Election Day is fast approaching across the United States, and the stakes could not be higher. I am fortunate to have spent most of my life working in academia and have witnessed so many young students decide on careers in public service. This year, I am fortunate to see one such former student continue her advocacy for change.
It was during my time as the president of Spelman College that I had the privilege and the joy of meeting a young Stacey Abrams. She was an academically gifted student and an effective social justice activist who showed an unwavering commitment to bettering the lives of those around her. Over the past 25 years, I have continued to witness her brilliance and commitment to social justice firsthand.
When Stacey’s parents, the Reverends Carolyn and Robert Abrams, brought her, the second born of their six children, to Spelman to begin her college education, they were among the many family members assembled to hear me welcome first-year students to our historically Black college for women.
When I opened the floor to questions and concerns, Reverend Robert Abrams, in an impassioned and very compelling voice, said to me: “In our family and our Mississippi community, we take care of each other. As we leave Stacey at Spelman, you’ve got to promise me that you’re going to take care of her.”
On behalf of the Spelman College community, I made that promise. This episode speaks to the values and the responsibility we all have to take care of each other, which were instilled in Stacey as a youngster.
Later in her college career, Stacey stopped me just as I was about to enter a meeting of the Spelman College Board of Trustees. She said: “Sister President, I must speak to the Board.” I responded by saying the agenda for the meeting had been set. However, when I saw the seriousness of purpose in Stacey’s eyes, I agreed to her request.
On that day, Stacey made a strong and persuasive case for why the board should not raise every student’s tuition. Board members heard her and agreed. I share this story as one of many that I could recount of Stacey’s commitment to doing whatever she can to be of service to others and to fight mightily in the interest of those whose voices have not been heard and whose needs have not been addressed.
From an early age, Stacey showed a deep commitment to serving others and using her voice to stand up for the most vulnerable among us. The values instilled in Stacey and the work she has done — whether as a student activist, House Minority Leader, or champion of democracy — have shown us that she will be an effective and compassionate governor who looks out for all Georgians, not just for some.
As governor, Stacey will take care of all Georgians by putting more money in their pockets, more opportunities in their communities, and more freedom in their lives. Investments in our children that will give them the opportunity to soar.
In recent years, we have seen how governors can be either a help or a hindrance in times of trouble — from global pandemics to threats to our democracy. Stacey Abrams will be a powerful and effective leader who ensures that Georgia’s families get access to education, health care, and housing and have the ability to earn a good living — whether they work for themselves or someone else.
This fall, there is a historic opportunity to elect the first Black woman governor in the United States. For all eligible voters in Georgia, your responsibility is clear. Namely, to go to the polls and vote, and to encourage your family and friends to have a plan to vote by going to staceyabrams.com to support Stacey’s campaign for governor.
For those of us who do not live in the state of Georgia, we can do two things. One, we can reach out to friends, family, and colleagues who do live in Georgia to urge them to support Stacey Abrams for governor. And secondly, we can remind everyone of the power of their vote.
Stacey Abrams’ Georgia is one where every Georgian will have the opportunity to thrive. As an African proverb says: “When women lead, streams run uphill!”
Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole served as the first African American woman president of Spelman College from 1987 to 1997 and as president of Bennett College for Women from 2002 to 2007. She has also served as director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, as chair of the board of United Way of America, and as the chair and seventh President of the National Council of Negro Women.
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Local Media Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable trust that provides support for the Word In Black collaborative, does not endorse political candidates. Word In Black, however, invites and publishes opinion essays, including this one, from vital voices and opinion makers central to creating equity in Black communities.