nominated by YWCA Columbus
by: Susie Owens
You can predict a child’s probable health, education level, earning potential, and even length of life based on the ZIP code where that child is born. “In the wealthiest nation in the world, this is unconscionable,” says Liz Brown, a member of the Columbus City Council. “We must measure our progress not by how the wealthiest are faring, but by how the lives of those hardest hit by poverty are improving.”
What makes Liz different than most policy promise-makers is that she knows how to make a difference. After high school, and before attending Columbia University, she worked in an AmeriCorps program called City Year. As a teacher’s aide in a public middle school in Philadelphia, she saw the intersection between public policy and people’s lives. But for Liz, it went deeper than that. “If a kid doesn’t have a safe, reliable place to sleep the night before, that child can’t learn. Without a good meal, that child can’t learn. With a parent absent and the one remaining working two sub-living wage jobs, that child can’t learn.” The experience changed her — because she saw that it was within her power to make an impact on public policy and make lives better for people.
The fact that Liz campaigned while she was pregnant with her daughter came quite natural. Liz grew up watching her grandmothers work to make a difference in the world. Both were born in 1920, the year the 19th Amendment was ratified. “They showed me from my earliest age that women call the shots.”
“Both of my grandmothers were adventurous, principled, and courageous,” she adds. One was the mother of Sherrod Brown, senior US Senator from Ohio. “My paternal grandmother was still registering voters from behind a card table outside the grocery store just months before she passed away. As a Girl Scout leader, teacher, and foreign exchange “mother,” my maternal grandmother had countless devoted people across many continents who considered themselves her children.”
Sarah Briggs, a close friend of Liz, reminds us that Liz is extremely intelligent and creative in her approach to solving problems. “She is loyal and works toward bringing people and community together to make Columbus better for all of us.”
Liz’s most important way to help others is to listen. “It’s the most critical function to have in my job, because our priorities should be guided by what our constituents tell us about what they see in their neighborhoods every day.”
But Liz has a special ear for listening to the causes of women — the mothers of those children who are struggling to learn in school and make the best of their lives.
“I love working with women on many of these issues, because women have an inherent ability to be compassionate leaders. We’re focused and collaborative. And I’ve found we almost always possess an invaluable trait for building trust: we can admit when we are wrong!”
If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?
“To improve the lives of those hardest hit by poverty.”
What is the most important piece of advice you would share with a young woman growing up today?
“Find a woman you admire in your field and decide what it is you want to learn from her. It’s important to see a role model doing the work you love.”
What women influenced you the most either past or present?
“My grandmothers had enormous influences on my life, first by raising each of my remarkable parents and second as role models.”
What’s your favorite quote?
“You only get bored if you’re boring.’ A wonderful reminder that we create our experiences.
If I ever were to look back on an unfulfilling life, I’d have only one person to blame.”
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