Pearls and Social Graces

by Valerie Carzello, EVT'18

When Gov. Madeleine Kunin walked into my elementary school classroom, she was the most glamourous woman I had ever seen in person. Now, I know that is a pretentious way to describe our first woman Governor and I wish I had thought something more substantial than “Wow, she’s pretty!”

But there it is, in all its embarrassing glory.

The good news is that I got more planted in my young brain that day than beauty and pearls. I got to see a woman be the boss and once I had that image in my head, I stubbornly clung to it. When our class had a mock Presidential election, I wrote her name on the ballot even though a classmate told me that was “not allowed.”

I called him a jerk and wrote her in anyway. So Gov. Kunin, if you’re reading this, know that you got a vote for President.

Recently, I had the honor of having Gov. Kunin walk into another classroom: the Emerge training program. This time I was able to honestly appreciate her for her insights, intellect, grace, and humor (I still think she is glamourous.) Hearing her speak about her time as Governor and the impacts that her policies still have on Vermonters prove that more women need to be in office.

After our training for the day we attended a house party and I was able to approach the Governor and thank her for bringing Emerge training to Vermont and tell her that I was getting so much out of it. She took my arm and looked me in the eye and said, “You are going to make a difference.”
I tried to choke out the fact that I voted for her as a small child but all I could awkwardly mutter was, “ohmygodthankyou oh wow time to fill up my wine glass!”

I know, I know. I am working on the grace and elegance stuff.

Social graces aside, this is why the Emerge program means so much to me. Because representation matters. If a woman had never been elected to be the Governor of Vermont, would I be who I am today? Would I care about politics? Would I be a proud feminist? Would I have ever thought a woman could be a boss?

I am so grateful that I will never know the answer to those questions. However, I find myself worrying about all the young girls sitting in those classrooms now. Who will show them everything they could become and what is possible for women? Who will they see themselves in? Vermont has never had another woman Governor since Madeleine Kunin and we have yet to send a woman representative to Washington, DC.

Who will break the mold and show young people that they have a voice in every level of government?

My hope is that it will be a member of the Emerge program.

With or without the pearls.


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