spoke to young women like me about being proud to be our champion, when she told us we might break the presidential glass ceiling soon, and when she made sure little girls listening knew that they could pursue their dreams. In those moments, I truly recognized that because of Hillary and the other brave women who have run for President, women and girls have seen that they can run themselves and win the presidential nomination. I hope these examples inspire enough women to enter the 2020 primaries so that voters of any political persuasion can find a female candidate to support.
However, it's hard to imagine how difficult it will be for women candidates to get as far as Hillary. That's why, after the election, I have a renewed passion to be part of that work. Instead of drowning in the devastated tweets I saw on November 9th, I am more encouraged than ever to run for office, because the fight's not over. I have to make public service central to my life's work and it must inform everything that I do.
    Part of that devotion to service is my increased interest in running for office. The story of women in politics isn't just about whether or not one woman makes it to the top. The bigger picture is creating a movement of women who feel confident that they can lead and who know that their voices matter. Every woman who runs inches us closer and closer to equal representation and to our first woman President, and I want to be part of that.
    Even before the election, I was interested in political leadership. This past April, I attended a screening of Paving the Way, a film about Geraldine Ferraro's historic Vice-Presidential nomination hosted by Marie Wilson, the founder of the White House Project and creator of Take Our Daughters to Work. I had the privilege of meeting and speaking with Wilson, and I expressed my doubts about seeking elected office someday -- especially since so few people in politics look like me, let alone share a similar background with me as a young Latina immigrant from a working-class family. She responded, "If more young women like you ran for office, then in the next 10 years, that could change. You can change the face of government." With those words, she gave me a rush of confidence. She quelled my individual reservations and doubts by finding a network of women who believed in me and would invest in me as a leader.
    That is what led me to Running Start. As a current Running Start/Walmart Star Fellow, I have the privilege of working for a woman in Congress and learning from political experts about how to run. What's been incredibly valuable is how the experience and training come with a network of peers and mentors that will one day propel me forward when I run for public office. In the near future, I hope to run for local office -- city council or school board -- in New Jersey. I know it is truly necessary to share my contributions not only as a woman, but also as a person committed to making this country a better place for all.
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    This difficult election cycle felt like a setback, but has ultimately become a new motivation. The weekend after Election Day, my parents asked me if I still wanted to run for office given what happened to Hillary, and I was quick to say, "Yes, definitely!" I can move the needle and I will have the skills and network to make it happen.