This Saturday, I Marched
Marching on Saturday was one of the most emotional experiences I have had in a long time. That morning my conservative and very supportive husband dropped me off at a meeting point on Capitol Hill that my business partner Kristin and I had pre-planned. A group of 15 of us gathered. A mash up of old and new friends, kids and adults. One of the 10-year-old girls who marched with us brought her handmade sign that proudly read, sparkles and all, “Girls deserve respect!” Damn straight. Another girl, only 9 years old, wore her Wonder Woman shirt, a Black Wonder Woman, just like her. It was perfect.
As we approached the Capitol building and continued on our journey, I heard the first roar of cheers. These roars continued throughout the day as my closest 600,000+ friends and I marched with love, hope and the future in our hearts and hilarious and encouraging quotes on our signs. My emotions took over a few times during the day, first when we were rounding the corner from the Capitol walking down the Hill toward Independence Avenue. As we moved toward the National Mall from a slightly higher elevation it was the first time I gazed on the sea of humans who gathered: women, men, girls and boys, Black, White, Brown and more all joined together to march. It was breathtaking and I started to cry.
On later reflection I figured out why I cried in that moment. I cried because it was the first time in my life I could visibly see other people express the pain and challenge that I feel nearly everyday when I think about the hurdles women and girls experience each day just being who they are.
“Why do you always talk about women?” “Wow, Jess, you really are always on message.” I get this from various people in life, even my close friends. Even though they know me well sometimes they still wonder why I frequently mention the lack of women leaders, or the language that I don’t like in reference to a woman. But the challenge for me is that I’m built to see it in everything. It happens as soon as I wake up in the morning and sometimes when I dream. I feel it, I breathe it, I see the way in which women are constantly afraid and constrained because they are not valued, respected or seen as equals.
So for me when I walked up to these massive crowds and saw the outpouring of love for a world yearning to see good changes for women and girls, I was overcome with emotion.
After the beautiful, intense, and powerful march, I spoke on a panel at an event for a new series called: The Power of a Woman (@powerofawomanDC). At the event I spoke about my work and importance of mentorship for young women to lead in politics. When I was finished speaking with my fellow panelist, a woman in the crowd asked, “Did your parents raise you volunteering on campaigns to get your political interest started early?” I answered the question with two reflections. First, I mentioned that I remember watching the 1988 presidential convention when I was 7 years old and recalled thinking it would be so cool to attend a convention one day. Gratefully, I have achieved that goal many times. My second reflection was that I believe I have had the confidence and power to lead today in big part because I have a Dad who told me growing up that I could do anything that I aspired to do in life. Unexpectedly on this reflection I choked up with emotion, then took a breath and said, and today my Dad said when he learned I was marching, “All right way to go! I’m proud you are there.”
This Saturday, I marched. This Saturday millions marched in cities on every continent. They marched for you and they marched for me.