“Have you heard of Brené Brown” is not what I expected to come from my lips when I had the tremendous opportunity to meet Mayor Pete in person.
Let me back up a little, to help you understand how unlikely and how timely it was for me to be able to meet Mayor Pete. I started this website in April with the goal of sharing people’s stories on why they support Mayor Pete because I know the power of storytelling, thanks in large part to Brené Brown.
When I listened to Shortest Way Home, I felt like I was listening to Brené star student. His conversational tone made you feel like you were sitting across the table from him sipping your favorite coffee. His vulnerability and authenticity left you feeling like he was an old friend.
Walk back a little further with me, then I promise to bring it all home.
Two years ago, life as I knew it blew up in my face, and without the support of an amazing friend and her continued evangelizing of Brené Brown, I don’t know where I would be. Probably not here, that I can say for sure.
Brené Brown, my husband and my therapist helped me get on a path toward wholehearted living. I’m not there yet, because I think it’s a lifelong journey, but I’ve come a long way in the last two years. In a nutshell, I went from an insecure wallflower who wanted everyone, anyone to like her to an unashamed human who, on most days, loves and accepts herself. Dr. Brown’s books, Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and Braving the Wilderness changed my life. I know that’s not the order she published them, but that’s the order I read them, and they were each exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed them.
I have made tremendous strides but things are far from perfect. I published a book, but I have a hard time being brave enough to promote it. I discovered something minor that I’m proud of, but I’m still afraid to share the details with the world. And though we have a lot to be grateful for, this summer has been particularly difficult on my family. We are dealing with the common struggles of living paycheck to paycheck: anxiety, sleep deprivation, economic insecurity (which is a real thing and not necessarily synonymous with racism). Right now, we are pretty much, as Bernie Sanders likes to say, “One paycheck away from poverty.” I like Bernie, y’all. I was all in for him in 2016. I love his “damn the man, save the empire” attitude, but this year calls for something different. Sanders would’ve been a great successor to Obama, and so would Hillary Clinton, but we need the antithesis of Trump in 2020, and you couldn’t get more different than Trump than Mayor Pete. Like Trevor Noah said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if he has the world’s largest hands.”
When I found out Mayor Pete was going to be speaking at Essence Festival, I knew I had to be there. Logistically, it was going to be difficult, but what an opportunity. I missed my chance to see the future president back in 2008 when Obama spoke at Tulane. I wasn’t as involved in politics as I am now (becoming a mom later that year changed me). Still, I thought it would have been really cool to say, “I saw the president speak” if he were to clinch the nomination and defeat the Republican challenger. You all know how that turned out. So, here I am, over a decade later, much more politically active (though still woefully behind where I’d like to be) finding out that my top choice in the primaries is coming to my city so early on the campaign trail.
Then, I found a flyer for a fundraiser which was to be held immediately following Essence and thought, “Oh my gosh, I can do more than see him, I can meet him!” My bubble burst as soon as I saw the ticket prices. I know candidates have to raise money, and I respect that, but I was sad. I was thankful to see him at Essence, but like I said, it’s been a hard summer, and I knew meeting someone I admire would be a break in the clouds.
I lamented to some friends who understood my plight, which graciously led to me getting a ticket to the event. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to meet Mayor Pete. Or so I thought. I really didn’t know what to expect because I’m not the type of person to attend political fundraisers. I hoped I would meet him and not make a fool of myself. Spoiler alert: I did and I did.
At the event, I was among his supporters, and our mutual admiration for him, and the hope he inspires in us, connected us across age, sex, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion and political affiliation. We were a mostly white group, which I think is important to acknowledge, even though I don’t think it’s a reason to write him off before hearing his message. That’s another topic for another day though.
Mayor Pete brings out authentic people because authentic people can sense authenticity. He has said, “The more you know about exclusion, the more you think about belonging,” and “We have a crisis of belonging in this country.” Brené Brown’s work is based around vulnerability, authenticity and belonging.
So, here I am, having been given this awesome opportunity to shake his hand and get a picture with him and I lose my chill. (by the way, huge shoutout to his team member who graciously and effectively kept things moving, like a boss. I’m sorry I can’t remember your name) Instead of telling him how much he inspires me, instead of telling him that I think he’s the best person for the job, instead of telling him what amazing supporters he has, I said, “Have you heard of Brené Brown?” ::facepalm::
I had been casually wondering if he was familiar with her work, since he’s basically her work, personified, and I guess since I was, I don’t know, kind of starstruck, and I blurted out what had been on my mind these last few months.
Naturally, he was taken aback so I had to repeat my ridiculous question, even though I wanted to pull the words back into my mouth and start over. He was so gracious. Just like I would hope to be if someone ever asks me an off the wall question. He said yes, and I believe he knows who she is, but I’m not sure if he knows he is the quintessential character in Daring Greatly.
Intentional or by happenstance, he is living out Brené Brown’s principles on the national stage. I believe he can beat Trump and begin to stitch our divided country back together, but no matter how this all plays out, I am grateful for his voice in the larger conversation.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” – Brené Brown