My name is Lisa Borders, and I’m a Recovering Politician. I prefer the term public servant, because for me, it’s really all about serving the public, not politics, but I’ll leave that discussion to another post.
I’ve been out of office (clean?) since January, 2010, and as of this April 8, 2011, post that’s 15 months, 3 days and 10 hours and 15 minutes of sobriety. While serving as City Council President, or vice mayor, I lost a 2009 bid for Atlanta Mayor. The loss was painful, but by the time my opponent and successor was sworn in, I had journeyed through anguish, astonishment, anger and acceptance at such a pace, I’d left Atlanta’s politicos in their own state of shock. I’d endorsed one of my competitors, made high profile appearances on his behalf and even agreed to co-chair his transition team. I attribute this rapid recovery to my commitment to community vs. clinging to campaign catastrophe. I trust this commitment will sustain my recovery into a long future of incontrovertible impact.
By way of explanation, I would tell you that my addiction to public service, or politics, runs in my family. Although my mother and grandfather both made unsuccessful political bids, both (as extraordinary community activist citizens) made major contributions to desegregation in the City of Atlanta. Their service results included open housing as well as integration of buses, lunch counters and public safety forces. My father was a physician and, although he never sought public office, he made a difference by empowering people to take charge of their health through political activism.
This collective familial body of work focused on creating opportunity and developing capability among the city’s disadvantaged. I can proudly say my fore-parents opened many doors and left wide paths decorated with astounding, against-all-odds, or dare I say it, almost INTOXICATING accomplishments. With such powerful examples, how could I not “be seduced by the siren of public service”?
As a teenager, I made my own mark by integrating one of Atlanta’s most preeminent and pristine independent schools, convincing my European classmates that I wasn’t so different from them after all. As a Duke undergrad, I surprised my genetics professor by dispelling his “research-based” belief that blacks and women were GENETICALLY inferior by earning unprecedented A-grade-level work. These experiences demonstrate my preferred revolutionary role as one of inside team player vs. outside agitator.
So you could say by birth, breeding and branding, I defined myself very early as an imbedded change agent, not so much by talk, but by action. I sought office, in part, to satisfy an unfulfilled multi-generational pursuit, but also to take on yet another level of “Inside Woman’s Work.”
I stand before you now as an ex-politician, who sees more clearly the battles to be waged and won. I’ve been to the dark side and returned with a greater appreciation for submerging ego, even a very public, high-profile one, to get thejob done. I know now that this work is more about the mission in my soul than a title behind my name or a label on my forehead. I realize now that I don’t necessarily have to be a player on the field to impact the outcome in the arena. I can’t promise I won’t ever run for public office again, but I can say that, as Gandhi advises, I’m fully committed to being the change I want to see in my world, whether politically titled/labeled or not. How about you?