Lately, I’ve been thinking about mountains quite a bit. The hotter it gets in southeast Iowa, the more I want to find a mountain in the Arctic, climb up, and stay a while. The thing that interests me the most about mountains, though, are all the things they represent.
In some cases, mountains are obstacles we have to face. In others, they represent goals and the pathway to success. In either case, they are not meant to just be looked at. Mountains are meant to be climbed.
I have a memory from back in 2008, of being in a locker room right before a basketball game. We were in Springfield, Ill., and had a big game coming up that would determine if my team would make it into the championship game or not.
As a seventh-grader, this was a big deal to me. I remember being worried because one of my teammates, Sarah, was missing. She was fine- she was with her mom watching then Sen. Barack Obama speak about his goals for the future and all he would accomplish if he became president.
As a 13-year-old who just cared about sports and making sure my mom got me the right color of Gatorade, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why it would be a big deal for Sarah, who is black, to see him speak and why her mom prioritized that broadcast over our pep talk.
About a year later, as an older and much wiser 14-year-old, I sat in my eighth-grade classroom watching President Barack Obama’s inauguration. I remember looking around the room at the 25 other kids, 20 of whom were black, and watching them watch on with pride and hope and a little bit of faith they could also be president one day.
As a kid, who only saw presidents with my same skin color, it never occurred to me what it would mean for my friends to see someone that looked like them. To see someone who saw the mountain, decided their dream was bigger and scaled it.
A few months ago I watched Sen. Elizabeth Warren speak at East Grove Farms, in Salem. I had my own version of the “Sarah moment.” I saw a candidate that looked like me, was also a woman and she was running for president.
I have never dreamed of running for president. I would actually run away from that situation, honestly, because it sounds like too much work, but to see there was a woman who dared to dream, to face the mountain of uncertainty and backlash and tweets and do it anyway, was pretty cool to see.
Last weekend I attended an immigration town hall meeting where Sec. Julian Castro spoke. For me, getting to be around a presidential candidate was a cool feeling; but to one particular 15-year-old girl, it meant a whole lot more.
She had a list of things she wanted to talk to him about, specifically with how the Latino community was being treated, and how kids in school were being treated, due to so many anti-immigration stances. At 15 years old, I never would have made a list for a candidate. I didn’t need someone to hear what I was going through because I wasn’t going through anything.
All the candidates I was used to looked like me, spoke my same language and comparatively, had it pretty easy. They had their own mountains to climb, but fewer barriers and less rough terrain made their journeys easier, and less monumental.
It made me realize the diversity in this upcoming presidential election is perhaps the most important thing. At the end of the day, there can only be one winner. But maybe, being the person who faced the challenge, proved it can be done and did it while millions watched on, is the real winner.