By Maggie E. Harris/Opinion
A couple of years ago I attended the Women in Business Conference in Alexandria. As a young woman about to fully emerge into the business realm, I was excited to hear from a docket of successful professionals, and eager to be empowered by the stories of these women. The first night of the conference we had a diverse panel of women in politics. Each of the speakers had a unique perspective and set of life experiences, and they were all generous with their insight and wisdom.
One of those women was Representative Stokes. I was struck by Julie Stokes’ candor—she was both refreshingly forthright and knowledgeable. She spoke with a frank passion that made me put my little conference notebook aside—I found that I did not want to miss what she said. Though I had the privilege at the conference to listen to several great speakers, Representative Stokes stood out as one of the highlights of the conference.
Some time after the conference, I came across a video on social media that featured a Louisiana politician’s inappropriate use of satire at the capitol, satire that was very demeaning toward women. This video had been shared by a national media company.
It was disheartening to see that not only had this insulting incident occurred, but it had been seen by the world. However, towards the end of the video, Representative Stokes stood up and denounced the offensive behavior. She was bold and concise in her rebuke. My admiration for her no-nonsense approach to her work and life then evolved into a strong respect for her person.
During the recent homecoming festivities at the university I had the opportunity to shake hands with this same woman. It was a happy, unexpected meeting. I told her about being at the conference when she had spoken, and the impression she had made on me. She and I then spoke briefly, and she paid me some extraordinary compliments. Representative Stokes was just as impressive and dynamic face to face as she had been from afar. At the end of our conversation, she kindly agreed to take a picture with me.
It is almost taboo in today’s culture to like a politician. I feel that it is important to remember that politicians are people who fail, who triumph, who dream—who wake up with bad hair and bad breath just like everyone else. It is just as possible to like or admire someone you disagree with as it is to like someone you agree with. It is possible to even think that someone is a good leader and a good person and disagree with them.
Regardless of party affiliation, it is important to celebrate what we like about our neighbors, as well as the good in others. I did vote for Representative Stokes, because I believe she is the right person for the job. I also believe Representative Stokes is a good woman, and I am just simply a fan of her as an individual. I am so glad to have met her, and to have this picture with her.