My One Cent: Rachael Leman

 

“More and more people are paying attention, raising our voices, and taking a stand on what kind of country we want to be.  Complacency doesn’t feel like a viable option anymore.” 

November 1, 2017

Rachael Leman is CARE Action’s Executive Director. We asked her why she switched gears from working in politics to working for CARE.  Here’s Rachael’s My One Cent story:

As Executive Director of CARE Action, part of what I do is to work with our advocates to make sense of what’s going on politically in the U.S. and what the current environment means for the foreign assistance budget and CARE’s work around the world. And, most important, how we can all take action. 

It’s a challenging, confusing and chaotic time, but it’s a really critical moment where people are actually paying attention.  We all want to know what we can do and how we can be part of the solution.  At CARE Action, we’re always trying to provide opportunities for people to get involved and come together as global citizens to figure out how we all can create a better world. 

Before coming to CARE, I worked on Capitol Hill and spent time working on a commission called the House Democracy Partnership. At the time, it was a new commission formed by Congress in 2005 that did democracy-strengthening work around the world.  We worked directly with other legislatures in new and re-emerging democracies in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia. We worked together as partners to share our experiences, conduct trainings, and learn the nuts and bolts of how legislative institutions operate.  

It’s often said that you have to travel to other countries to really understand your own.  I feel the same is true about your own democracy, your own government.  If you spend time working with other governments’ institutions, you learn a lot about your own system. 

One of the things we found over time at the commission was that the programs that had the greatest progress were in countries that were either brand new democracies or that had recently undergone a major transition that created new momentum in their democratic development. They were energized and committed to making things better. They really wanted to roll up their sleeves and get to work.  They were hungry to engage with us and take on tough challenges.

It was an interesting lesson that made me think about our own system, being a more than 200-year-old democracy, and the way that breeds complacency.  It can be difficult to motivate other people, and even yourself, to get politically engaged when it feels like things are the way they’ve always been and always will be. It’s easy to be cynical, complacent, and disengaged.

But right now, one thing we can’t say is that it’s all just politics as usual. More and more people are paying attention, raising our voices, and taking a stand on what kind of country we want to be.  Complacency doesn’t feel like a viable option anymore.   At CARE Action, we’re working with those who want to use their voices to bring greater focus on ending global poverty and social injustice, especially for women and girls.  It’s an enormous privilege to be working with CARE, and our incredible advocates across the country, at such a critical moment.