What Stacey Abrams Wants You to Know
Last week I heard Stacey Abrams, former Georgia state rep, voting rights advocate and author, speak from a near-front row seat. Speak? I mean preach. Abrams sprinkled her well-tooled stump speech from her near-win of the Georgia governor’s race into remarks aimed at her audience, a gathering of communications professionals. An attorney who publishes romance novels under a pen name, Abrams is at heart a communicator. She had Three Big Things to say:
Use honest, clear language. Tell the truth even if it’s painful, embarrassing, or unpopular. Do the hard mental work to say what you actually mean.
Be present and communicate your values. For her race for governor, she used the same messages, informed by her personal values, no matter who her audience was. In this way, she let other people see themselves in her story. “Meet people where they are,” she encouraged, “ not where you want them to be.” Emphatically not a person who tells people what they want to hear, Abrams suggested, “You need to give people a reason to move toward you.”
Advocate. Use your money, peer pressure, attention, and purchasing power to make change happen. She views voter suppression as the single most important issue, arguing that the disenfranchisement of people of color is “baked in” to our country’s voting laws. She is leading this work through Fair Fight 2020.
The daughter of a librarian, Abrams recounted growing up reading the dictionary (which reminded me I did that too!). She is the author of Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change (2018). Earlier this year Abrams became the first African-American woman to deliver a response to the State of the Union address. When asked about her favorite books, she said that in that moment they were: The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami and The power of the Sower by Octavia Butler.
Oh, there’s one more thing she wants you to know. She is happy to run as a Democratic vice presidential candidate once the top presidential candidate asks her.
Stacey Abrams was a key-note speaker at Comnet19, the annual conference of the Communications Network, a community of learning and leadership for foundations and nonprofits.