And so I decided, 20-some-odd years later, to be the person who got to open the gates. Unfortunately, you may have read the rest of the story. It didn’t quite work out that way.
And now I’m tasked with figuring out: How do I move forward? Because, you see, I didn’t just want to open the gates for young black women who had been underestimated and told they don’t belong.
I wanted to open those gates for Latinas and for Asian Americans. I wanted to open those gates for the undocumented and the documented. I wanted to open those gates as an ally of the LGBTQ community. I wanted to open those gates for the families that have to call themselves the victims of gun violence.
I wanted to open those gates wide for everyone in Georgia, because that is our state, and this is our nation, and we all belong here.
But what I recognized is that the first try wasn’t enough. And my question became: How do I move forward? How do I get beyond the bitterness and the sadness and the lethargy and watching an inordinate amount of television as I eat ice cream?
What do I do next? And I’m going to do what I’ve always done. I’m going to move forward, because going backwards isn’t an option and standing still is not enough. You see, I began my race for governor by analyzing who I was and what I wanted to be.
And there are three questions I ask myself about everything I do, whether it’s running for office or starting a business; when I decided to start the New Georgia Project to register people to vote; or when I started the latest action, Fair Fight Georgia No matter what I do, I ask myself three questions: What do I want? Why do I want it? And how do I get it?
And in this case, I know what I want. I want change. That is what I want. But the question is: What change do I want to see? And I know that the questions I have to ask myself are: One, am I honest about the scope of my ambition? Because it’s easy to figure out that once you didn’t get what you wanted, then maybe you should have set your sights a little lower, but I’m here to tell you to be aggressive about your ambition.
Do not allow setbacks to set you back.
Number two, let yourself understand your mistakes. But also understand their mistakes, because, as women in particular, we’re taught that if something doesn’t work out, it’s probably our fault. And usually, there is something we could do better, but we’ve been told not to investigate too much what the other side could have done. And this isn’t partisan — it’s people.
We’re too often told that our mistakes are ours alone, but victory is a shared benefit. And so what I tell you to do is understand your mistakes, but understand the mistakes of others. And be clearheaded about it. And be honest with yourself and honest with those who support you.
But once you know what you want, understand why you want it. And even though it feels good, revenge is not a good reason. Instead, make sure you want it because there’s something not that you should do, but something you must do.
It has to be something that doesn’t allow you to sleep at night unless you’re dreaming about it; something that wakes you up in the morning and gets you excited about it; or something that makes you so angry, you know you have to do something about it. But know why you’re doing it. And know why it must be done.
You’ve listened to women from across this world talk about why things have to happen. But figure out what the “why” is for you, because jumping from the “what” to the “do” is meaningless if you don’t know why.
Because when it gets hard, when it gets tough, when your friends walk away from you, when your supporters forget you, when you don’t win your first race — if you don’t know why, you can’t try again.
So, first know what you want. Second, know why you want it, but third, know how you’re going to get it done.
I faced a few obstacles in this race. Just a few. But in the pursuit, I became the first black woman to ever become the nominee for governor in the history of the United States of America for a major party. But more importantly, in this process, we turned out 12 million African American voters in Georgia.
That is more voters than voted on the Democratic side of the ticket in 2014. Our campaign tripled the number of Latinos who believed their voices mattered in the state of Georgia. We tripled the number of Asian Americans who stood up and said, “This is our state, too.” Those are successes that tell me how I can get it done.
But they also let me understand the obstacles aren’t insurmountable. They’re just a little high. But I also understand that there are three things that always hold us hostage.
The first is finances. Now, you may have heard, I’m in a little bit of debt. If you didn’t hear about it, you did not go outside. And finances are something that holds us back so often, our dreams are bounded by how much we have in resources.
But we hear again and again the stories of those who overcome those resource challenges. But you can’t overcome something you don’t talk about. And that’s why I didn’t allow them to debt-shame me in my campaign. I didn’t allow anyone to tell me that my lack of opportunity was a reason to disqualify me from running.