Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator

After working as a stockbroker and a journalist, Barbara Boxer, 62, found her voice as a political advocate. At first she thought she needed only clarity and determination. This letter is for her 32-year-old self, the mother of a seven-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl, preparing to run for office for the first time. Boxer lost that election, for the Marin County Board of Supervisors (in California), but won the office four years later, and went on to win election to the House of Representatives five times before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 and again in 1998.

Dear Barbara,

You're full of fire. You're passionate about children, choice, and taking care of the environment. I know how strongly you feel about all these things in your heart, but look, you have to understand that the next person may not agree with you.

Don't be so judgmental or dismissive. Don't jump to the conclusion that another person can never, ever see it your way.

The name of the game in politics is to move forward an issue you deeply believe in. You're just starting out and young enough to be impatient when people don't see your point of view. Stop and listen to what you're saying: "I can't believe you feel that way!" and "How could you possibly think that?"

When you do this, you've shut off the potential to be understanding and compassionate, and in the end you'll lose what matters most: the chance to advance an issue you care about. There's something else you may not want to face: It's easier to be judgmental. It's less work than putting yourself in another's shoes.

Every single person is important and has a story to tell, just as you do. Open up your mind and heart to differences—and you may not have to experience how losing an election can take you down a peg or two.

Your staunchest supporter,

Senator Boxer

Come Back From Any Setback


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