I am becoming. I am becoming more of the woman I should be and that is because I am part of the Young Women’s Cabinet. I am here to share my story on how I have become a better woman just by being on this Cabinet. I also would like to honor the many women who have come before me, like Representative Ilhan Omar, Commissioner Angela Conley, Council Member Andrea Jenkins, Representative Rena Moran, Commissioner Toni Carter, and others. I name these black women because it is important to center black and brown women at the table, especially at the decision-making table.
I have named a lot of women I admire because without them I will not have the inspiration to be here in front of you today. I would like to also give a big thank you to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, the YWCA of St. Paul, the Governor’s Office and everyone on the Young Women’s Council for the hard work they put in to elevate women and girls in Minnesota and make sure they have the opportunities to have their voices heard and reach their goals.
I want to speak today about the things that I have gained by being part of this Cabinet. We had a lot of sessions where the young women came together and bonded and learned a lot about policy in Minnesota. I will never forget the panel where Nevada Littlewolf came with Bridget Siljiander and spoke to us about their journeys to leadership and how they got to become successful women. They gave me hope in a time when I was discouraged. I remember Nevada Littlewolf told the story of how she almost chose to withdraw her candidacy to become a city councilmember in her Greater Minnesota community. But when she called her people. they supported her and said she should stay and fight. She did and she won. She told us that people throw stones and sticks at you when they see you have potential and that potential intimidates them. She encouraged us all to keep building community and reaching for bigger goals that scare us and push us outside of our comfort zone. I really admire her because of her tenacity and her perseverance.
I wish there were more women like her in the world, but being in this room gives me confidence that there are, and it is just a matter of time before we start taking those leadership steps to become the change we seek in our communities. I am grateful to be sitting in this room with powerful women. Actually, I am standing but the concept still remains true.
I remember applying to be on the Cabinet in 2016 and 2017. I did not get in, but I kept trying. I knew that it would be worth the wait. Sometimes things don’t happen immediately. Ultimately, what is meant to be always happens even if life redirects us in our journey. I learned that hard work pays off and persevering through a goal is as important as reaching that goal. If there is anyone here who feels their efforts are not being seen or rewarded I want to encourage you to keep pushing, keep grinding, keep working, and know that if it does not happen the way you want it, it will happen in a better way. Thank you for letting me be part of this Cabinet that I dreamed about. Dreams come true if you wake up and pursue them.
Lastly, I want to talk about believing in yourself. I grew up always feeling like I was not enough. I felt like I was not pretty enough, smart enough or good enough to deserve good things. I was always thinking of what I lacked and not what I had. I had doubts about who I could be or what I could achieve. I did not believe in myself because the people around me did not believe in me. There are a lot of people who have self-doubts. I have learned that confidence cannot be gained from other people. It must come from inside and it has to be learned. Most of us grew up without it.
The way I learned to be confident is to know that I am enough. Period. I do not need to prove myself or my worth to anyone, because we are all enough. We are all human and we all are good enough to be anything we want to be.
I would like to close with this. Please believe in your dreams. This fall, some of the Young Women’s Cabinet are going off to college to pursue their big dreams. They have ambitions that they want to achieve. They have goals to crush and a lot of homework to do. They have so many adventures awaiting them, and my advice is to remain focused no matter how hard that journey gets. It comes with a lot of pressure sometimes, but It is an opportunity to grow and network. To learn new things, study abroad, make new friends, learn languages and join clubs. I mean student organization clubs, not night clubs. But feel free to join a night club, too. Balance is the way to everything in life.
I wish you all success. Please believe in your own strength while working on your weaknesses. Have faith in the journey. Remain positive always. Remember that nothing stands in the way of your dreams but you. Thank you for listening.
By Oluwatobi Oluwagbemi, 2018-2019 Young Women’s Cabinet