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Scheduled to speak during NLC-Houston’s April institute, her route to the meeting site took her past one of the few remaining clinics providing abortion care in Texas. As usual, protesters with graphic, inflammatory signs marched on the sidewalk out front, yelling at people entering the building.
I wondered how they would have reacted had known Wendy Davis was driving by, on her way to share words of wisdom and encouragement with our fellows.
Senator Davis spoke very candidly about her decision to go into politics, what it is like to lose, and what it takes to win. While she is best-known for her 2013 filibuster of an anti-abortion bill and subsequent run to be governor, she shared stories of some of her earlier races that helped fellows get a glimpse of her talent for understanding political dynamics and building consensus.
Her reasons for serving in public office are both simple and profound—she wants to be sure that everyone has access to education and the same opportunities that her own education made possible for her. She talked about redistricting and gerrymandering, sexism on the campaign trail, the day-to-day work of campaigning, and the challenge of staying true to one’s core values while trying to win a statewide race. Her advice for fellows who might consider running for office was practical and illuminating.
One fellow asked how Texas progressives can stay hopeful and motivated during tough times, assuring her that he planned to stay here and work here no matter what, since this is his home.
“I’m so happy to hear that you are staying, and committed to Texas,” she responded enthusiastically, noting that we have to build what we want ourselves and not wait for anyone to hand it to us.
Senator Davis not only agreed to be part of the institute, but to mentor one of the Houston fellows. After her institute session and lunch, she then spent over an hour getting to know her mentee and providing valuable suggestions on next steps for the fellow’s capstone.
The fellows awarded Senator Davis with the first annual NLC Houston Stick Your Neck Out Award. The award, symbolized by a turtle, is a reminder of advice from Eleanor Tinsley, the first woman elected to Houston City Council. When anyone would ask Council Member Tinsley what it took to succeed as an advocate for progressive policies, she would remind them that they had to be like a turtle, because a turtle doesn’t get anywhere unless it sticks its neck out.
NLC-Houston is proud to count Senator Davis as a friend and supporter, and we expect she’ll continue to stick her neck out on behalf of all Texans. We’ll be right beside her.
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