by Rhonda Bishop
As I nervously scanned each row looking for my seat, I realized that my flight to Tampa for the 2012 Republican National Convention would be a full one as an abundance of red attire, Romney, Ryan and Reagan memorabilia packed the aisles.
After locating my seat, a man with a polo emblazoned with “Reagan.com” curiously looked over at me. I had to smile as I knew exactly what he was thinking. Politely, we introduced ourselves and when I mentioned that I worked for the YWCA, a slow smile spread across his face. “I know about the YWCA! I’ve seen your signs all over downtown Chicago—they do great work!” he excitedly exclaimed.
He told me he was an independent contractor who had historically voted Republican. We discussed a myriad of political ideals — from taxes to racial profiling. When asked about the “War on Women,” he paused to collect his thoughts. Pensively, he admitted he really did not understand where the “war on women” stemmed from. In his opinion, both parties should acknowledge that reproductive rights is an issue best led by women at the table—not men. It was then that I had to take a pause. Here I was, a young woman, having an engaging, respectful, candid conversation with a male Republican.
As my flight descended into Tampa, I left that conversation feeling refreshingly hopeful. Maybe, just maybe, the Republican convention would show me that voters can come together on political issues that matter to women.
Last night, I attended the 2012 Republican Convention Welcome Reception, an invitation-only event that showcased cultural cuisine, lively entertainment and about 15,000 convention attendees from all over the country. The atmosphere was patriotic; many attendees donned cowboy attire, with a few choosing to wear colonial costumes. Everyone I met was charming, approachable and very friendly—nothing like the narrow-minded Republican persona that some media outlets have portrayed during this election season. And, despite the stereotype assuming a lack of diversity in the GOP, attendees of color were sprinkled throughout the convention.
However, when I asked women about their thoughts on women-focused priorities for the upcoming election—many dodged the question. One woman felt that the policies should primarily focus on the economy, eliminating our national debt and strengthening public education. “What is right for men is right for women,” she exclaimed.
When I mentioned that I worked for the YWCA—it was met with a timid smile or nod of approval. I am so proud to work for an organization that not only saves lives and provides critical opportunities for empowerment; we truly are a bridge-building organization between the old and the young, the rich and the poor and yes, even Democrats and Republicans.
YWCA correspondents are attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., August 27-30 and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., from September 3-6. Ask our correspondents questions and our Twitter updates by using these Twitter hashtags: #ywcaRNC and #ywcaDNC. Check out our RNC 2012 photos on Facebook. Learn more.