Women are the future of politics. They are holding recording breaking offices including 98 seats on the 113th Congress and over 24% of seats in state legislators. During the last election women were also the contested demographic candidates needed to win. These monumental numbers still fall short of equal representation in government. Who are the women that are going to help shape our future?
There is one name that seems to shine brighter than the rest. This unsinkable force fights for her ideals and justice. Her unwavering enthusiasm for local government has enlightened a town and a nation. She runs the parks department in the self-proclaimed “best town in the world.” She is former councilwoman from Pawnee, Indiana, Leslie Knope. This week I was able to speak with Leslie to ask about her work in the community and what she sees for her political future.
My first meeting with Leslie was chaotic. Her office was littered with pictures of strong political women including Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright, her mother and herself. Scattered across her desk were an array of post-it notes with ideas frantically scratched into them. Throughout our quick interview, colorful characters peaked in the door. In terms of political offices, this was the first I had visited that really buzzed.
LH : Leslie, I heard of the amazing work you have done for young women in your community. What was your inspiration?
LK : When I was a little girl I dreamed of being able to shoot, climb, or make a log cabin out of breakfast foods. ThePawnee Rangers crushed that little girl’s dream by denying her equal access to excitement. I was not a little lady whose fragile constitution couldn’t handle the fierce-some outdoors; I was a warrior.
Founded on little Leslie’s dream, I started a group for independent and adventurous young women. We are called the Pawnee Goddesses. We are the powerful women of the future and we’re freaking awesome. We focus on the merits of good leadership, fair competition and of course excellent candy.
This little army of political hopefuls might be a tad annoying but their willingness to have a public forum to decide on the future of our organization helped me see the value of inclusion and debate. Every child should be free to march to the beat of their own drum, especially if they made the drum themselves.
LH : You talked about equality, would you label yourself a feminist?
LK : I would call myself a social feminist. I believe in public services and striving to be the best part of a community. Also, I would never ever go to a strip club. I’ve gone on record that if I had to have a stripper’s name, it would be Equality.
LH : Recently you were recalled from city council, how have you been able to handle the transition?
LK : Initially I felt like no matter what I did, literally nothing bad could happen to me. I was like a white male U.S. senator, I mean, and what would they do? Recall me? But then I took a step back and realized what was important; politics is about the people. Of course I have wonderful people who supported and worked with me; but the majority of the time it was about the more vocal population that did not like me. It was and still is my job to do everything to make their lives better. Pawnee may be slightly overrun with raccoons and obese toddlers but its citizens are my family and it is the only city I could ever call home.
LH : How about your future, where will Leslie Knope be in 2016?
LK : I would like to be president someday, but first I am ready to build this town more parks and a better future. Why do I want to build these parks so bad? Maybe because parks are the best thing we can do in America. We’re a nation of dreamers and it is my dream to build a park that I one day visit with my White House staff on my birthday. And they say, “President Knope, this park is awesome. Now we understand why you are the first female President of the United States.”
LH : Do you have any final thoughts for students at Michigan Tech?
LK : You need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.
And also, I don’t know what it is about big, outdoor gatherings that make everyone want to urinate on everything. But it does, and they do. Keep it together for winter carnival.
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This article uses quotes from Parks and Recreation to express the actual ideas of a fake politician from a fake town. Leslie Knope is the type of inspiration that makes us believe in the idealistic honesty of government. She is a woman in power on television that is passionate, bold and driven. The dedication she throws into her work manifests into an impact felt far beyond the town of Pawnee. In the end, Leslie is that type of person that just makes you want to be a better citizen.