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What it takes to be a leader

I wrote this piece in 2018, yet the reflections are still relevant. I long for peace - in my mind, my heart, and my country. There's a long road ahead - a very long road - and we might not see significant change in our lifetimes, but I'm willing to rally for love and compassion for the sake of my children and my children's children. - Elizabeth


Like many of you who have ever been part of, say, a parent-teacher organization or any other volunteer group, I’ve been experiencing a deja vu over the last year watching this presidential administration go to town on America. A person no one ever thought would come to power has done just that, and, cringing with fearful trepidation, you watch as the first big event is planned.

This new leader rallies contacts, brings in a variety of drama and negativity and concludes that doing it a particular way is best for the collective group. The day of the event arrives and as chaos ensues, you take a moment to observe what you suspected all along — that this type of single-minded leadership would not flourish.

“I-told-you-sos” run rampant through your mind and just before you start to get really petty and gossip about the situation, you stop. The people at the event are your people: your family, friends, colleagues and sweet children. You can’t sit idly by watching this event be run into the ground for lack of solid leadership.

You step in, because allowing this event to collapse and fail is not an option for you — you’re deeply rooted into the larger community.

Dear reader, I feel called to serve my community by running for office. And I’m not the only one: since the last presidential election, over 15,000 women have contacted nonpartisan support organization She Should Run, ostensibly to learn about entering politics themselves. And whether you love or hate our current president, surely we can agree that he does challenge our ideas of who can and cannot get elected.


Yet perhaps I lack the qualifications to be the president of the United States. I have no military background nor time already spent in politics. The United States Constitution Article II states the requirements for leadership of this great country:

“The president must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, be at least 35 years old and have been a resident of the United States for 14 years.”

Well, I’m a natural-born citizen who’s celebrated her 40th birthday in 2017 and has, thus, resided in the United States for far more than 14 years. Done. I can be president. Heck, in 1872, Victoria Woodhull tried to run for president months shy of her 35th birthday. Not even which is spelled out in the constitution stopped her from trying.

I remembered a bumper sticker I saw that plainly said amid red and blue stars:

“Any functioning adult — 2020.”

Fair enough. Yet being the leader of the most powerful nation cannot be left to just anyone. There are certain characteristics that this individual needs to embody, practice and live. So I made a list of all the elements I expect from my president.

At the top of my list was compassion, followed by a keen listening ear, a humble personality and an ability to negotiate and be respectful of all opinions and beliefs. My candidate will have a boldness that he/she is willing to stand up to injustices of the world and an overall unbiased mission to protect the people of our country. All the people. I added two things to my list as “preferred but not necessarily a deal breaker if you don’t meet the following:”

A parent with a sense of humor.

I looked to social media to see what others want in a leader, too. The response online was similar, calling for compassion at the top of most of the respondent’s lists:

“Integrity, compassion, strength, humanity, ability to build consensus (a pipe dream in today’s America), empathy, moral compass and any other qualities she had would be great, too.”

“Knowledge of constitutional law and its workings, integrity, compassion and honesty.”

“Empathy, great capacity for rational thought in decision-making, strong communication skills.”

“Vision, consistency and determination.”

“Authenticity, compassion and healthy (mental, physical, spiritual).”

If our current president of the United States never held a political office prior to his current term, why would I need to in order to run? Can a grassroots campaign be rallied behind a woman, wife and mother who stands for integrity and compassion? A citizen who daily negotiates, contributes to her community, rallies behind small business and who is not ashamed to share she believes in a higher power that loves all people — no matter what?

Am I so different from other women in our nation’s history like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who have, lacking formal qualifications or even the qualification of being male, made a difference nonetheless, even organizing person-by person?

Self-doubt rears her ugly head and reigns me in with an eye roll and a “Settle down, Elizabeth, you’re a suburban woman, a mother, and a writer for goodness sake. Get a grip.”

There are a handful of people in my life that I can believe in to take up office, some more qualified than others, but when I step back at the end of the day, I question myself with —

“Why not me?”

Belva Lockwood, who ran a full presidential campaign in 1884 said if a woman ever did become president, it would not be because of her gender, rather, her excellence:

“If [a woman] demonstrates that she is fitted to be president she will someday occupy the White House,” she said. “It will be entirely on her own merits, however. No movement can place her there simply because she is a woman.”

The presidency is not about gender, but excellence. And the women of this nation are ready to come out of the shadow of our forefathers and shine as we rise out of the ashes of our history. Our excellence is exhibited not only as individuals, but the people with whom we surround ourselves. Leaders who surround themselves with compassionate, educated and positively bold people who believe in preserving the original intent of what this country was founded on — being a place of safe refuge from those who persecute and extinguish your right to live as a free citizen — propel this country forward with strength.

It’s time to rally excellence. I’m in — are you?


About the author: Elizabeth Rago is a mama, wife, and the creator of The Modern Domestic Woman (MDW). Starting with silly beginnings writing about home decor and DIY projects, Elizabeth found MDW to be a happy distraction from her stressful life.

After a series of unfortunate events including job loss, a car accident, bankruptcy, and a physical and emotional breakdown, Elizabeth felt compelled to shift the primary focus of MDW from pretty pictures and goofy memes to a space of honest support for the modern woman.

Learn more about Elizabeth at


This article was originally featured on January 12, 2018, in the Kane County Chronicle.


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