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Being Unafraid to Be Exactly Who You Are with Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton

Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton has spent her life bringing people together to solve problems and fighting for what is right. What I love about her is how she brings her passion to every issue. She’s not looking for a title or attention; she’s focused on using her gifts in whatever space she finds herself in, as her true, most authentic self.

JS: When I say the words Fearless Authenticity, what comes to mind for you in your own life?

Lt. Gov: Oh, goodness, it’s something honestly, that I think about all the time. Because I think that when we think about society, and we think about the fact that you find yourself in these spaces where you might be one or the first or the only one or one of the few, whatever that categorization as a person of color, as a woman, as whatever it might be, as a mom, whatever it might be. Fearless authenticity, to me is really about being unafraid to be exactly who you are, and recognizing that whatever environment you’re in, they need you to be exactly who you are. Because without that perspective, without that heart, without that energy that you’re bringing, without that skill set, without those words, without your lived experience, whatever it can be. And a lot of us have lots of things that we’ve been through in life, you know, you and I, you talked about the caregiving, that’s an experience that I had. That wasn’t always easy. It was the greatest joy of my life. It was also very stressful. And of course, there’s grief attached to it, because I then lost my mom. But what I knew when I became lieutenant governor is that that experience was not something that was just something that happened and then it just disappeared. It was part of my narrative; it was woven into the fabric of who I am. So that when I come into the space of state administration, or whatever space that I find myself in, I bring that to the forefront so that I can better serve people who also have experienced that as well.

JS: It can’t be easy, though, being the first black anything. The first one, the only one, maybe the only one on a list of things that are in that office. Is that the biggest challenge that you faced? And if not what, what has been the biggest challenge? And how do you handle that and bounce back from those challenges or maybe even failures?

Lt. Gov: First of all, we know that there are so many people upon whose shoulders I stand and all of us stand, women like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, Carol Moseley-Braun. There’s so many. Vice president Kamala Harris. There’s so many women who also have broken barriers. And there’s so many women that have broken barriers that I can’t even name because they weren’t the names that we have always heard. They’re not the names that we read about in history books. But nevertheless, they too, walked into spaces where they were the first or the one of a few or the only. I know that I think about that, and I stand on their shoulders. And I always think about how my shoulders can stay firm, for the next person to come behind me, because the goal is never to be the first or the only. The goal is to break a barrier, open the door, and then cheer everyone on as they come behind you.

(Edited for length and clarity)