On Thursday, Dec. 8, former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper visited Mercyhurst College for the second time in as many days to deliver an address to the campus community titled “Women and Politics.”
Sponsored by the Mercyhurst Equality of Women (MEOW), Dahlkemper spoke to a group of more than 40 students in the Herrmann Student Union Great Room about what is was like to be a female in Congress and to encourage young women to run for office.
After relating her experiences as a woman both in Congress and on the campaign trail, she provided statistics about the historically low number of women in Congress and the beneficial perspective women bring to the table.
“As the first woman ever elected from this district to Congress, I was one of the 276 women to ever hold a seat in Congress in our nation’s history,” Dahlkemper said.
Dahlkemper reminisced about her beginnings in politics and how she never considered running for office until she was prompted by friends and family.
Apparently Dahlkemper’s story is not unfamiliar for many women who seek elected office, as women often take prompting to think about running.
“You know, as a woman, it took someone to ask me to run for me to consider it. So tonight, I am asking all of you, men and women alike, to consider serving your country by running for office,” she said.
Junior Brian Lombardo was impressed by his first meeting with Dahlkemper.
“She really reaffirmed my desire to run for office. I felt so inspired,” he said. “I had never met Kathy before, and she struck me as such a genuine person. It really made her message that much more powerful.”
Senior Nikki Sherretts found herself shocked by the statistics presented.
“I didn’t realize women had such low levels of representation in our government” she said. “What I found most notable about the congresswoman’s presentation was how much we need more women in politics.”
As the event came to a close, students were so engaged by Dahlkemper’s presentation and question-and-answer session that many stayed and talked with the her personally after the event.
MEOW adviser and Assistant Professor of Political Science Lena Surzhko-Harned, Ph.D., was pleased with the turn out for the event.
“This was our first event of the winter term, and after a strong showing during the fall, we really wanted to put forth an interesting and intellectually engaging presentation” she said.
“Congresswoman Dahlkemper did just that and brought contemporary politics into our ongoing discussion of feminism in a way that registered with many students.”
MEOW President Lauren Moss thought Dahlkemper’s presentation was both timely and a perfect transition to the club’s upcoming event in January.
“We are showing the film ‘Misrepresentation’ in January, and the themes of Dahlkemper’s talk really translate well to the message of the film. We are excited to be able to host these events back to back,” she said.