Leadership program sends women to meet President Obama

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Getting to meet the president is generally a once in a lifetime experience. For one local politician, that momentous occasion is about to happen for a second time.

Carmen Darland is the democratic party chair for the 3rd Congressional District. She’s traveling to Washington, D.C. with a group of women from our region.

Darland has been involved with the democratic party in Indiana for more than ten years. She said meeting the president is an honor, but she’s more excited about the program that’s taking her there.

“What an awesome responsibility to be the commander in chief of the United States.  I have the upmost respect for the president regardless of political affiliation, regardless of who holds the seat. I can’t even begin to imagine the day to day responsibilities that go with a position like that. So, politics aside, it is a very honorable thing to meet  the president in any situation. It’s a huge honor and opportunity to meet the president at any point, and I know that a lot of the women that are going with us on this trip- this might be their first experience meeting the president. So, a very key moment and an excellent opportunity to learn more about the democratic process and to represent the state of Indiana,” Darland said.

Carmen Darland first met President Obama when he was Senator Obama. It was back in 2008 during a campaign stop in Columbia City. Fast forward six years, and she’s getting ready to do it again at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum. Only this time, she’ll have some company. Five other women will be joining Darland in our nation’s capitol.

“Oh my god, that’s all I can say. I’m very excited. I’m so looking forward to it. I’m from Gary, and the president is from Chicago, so it’s not that far away.  I think we already understand each other,” Emerging Leader graduate Saba Mohammed said.

“I’m nervous, I’m excited, I’m incredibly honored to be able to meet him, to be able to thank him in person for all the years that he has served. It’s quite a sacrifice when you’re serving in the public eye. He’s sacrificed quite a bit.  I have union family members, and I want to thank him for supporting unions. I want to thank him for his hard work . Not only did I knock doors for him, make phone calls for him,  he was the first candidate I campaigned for in my life. I have now realized the importance of if you want a candidate to win, you need to go out there and help them. I just thank him for being a great candidate and a great president,” Emerging Leader graduate Rebecca Tomerlin said

“I’m super excited for multiple reasons. I’m really excited about thanking the president personally because I’m a member of  UAW Local 2209 in Fort Wayne, and I work for General Motors. The president supported my job when General Motors needed help. So, I would like to personally than him for supporting me, my family, and my livelihood. I also worked really hard to get him elected and reelected. It’s always a wonderful opportunity to meet the president, but I feel like this is just absolutely  from working so hard to get him elected and then being able to actually being able to meet the man that you knocked doors for and made phone calls for is just an opportunity of a lifetime,” Emerging Leader graduate Amanda Meier said.

These are just a few Hoosier women who are part of the Emerging Leaders Program. It was started three years ago by Darland and other leaders at a pub in Kendallville.

“It was a brainstorm with now mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend and his then campaign manager Jeff Harris and myself for the need to develop a training program for the Indiana Democratic Party. Between our group, we’ve  essentially developed a program that is now fully funded and is bringing 40 new faces into democratic politics each and every year. The goal is to bring new people into process that is democratic policies, democratic politics, and to essentially build the bench and show more people the ropes about how to run campaigns and how to be involved in elections. Our party is essentially about working for every day people and for representing those who need the most support and face in public policy. We are the party of the people, and the more that we can learn about the issues and about how to elect people that care about those issues, the better off schools, communities, and families across the nation are going to be. When you’re involved with politics, you work with people from all over the state when you’re working with state-wide campaigns, and all of the networks and tools that you need to not just run a campaign but execute it well are the things that we teach. If you know a lot of people in the various areas doing the same things, the synergies are amazing and hopefully with that, we can get our issues out more to the public and elect more democratic officials as a result and ultimately represent the people of Indiana better,” Darland said.

The three women traveling with Darland are all graduates of the program, and said it’s opened many doors.

“It’s opened many doors for me. I’ve been able to network with people. I’m from far northwest Indiana. I don’t get down to Indianapolis as much. I was able to go down to the statehouse for the first time, meet a lot of candidates, learn how to campaign better, how to campaign smarter, and really work smarter, not harder. They’ve taught me a lot just about knocking doors, scripts, and even how to get other people involved as well and without the program, it would not be the success that it is today,” Tomerlin said.

“It has opened my eyes and taught me how to rein in that energy and redirect and focus it to where it gets the results that we need as women and emerging leaders and to just have women’s voices be heard, but our parties voice to be heard.  I love this program, and I will die-hard support it till the day that I die,” Mohammed said.

“I’ve been involved in politics through my union. However, I didn’t know anything about party platform or things like that. The emerging leaders program actually gave me the tools and the information I needed in order to be a more effective within my county democratic party to be a leader. It’s things that you don’t necessarily get elsewhere so, it was definitely a great opportunity for me. It’s nice to have women leadership and someone to empower you as a woman that understands your struggles and what you’re going through. The program has been absolutely amazing. I probably wouldn’t be the Whitley County Democratic Party Chair without Carmen and the program,” Meier said.

The conference runs through Friday. Other guest speakers include Hillary Clinton and Dr. Jill Biden. Darland said it’s important for women to learn from other women in positions of leadership.

“These are people who do help shape policy in the United States and in the case of Hillary Clinton, could be a potential president in the future. Right now, women are underrepresented in elected offices, and even at the polls. So as we get more and more women involved, the voice of what is the 51 percent of the state of Indiana will be heard more. Hopefully, we can continue to clarify the issues that are important to women, to families, and to communities through programs like this. It’s so important as women that we continue to be role models for each other and continue to pull up  the next group that will become the leadership in the future,” Darland said.

If you’d like to learn more about the program, just click here.

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