Fels graduate and congressional candidate Kim Ford came to campus on Friday, March 16th, to speak to students about the different aspects of running for office. Kim was formerly the Dean of the University of the District of Columbia Community College and also served in the Obama administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education. As a native Washingtonian, Kim is running against incumbent Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has held the office since 1990, to create opportunities for District residents.
We asked Kim to name five things that a 21 year-old who is thinking of running for office in ten years should do to prepare over those ten years. Here are her thoughts:
It is important to always work for the people you represent. She said that instead of working to accomplish the ultimate goal of holding office, public servants should always focus on their mission of serving the people.
Courage is key. It is important to show people that you are willing to stand up and fight for what is right. Sometimes that means pushing for a change that might not be politically popular or making your opinion on something public that might be controversial.
Money is essential when running for office. When running against an incumbent, one has to work much harder to raise money than the incumbent does. Kim advises building up a network of people who will donate to your campaign. However, she says that although money is important, the challenges of fundraising should not discourage anyone from running for office.
Get ingrained in the community. You must gain the trust of the community you were elected to serve and get to know the community well so you are properly representing the people.
Always be ethical. Kim says that people often confuse politics with governance. It is important to separate the two, and ensure that one is governing with the people in mind and not letting politics distract from that mission.
Although it is important to set goals for your career, Kim says it is important to realize that there are many paths one can take to be successful. She advises to always focus on the mission that you are trying to accomplish, whether that be serving a specific community or something else, rather than pursuing a particular job title
Kim Ford’s event was just one of three events that Penn in Washington hosted that day. Howard Marlowe also came to campus to speak to students about his career in lobbying over lunch, and Shomik Sarkar joined students from D.C. via video chat to give advice on how to join a political campaign.
Good luck, Kim!