Thursday, February 7, 2013

Who cares if Bill Clinton is a Vegetarian?

Act #38:  For the love of God, have an elevator speech!

Well apparently I care whether or not our nation's 42nd president enjoys a steak every once in a while.   You see, a few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a local rally where President Clinton was campaigning for a Kentucky Senate candidate.  Because I got there early, I was on the front line and as he was leaving he worked his way through the crowd, shaking hands and kissing babies.  Then he got to me.  I was, to say the least, a tad star struck.  I had so much I wanted to say in the 0.5 seconds that I would have his attention.  I wanted to thank him for the Family Medical Leave Act, Americorps, student loan reform, the Brady Bill.  For introducing the world to Hillary (although she really didn't need his introduction).  So there I was, face to face with Bill Clinton, and quite literally these were the words that left my mouth, "Hello, sir!  Is it true that you are a vegetarian?"  He looked at me for a brief second and then proceeded to tell me that indeed he was for the most part, but that every once in a while he had some salmon.   He threw me that dazzling smile that once got him in serious hot water, and just like that, he was gone.  God only knows what would posses me to ask him about his food choices.  And that was the day that I decided, I needed my own personal activist elevator speech. 

If you're like me, you've been in elevators where the awkward silence almost kills you.  You've been at parties, where you are introduced to a stranger and you're fumbling around trying not to sound like an idiot.  You may have even found yourself in front of a potential employer, politician, decision-maker, leader of the free world - and you have no idea how to communicate with this person.  The point being, there will come a time in your life when you have one opportunity, and one opportunity alone to make an impression, to share your perspective, to attempt to persuade someone's thinking, or compel them to think critically about an issue that you care about.  You should be ready.  I developed my activist elevator speech by answering these 4 questions:

1.  What do you feel most passionately about? - Human rights, social justices, non-violence, peace.

2.  What is standing in the way of the above? - Discrimination, a culture of violence

3.  What needs to happen to change that?  - Social justice, equal rights, changing the way we socialize boys and girls about their roles, stop tolerating violence.

4.  Who the heck are you? - Someone with a seed of service and social justice planted early on in my life and who has constantly struggled to find a productive way to be useful in the world.

Alright so here's what my repeat 5 seconds with Bill Clinton might look like with an elevator speech tailored specifically for him:

President Clinton! I wanted to thank you for calling to action personal responsibility and national service as I am an alumna of the AmeriCorps program myself.  You've certainly helped the country progress with its civil rights, but how do you think we can move forward to ensure equal rights and protection for the LGBT community and for women?

Bam.  5 seconds.  And instead of finding out his favorite meal, I could have been privied to some top-notch mind-blowing wisdom from one of the most influential people in American history. Mr. Clinton, if you happen to be reading this blog, can I have a do-over?

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