Stacey--you feel like you can call her by her first name--woo'd me over Twitter last year. A Georgia state representative from 2007 until she declared for the governor's race in 2017, at 17 she got her first taste of politics and writing. They were welded together from then on in her public face. Hired as a typist for a congressional campaign, Stacey was upgraded to speechwriter based on the edits she made to the candidate's text. From there, she studied at Spellman, University of Texas, and got her doctorate in law from Yale.
Here's a taste of Stacey Abrams' no-nonsense, pre-fame style:
I pledge to not accept a dime from @NRA or the gun lobby. I am proud to be the only candidate for #GAGov on either side of the aisle who served in the legislature & never received a stamp of approval from the #NRA. Read my comprehensive gun safety plan: https://t.co/Kxi3aYfctR https://t.co/Vrvpc7IGik-- Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) May 4, 2018
"Public education saved my family's life. It's why my mom was the 1st person in her family to finish high school. It's why my dad was the 1st man in his family to go to college. I have ALWAYS fought for GA public schools, and I'll be THE public education #GAGov." - Stacey Abrams pic.twitter.com/CIvlezlwCR-- Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) May 20, 2018
... mental illness has been stigmatized, not treated. People with nowhere else to turn succumb to self-medication, often entering our overburdened criminal justice system. That's exactly what happened to my youngest brother, Walter. 2/ #gapol-- Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) May 14, 2018
Stacey Abrams and her 25 year march to overnight success
From that 17-year-old studying campaign text, at 44, she's exploded into fame as the first black woman to win a gubernatorial primary. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC and more have all run large pieces on the Yale law grad that, for many, came from nowhere to win 75% of the vote.
Actually, she came from somewhere, and she claims it proudly. Stacey Abrams was raised in the South, like I was, and we're about the same age. She campaigned in Fort Valley, about 15 minutes from where I grew up, and Macon, the mecca of middle Georgia. She ran in Columbus and in Dahlonega. The interesting question for much of America is, why Abrams now? Much of the media writes about race, or, gender, or Trump--pick any two.
Stacey Abrams' win isn't about race or gender.
Stacey Abram's American relevance goes deeper than the politics of the moment. It's because she reads as real. She won more than 75% of the vote because she's got 75% or more common ground with almost everyone in Georgia. For example, Stacey is over $200K in debt, including a lot of student loan debt, some back taxes and credit card debt.
"I suspect my situation will sound familiar to others who are the first in their families to earn real money," she said, quoted in Fortune. It will certainly sound familiar to the 6 million or so Americans over $50K in student loan debt and not paying it down.
She's written romance novels on the side while practicing law. How many people can relate to an aspirational side gig fueled by dreams and desire? She won more than 75% of the vote, because she's got more than 75% of the story line in Georgia down. It's not about appearing regal, but being regular. The real win is doing that with your with dreams intact, as she has.
"We are writing the next chapter of Georgia's history, where no one is unseen, no one is unheard and no one is uninspired," she said, when they told her she'd won the Democratic primary, as quoted by the New York Times).
It sounds like another globally famous Georgia leader, Dr. Martin Luther King. Stacey evoked Southern heritage by quoting the book of Esther when her state primary win became public, saying, "We were born for such a time as this."
American leadership runs on its own clock
In fact, as a leader, her time, my time, and your time are all the same time: right now. That's always when your reality impacts others--in the present moment. In Georgia's past, the state was founded as a debtor's colony. Its purpose was to give a new hope--a dream, if you will--to those without hope who came here.
In the future, Abrams dreams of winning may, of course, be defeated in the moment of November by her Republican opponent in the Georgia governor's race. Nevertheless, she has already crossed the lines from dreams into reality and beyond--into relevance--for not only Georgia, but also for America. Making the most of the moment, not just today but every day, is a lesson in authentic leadership worth learning.