Sunday, December 27, 2009

The "Superlobbyist"

The New York Times Magazine features an annual yearend edition, covering profiles of individuals who have passed away over the previous year.  As the end of the year is traditionally a time of reflection and resolutions, I’ve come to look forward to this, as these profiles offer unique and inspiring insights into both ordinary and extraordinary people’s lives.  

Several standout women were included this year, all of which, I’m embarrassed to admit, I hadn’t known until I read their profiles.   Each provided inspiration, yet also made me pause for self-reflection.

Matt Bai wrote a fantastic piece on Anne Wexler, a former Democratic activist turned K Street “superlobbyist” during Reagan’s reign in D.C.   She started her own women led lobbyist firm in the 1980s, explaining “We’re going to be underestimated, and it’ll work every time.”  I smiled at her pluck, yet appreciated the honest critique of the arc of her career:  a young idealist, turned party insider, turned business woman (some would say “sellout”).   This line stuck out at me: 
As Wexler herself might have pointed out, she didn’t do anything her male contemporaries hadn’t done. She was simply better at it.
Two other profiles in this magazine that stuck out to me:

Crystal Lee Sutton was a woman who was willing to sacrifice her safety and her job for a future of better wages for the next generation.  Her work in unionizing the textile workers in a small, southern town was truly courageous.   I have a renewed appreciation for the work of unions and for the sacrifices made to secure these benefits. 

Peg Mullen was the “Cindy Sheehan” of the Vietnam War.  As a fellow war-protesting farm girl, I admired her resilience and resolve to find a powerful medium for her grief: using her deceased son’s death-benefit pay to buy an ad in the Des Moines Register, critiquing the war.   Her story was a powerful reminder of how the right message, in the right time, with the best messenger can truly bring change.