Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The award goes to....

You know, it's hard for women to find good role models.

We have some women who claim to be leaders, but they are not role models, and most of them aren't real leaders, either. They are posers or sycophants or egotists. They are hypocritical or dishonest or demeaning. Many of them use their gender as a tool. I don't look up to them. They irritate me. Hillary Clinton, Sara Palin and at least one local official come to mind. Then I dismiss them from my mind. I have better things to do than extensively contemplate people I do not admire.

I once blogged that I believed Lucy Beuchamp was a great female role model, but since then, I haven't really thought about it much. I guess I've just been busy. But it's a new year, and I need some inspiration, so I want a new woman role model for the year.

It's not that I want to go out looking for female role models. I don't. Women role models who are true leaders should just kind of appear in your life, I think.

How am I defining a role model?

1. Someone who makes a positive impact within her family and her community.

2. Someone who has overcome challenges and has used those experiences to better herself and the world.

3. Someone who isn't afraid to openly love and treat people fairly.

4. Someone who is knowledgeable, smart, strong, gentle, wise and secure.

5. Someone who, in spite of having all these qualities, is humble.

So my woman role model of the year--a new award being presented by the Poodle--is Jeanette Rishell.

Jeannete happens to be running for the VA House of Delegates, 50th District--which isn't my district, by the way. I'm not a party member, either, so please don't mistake this post for a party endorsement. It's not one. It's a "Thank you, Jeanette, for giving women a role model and for providing inspiration to act through civic engagement and leadership."

I met Jeanette at church before I knew she was "a politician." That's a good thing, because if you read this blog, you know how I feel about politicians. I heard she was running for office and I thought, "Is this the same person?" I mean, she is so NICE!

I then saw Jeanette at organization meetings that I also started to attend. Weird! We like some of the same stuff. That means she CAN'T be a politician.

Jeanette has this even, calming, warm personality and a genuine smile that doesn't say, "I'm a politician." I guess that's because she ISN'T a politician. She's a leader and a role model.

Whenever I hear Jeanette speak at these meetings, it is always with that same tone of reason, fairness, forethought, calm, logic and inner strength. Wow. That's not a combination I encounter regularly.

To help you get a better idea of the kinds of organizations Jeanette belongs to, here is her full list of her affiliations (which is longer than mine, of course):

  • Prince William County/Greater Manassas Chamber of Commerce, member
  • Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce, member
  • Committee of 100, twice served as their Director from Manassas Park
  • League of Women Voters, member
  • Unity in the Community, former Secretary/Recorder and Vice Chair
  • NAACP, member
  • American Association of University Women, member
  • “Yes You Can! Young Lady-Young Man” youth mentoring foundation, Board Member
  • Manassas Park Electoral Board, former Vice Chair
  • Bull Run Unitarian Universalists Congregation, member and Board Liaison
  • Leadership Prince William, Class of 2009
In addition, Jeanette was the 2006 recipient of the “Voices of Women” award presented by the Prince William County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
But it's not the memberships that make the role model. It's the things Jeanette does as part of her memberships and as part of her life. She is an amazingly giving person.
It's hard being a woman leader of any kind, whether it's of a family, a group or organization. In politics, I imagine it must be particularly hard. I mean, political women are expected to be mean but wear skirts and pantyhose, aren't they? What's up with THAT? Jeanette doesn't seem to get into the gender thing, though. She is obviously a woman, and she is a lovely woman. But she doesn't play into the girly-girl or macho-lady role. She's balanced. And she is kind.
I like balance. I like kindness. And I like good role models.
So thanks, Jeanette, for being someone women can look up to without feeling put down.
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