Tell us about a time you were fearless.
I’ve done hard things before. I moved to New Mexico at 21 years old by myself. I worked as a hospital chaplain, repeatedly walking into the worst moments of strangers’ lives. I gave birth to two children with no pain medication. I do public speaking for a living. But I really had to struggle to set my fears aside when deciding to run for the Iowa Senate in 2020. I had never run for elected office before. But as an ordained minister, I always wanted to respond to opportunities to help.
How have you found confidence? How can we help others be confident?
We all need people in our lives who will encourage us to use our potential. Sometimes they tell us outright, other times they model it for us in the lives they live. I had a number of women in my life who ran for office. Whether they won or lost, it made the act seem like a real possibility for me. I started thinking about it and learning more … quietly. But it was only when someone suggested that I run that I got the confidence to start saying what I was thinking out loud.
What does it mean to be a leader? What can leaders do to focus on women’s and gender issues?
Being a leader means being the one to take the first step in a new direction and helping others to find their footing. There are many people who want to help, have something to say, and want to be offering their energy and talents. So many do not know how to get started. A leader can model a way and offer the support that others need to get going. Our government does not reflect our communities – in gender or any other demographic balance. For effective response to any issue, but especially those that impact women most directly, we need women’s voices and leadership.
What does it mean to take a risk? What’s a time you took a personal risk?
I took a personal risk by sharing a prayer written by a Muslim constituent in the Iowa Senate. I am aware of the animosity that many feel toward Islam due to harmful myths and lack of awareness. I could have played it safe and asked for a prayer from dozens of Christian colleagues. But I don’t want to miss an opportunity to give voice to people who aren’t often heard in those spaces. I got hate mail and mean comments on social media. It reminded me how important it is that the religious freedom of all Iowans is protected.