By Kayley Spencer (Castilleja Chapter)
Our responses to the question, "What is the job of the president?"
On September 24th, Real Talk members had the amazing opportunity to hear from guest speaker Lisa Kay Solomon, a bestselling author and educator who is currently a Designer in Residence at Stanford University. She spoke to us as the founder of Vote By Design, a non-partisan learning experience designed to engage voters and encourage voting with intention. Her aim was for us to gain lifelong civic skills by learning more about how we vote, and the ideals that influence our choices.
We began the workshop by taking part in preliminary polls to establish our views and current knowledge about the election process. We answered questions such as “what clarity do you have on the job of the president?” and “what is the job of the president?” We learned that within the Real Talk network, everyone has a unique opinion about what the main job of the president should be. Many believe it is to enforce laws, while others believe it is to serve as the moral compass for our country.
We then discussed what qualities we wanted in a president. We suggested qualities such as being ethical, honest, educated, and always having the best interest of the people at heart. Although the majority of our group believes that the most valuable quality for our president to have was international experience, in previous sessions Lisa taught, people ranked other qualities such as experience in community organizing higher.
I thought that was especially interesting, as often I assume that others share my same viewpoints. For me, learning about and contemplating why other qualities were equally important to the ones I value was eye-opening. This experience led me to begin reconsidering the values that I hold dear, and how other people might view those same ideas from a completely different perspective.
To delve further into those ideas, we then began to consider ideal leadership qualities on a less specific basis. Do we think it is most important for a leader to be fair? Or would we rather have one who is bold and visionary? Through our discussion, I was again reminded how different everyone’s thought process is when picking a leader. I thought that integrity was the most important, while others valued a leader who was flexible and adaptable. Through our “real talk,” we began to learn about how our viewpoints vary, and reached the conclusion that although all of our values were different, for many of us the qualities we sought in a leader changed as the current climate in the country did.
Finally, we explored the biological attributes we value in a leader, and the conscience and unconscious biases we have and judgements we make. While examining a list of these attributes, I started to realize that however shallow some of them were, for inexplicable reasons I did often prefer the attractive, young candidate to a less attractive, older one. Many of us shared these biases, and we began to wonder why that was. Lisa Solomon pointed to a study that showed that oftentimes in elections, the taller candidate won, helping us realize that it is so important to keep our biases in check when voting for a candidate.
After participating in the Vote by Design workshop, we came away understanding the complexity of choosing a candidate who exemplifies the values that we prioritize the most, and we pushed ourselves to think about what qualities are the most crucial to have at this moment in time. Walking away from this, we will take away the ability to critically analyze our political candidates when deciding who we vote for.