When I first signed on to manage Kelly Fowler’s race for the House of Delegates, I posted on my Facebook page that she was a “rock star.” But I didn’t explain what I meant by that. One reason I described Kelly that way is that she is incredibly energetic, as anyone who knows her would confirm. The other major reason is that Kelly has a huge heart.
Kelly exemplifies servant leadership. If help is needed, Kelly is there doing what she can, part of the team. And she helps others to experience the joys of making a difference by finding opportunities to serve for those who have a heart to do so…. especially children, who Kelly continually supports in their desire to do good deeds for others.
Kelly didn’t want me to mention this, but I think it’s important you know that this morning she sent me out to deliver a huge carload of donations of toys, clothing, and diapers she had collected for refugee children in the area… children whose families are not only impoverished, but often demonized.
Kelly Fowler is a “rock star” because she is the best of us, and she shines brightly because of that. And if Virginia is lucky, come November, Kelly will be the next Delegate from the 21st District. Go Kelly! – Susan Mariner
REDEFINING LEADERSHIP, by KELLY FOWLER
Yesterday, as I was wrapping up the end of the fundraising period for my race for House of Delegates in Virginia’s 21st District, a violent storm moved into the region. I was thankful that I was with my husband and children, and that we were safe. But as the storm picked up intensity, pummeling our home with the largest hailstones I’d ever seen, I grew concerned about my neighbors, many of whom are military families with deployed spouses. As a real estate agent who specializes in military relocations, I’d gotten to know some of them well.
What I soon learned was that a tornado had touched down in Virginia Beach and Chespeake, causing extensive damage to a nearby neighborhood, specifically on a street where a friend whose husband is on deployment lives with their three children. I immediately picked up the phone to check on them and on others in the region.
Dozens of homes have been heavily damaged in the region, and twelve homes just outside the 21st District in Virginia Beach have already been condemned as a result. Additionally, a church was almost completely demolished in advance of parishioners using it to prepare food for needy families. Fortunately, as of this writing, no injuries have been reported as a result of the tornado, which is amazing.
Today I am one of many who are working to help those whose lives have been unexpectedly upended by this storm. Many of my neighbors have put out rallying calls on social media to come to the aid of those who had been affected by the storm.
We’ve seen this phenomenon many times before, of course. At times of crisis, the differences that all too often divide us fall way. We no longer see race, or ethnicity, or class—we simply see our common humanity.
Wouldn’t it be great if it didn’t take a disaster to make that happen? What if instead, we realized that many people in our communities are quietly facing crises every day?
As I’ve reflected on this during my campaign, I’ve come to believe that those among us who hold political office, or hope to, need to redefine leadership. Regardless of where we are on the political spectrum, I think we can agree that many elected officials get caught up in trying to seize and hold power. In the process, they lose sight of the fact that their role is to serve—to wake up every morning and ask, “What can I do to help?”
We all remember John F. Kennedy’s challenge to our nation: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” More than 50 years later, his challenge continues to resonate with Americans. The trouble is, many people who would like to serve feel powerless to do so in a country so large and complex. Perhaps we would be better off if we replaced the word “country” with “community”—an alteration that would put the challenge on a more manageable scale. That, at any rate, is what excites me about running for a General Assembly seat from the 21st District. It’s a position that will allow me to serve the needs of my neighbors in new ways .
I did not come to the understanding of the value of service on my own. One of my grandfathers, born in the Philippines, joined the United States Navy as a young man and risked his life for America in Vietnam, earning two Bronze Stars. After the war, he continued to serve until retirement. When he died in 2012, we were honored that he was given a final resting place in Arlington Cemetery alongside so many of our unsung heroes. My father also served in the Navy, and my husband serves as a deputy sheriff. The tradition of service is common in my family and in countless families throughout the 21st District, a place I deeply love and have called home since before my first birthday.
As someone who strives to find ways to serve, I am especially concerned with the most vulnerable among us—our children. This concern inspired me to become a teacher and work with children who were at risk, whether because of economic deprivation or special needs or both.
Eventually I left teaching to spend more time with my own children. But if I am fortunate enough to serve my district in the General Assembly, I will continue to work for the benefit not only of the children in the area but for all residents.
We can all do this, in accordance with our gifts. Or as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve.”