Susannah Wellford is the President and Founder of Running Start as well as the co-founder of the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC).
When I was growing up, I thought I could be anything and do anything I wanted. My parents would always tell me to follow my passions and shoot for the stars. My interests changed a lot, and my dream profession shifted almost daily, from being the President, to an FBI agent, to an Egyptologist, and so on. As I got older and was faced with a larger sense of reality, this tenacious conviction that I could accomplish my goals remained, but on a lesser scale. However, in these past few days I have regained the sense of excitement and ferocity about my future that I used to experience as a child. Every interview we have had thus far has been incredibly inspirational, with each interviewee opening my eyes to the plethora of possibilities for my future. Our interview today with Susannah Wellford was no exception.
Susannah Wellford is the founder of Running Start, an organization dedicated to bringing more women into public office. They focus on bringing girls into politics at a high school level in order to create engaged, confident young women who become interested in political involvement. Their goal is a simple one, best described in this quote from Susannah Wellford, “I will consider our job done when young women run for office in the same numbers as young men. I will consider our job done when I ask a crowd of young women to raise their hands if they want to run for office, and more than two hands go up.”
As a young woman interested in politics, the idea of Susannah Wellford’s work was extremely interesting to me. It wasn’t until the interview however, that the extent of her enlivening character was apparent to me. She addressed us with a duality of wisdom and youthful curiosity, which created an electrifying, yet intimate atmosphere. I could spend hours writing about the many insightful tidbits of advice she gave us, but there was one quote that struck me in particular, “Know who you are, know what you are, and keep pushing.” The elegant simplicity of this statement really resonated with me. Each person we have interviewed has spoken about the importance of finding something that matters to you and going after it with steadfast determination. Hearing this from Susannah Wellford, a woman who embodies so many aspects of the kind of person I aspire to be, re-enforced my newfound belief that I truly can accomplish whatever I want.
“I am looking for people who want to lead not because they want to be a leader…but because they see something that needs to be done.” Susannah Wellford’s work exemplifies this. She was able to convey a humble presence while maintaining a strong set of values and clear views. She symbolizes a newfound definition of a leader, and inspires me to explore the vast varieties of what being a leader truly means.
Susannah Wellford expressed the vital necessity of motivating young women who do not feel competent enough to get involved. She emphasized the importance of informing young women who have feelings of insecurity, that this is normal and that failure is part of the process. Ms. Wellford provides a safe environment where vulnerability is valued and hidden confidence can be uncovered. She seems to have found a way to bring out the true potential of the women that she works with, without enforcing her own opinions and motives. I believe that this trait is crucial in empowering young women to become not only involved in politics, but also throughout society. As a young woman, I found it inspiring to speak with Susannah Wellford. She helped re-emphasize the importance of confidence and leadership in my life.
From the moment Susannah Wellford walked into the room, I knew that I would like her. She was personable and I felt drawn to her. I was sitting directly across from her and I felt intent on hearing what she had to say. She talked specifically about failure and how it relates to vulnerability. This personally resonated with me because I tend to have a problem admitting my failures for fear of being judged and criticized. She talked about how hard vulnerability is and how important it is for human connection. Being able to admit your failures is one of the most important ways to be vulnerable and it is the most rare. The way she spoke about her passion was inspiring. I felt a connection with everything she said. It is really difficult to describe the way in which someone can touch your soul with words but that is the way I felt after talking to Susannah Wellford. She was definitely one of my favorite interviews so far.