Often times the word “politics” carries a daunting connotation. The concept itself seems out of reach for most citizens even though it is something that touches each and every aspect of our lives. From our schools to our roads, to bills and laws that protect our citizens and our environment, politics plays a role in our everyday life and wellbeing. With this attitude in mind, this week’s Friday Feature, Jane Knight, found a way to enter the political scene in a way that utilizes her skill set and strengths to be a voice for her community. With a 25 year career in selling and distributing children’s books in Montpelier, Jane has a passion for working within her community and for the education of underserved communities to make sure they get the resources they need. When describing the work she does, she made the analogy of books as doors and mirrors. Books serve as the building blocks for education, but often times the stories neglect to reflect minorities are underrepresented groups, so Jane is passionate about connecting children with resources that encourage widening our prospective. She is faced with the task of matching the right books to the right kids, which she said was the original catalyst for getting involved in politics. The type of connections she’s had to make throughout her career are representative of the types of skills that align with political work.
After being familiar with the mission of Emerge Vermont for a few years, Jane completed the Campaign Staff bootcamp in the Fall of 2019. Jane met Emerge Vermont’s former Executive Director Ruth Hardy a few years ago at a political activist event, and although she never saw herself running for office, she realized that there’s so much more to politics than that. As a natural born supporter and organizer, Jane found her place on the campaign side of things, and decided to sign up for the bootcamp after a newsletter was sent out. She admits that the most valuable part of the intensive workshop was learning about the various pieces of the puzzle in running a campaign. There are a plethora of strengths and talents needed to run a campaign, and the work that goes on behind the scenes is truly made up of a diverse mix of people and personalities. Jane characterizes herself as a more reserved person, but ultimately the skills she is able to bring to the table are exactly what is needed to run a campaign. Through Emerge Vermont, Jane said a realization she had was that, “some things I thought were my weaknesses are actually my strengths.” Going through the program and seeing her contributions come to fruition gave her more confidence to continue with her involvement in politics. Jane also gave a nod to our current Executive Director, saying that Jill Krowinski gave her encouragement and support, and even though Jane didn’t have a history or desire in running for political office, Jill made her feel like she has a very important place within the political sphere. Since completing the bootcamp, Jane has noticed the expansive network that Emerge provides. At political events or meetings at the Statehouse Jane recognizes fellow Emerge Vermont alumnae. Having those connections and being part of a greater organization is “that little boost of confidence” that drives Jane to continue on her path.
Jane’s story is admirable on its own, but the fact that Jane went through the bootcamp alongside her young daughter is equally inspiring. Jane’s daughter Ginger is a senior in high school who plans on continuing her studies of women’s studies and politics at university. Ginger is a natural organizer and people person, and is always open to engaging in political conversation or organizations. As Jane puts it, Ginger is ready to “jump right in,” so going through Emerge’s bootcamp seemed like the perfect place to start. For Ginger, it was a way of seeing what a potential career in politics would look like, and it even gave her insight into the sort of work she could be doing. For now, Ginger will attend university and focus on getting an internship in Washington D.C. I asked Jane, “Is politics something you encourage discussion about openly in the household?” and she replied, “100%”. Politics is something that’s been lost in our education system, so having those open discussions within the family dynamic and encouraging the questions and opinions that come along with those conversations is of utmost importance. As a result of the civic engagement that the Knight’s encouraged, Ginger has a level of confidence in her communication skills that is becoming more and more obsolete these days.
As for Jane, she will continue to utilize her growing network and training from Emerge within her Citizens for Climate Action group. The group—consisting of about 75 members—follows legislation being passed at the Statehouse with a specific focus on environmental policies. They serve as a representation for climate justice and have found that working with legislators rather than protesting against them is the most effective solution in a state like Vermont. The close-knit environment of Vermont fosters an atmosphere for collaboration and in turn action. This fact along with the passion that drives women like Jane and Ginger Knight is a great sign for the future of Vermont politics and for the future of women involvement in the political sphere.
Emerge has one goal: To increase the number of Democratic women in office who are reflective of the incredible diversity of the Democratic party by recruiting, training and providing a powerful network.