“I think it’s really important for people to vote. Vote their conscience. Vote their values.”
On Thursday October 29, I tuned into an exclusive press conference sponsored by Biden For President between HerCampus Media Cofounder, Windsor Hanger Western and New York Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. Western asked Senator Gillibrand the most pressing questions written by young women from HC chapters around the nation.
Kirsten Gillibrand first ran as a Democrat for a House seat back in 2006 in a 2-1 Republican district in Upstate New York. She served in a conservative area and was reelected in 2008 by a landslide. In 2009, she was appointed to the Senate by Governor David Peterson to replace Hillary Clinton after she became the Secretary of State for Barack Obama. Gillibrand’s continuing focus is global climate change, Medicare for All, and fighting to eliminate institutional racism.
Senator Gillibrand opened with a remarkable reminder: “Voting is one of the best ways to be heard. If young, college-aged women don’t vote, then those who get elected will not actually represent our values.” Throughout the event, a pattern of urging young women to vote was clear in every single one of her responses, no matter the question.
When asked for advice and how she felt about first-time voter turnout in the upcoming election, Senator Gillibrand vocalized that if enough young people vote, we will win this election.
Allison from Emerson College asked: “What steps can people, especially young people, take to remain politically engaged beyond voting? How can we keep a momentum to make structural change after the election, regardless of who wins?”
Senator Gillibrand: “Um, I think it’s really important to win. Because I think a lot of the structural change that I’m certainly looking for won’t be possible if we don’t have the Senate, for example. We need to win the Senate to pass the meaningful legislation I’ve mentioned – like maternal mortality rate protections and healthcare is a right not a privilege.”
This encounter captured my attention immediately. Why? Because, there is an overwhelming misconception amongst young people, especially in my generation, that their vote does not matter or hold enough weight to create structural change. Gillibrand debunked this fallacy right away because she understands the true gravity of a single vote. Flipping the Senate and changing the White House is the main priority moving forward.
As for remaining politically engaged, Senator Gillibrand wants YOU to make sure everyone you know and love has a plan to VOTE. She wants as many people to be actively engaged in the voting process. Tell your friends! Question your relatives who still support our President about their beliefs! Get into arguments! “This is our country, YOUR future, and our democracy at stake!”
As a woman with a career in a primarily male-dominated field, Senator Gillibrand does not allow sexism to stand in her way. She knows women have so much to add to the world, whether it is in public service, government, and business. Women have different skills, talents, and resources that will make our country a better place.
“Women have far more emotional intelligence. Women are often very good at finding common ground, listening, and reaching across the aisle.” Gillibrand mentioned a New York Times study that recognized women in Congress have been historically more prolific. It is unsurprising that the women of the Senate created and passed more bills and had more co-sponsors than men.
“We (women) should value ourselves and what we have to offer. And if we value ourselves, eventually, others will value us too.”
With a monumental amount of issues dangling over the 2020 election, Gillibrand clarified the most deciding factors for Americans when they cast their vote. Much of the population is searching for an adequate COVID-19 response. Many people are suffering because of how poorly President Trump used his power to help Americans. His abandonment of the Defense Protection Act has left citizens terrified for the future of the United States.
Another major issue Gillibrand highlighted was the possibility of the Supreme Court ruling the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. This decision would strip access to healthcare from millions of people with pre-existing conditions. People who recovered from COVID-19 but still face long term health effects will not be insured. Young adults under the age of 26 will no longer have the option of being covered under their parent’s plan.
Finally, there is a glaring gender imbalance still plaguing the country. Senator Gillibrand recognizes there are not currently enough positions in leadership where women set the tone or roles for how our country should function. She emphasized the need to invest in the value of women now, or we will continue to “teach following generations that women are not valuable”.
On advice for successful, future woman politicians: “The guys don’t question their level of experience, they just run for the thing they want. President Trump never ran for anything, and he ran for President. So, run for the thing that you want. Don’t sell yourself short. Women sometimes are their own worst enemies. You are capable enough for any job you want to do. Use all your life experience to inform you and prepare you.”
My favorite part of the conference was when Senator Gillibrand told the audience it’s okay to not be everybody’s cup of tea. She recommended listening to Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off” whenever hatred tries to invade your space.
“Don’t ingest hate.”
As for feelings of discouragement after rejection, Senator wants you to know that it’s not a rejection of you as a person. When you run for political office, you are running to be a public servant. It’s not about you.
“Focus on what you want to ACCOMPLISH.”
Find out how you can exercise your right to choose at
iwillvote.com . It’s a one-stop shop that makes voting easy and convenient.