Reading hundreds of picture book biographies of remarkable women for The Picture Book Club's "12 Women Who Changed the World" subscription has made me want to shine a spotlight on other remarkable women who, though they don't (yet!) have biographies written about them, inspire me every day.
-YiLing Chen-Josephson, Founder, The Picture Book Club
Q: What do you do?
I'm running for U.S. Congress from Florida's 18th Congressional District, where I was raised. I'm a mom to Serena (16 months), a wife to Emily, an avid baker, a mediocre tennis player, a trained lawyer, a former Obama administration State Department official, and a consultant for the Albright Stonebridge Group.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about doing what you do?
I love learning from and about the people in my community. Representatives are supposed to reflect the views and interests of their constituents, and that requires meeting people where they are, listening more than you speak, and being open-minded. Every day, I'm out talking with community leaders, teachers, business people, and first responders; homemakers, retirees, and students; individuals of every race, religion, and creed--and that is a unique honor and privilege.
Q: What's something challenging about it?
Women still face a great deal of skepticism and prejudice in politics. I've been asked: Can you do this job while being a parent? Can someone like you get elected in this District? And are you strong enough to face your opponent? Yes, yes, and yes, I say -- not in spite of being a woman, but because of it. Answering questions like these--which male candidates don't have to face--can be exhausting. But it's also an awesome thing to prove women's potential, to set an example through my leadership, and to pave the way for women who will follow.
Q: What is something you’re proud of?
I am proud of publicly owning my identity. There are only three LGBT women running for the U.S. House of Representatives this year, and there is still a great deal of pressure for individuals in politics to remain closeted. I make a point on the campaign trail to acknowledge that I am a member of the LGBT community, and to make clear that, because of that, I'm committed to equality of opportunity for all Americans. Because when we elect leaders who represent the diversity of this country, we all benefit.
Q: Who is someone who inspires you that you know personally?
My mom Nancy provides a daily dose of inspiration. She was in a debilitating car accident when she was 36 years old, and has suffered immeasurably since. But despite dozens of surgeries and hospitalizations, and a long list of daily struggles, she has never stopped caring for others: her children, her grandchildren, her neighbors, her friends. Through small acts of kindness she brings happiness to those around her, and reminds me every day that generosity brings more joy than resentment, and each one of us can draw strength from being compassionate and kind.
Q: Who is someone who inspires you that you've never met?
As a kid, I went to an all girls summer camp. It was founded in 1913 by two women named Bert and Phil, who set about creating an environment where girls could become strong, independent, and fierce. I've always admired that they did so just after the turn of the century, before women had the right to vote, or full legal independence, or real leadership opportunities outside of the home. My summers there made me into the woman that I am today, and that wouldn't have happened without their vision and courage.
Q: What is something you would like to change about the world?
I'd like to see equal representation of women in politics. This year, there are more women running for public office than ever before, but female candidates and office holders are still far outnumbered by men. As a society, we need to do more to encourage women to exercise leadership in the public sphere, and to address the myriad barriers to entry -- from wage inequality, to sexual harassment, to our broken campaign finance regulations.
Q: What’s a picture book you remember as a favorite from your childhood?
My absolute favorite picture book was "Going to School" by Felicia Law. It was a British book that I believe my parents had acquired at a yard sale, and it chronicled the school day of a bunch of children. They were just like me, except not. Their mothers pushed prams instead of strollers! Their skinned knees were mended with plasters, not Bandaids! The main character was named Roddy, not Ronnie or Ralph! I've long tried to pinpoint what it was that I so adored about this story, and I think it's that it was my first literary exposure to a world that was so familiar and yet so novel at the same time. And isn't that what all good literature is about -- transporting you somewhere new and yet making you feel at home.
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To learn more about Lauren, visit https://laurenbaerforcongress.com/.
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