Peggy Flanagan is a member of White Earth Nation and her family is The Wolf Clan. She is a wife, a mother, the first Native American to sit on her school board, just elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, and an all-around force for good.
Peggy was our keynote speaker for the first night of National Go Run this time last year. She shared that early on, she never thought she would run for office. Yet here she is, a twice-elected official who took her seat at the table and assumed her rightful place in a position of power.
At 24, she pointed out that it was ridiculous that there wasn’t an American Indian on the school board. So she spent about six months looking for a person to fill that gap. Then one night after stating her case for the need of school board representation at a community meeting, the leaders of her community challenged her to run. After real talk and encouragement from her mentor, she mapped a plan. Peggy was young, didn’t have kids, and lived “on the wrong side of town.” She wasn’t supposed to win. But she did.
I wasn’t supposed to win. But I did.
She ran again, this time for the state house, only to bow out gracefully when – like many of us – she listened to her heart and cared for an ailing parent. All along, she was recognized by progressive leaders across the United States, started a family, and became the head of the Children’s Defense Fund – Minnesota.
Last fall, Peggy was made the co-chair of the Raise the Wage campaign in Minnesota. They organized over 70 organizations across the state from faith, labor, and nonprofit communities to raise the wage to $9.50 and index it to inflation. And they won!
A lot of people told her that she should settle for what she can get — $9.50/hr is better than it was. Settle for that. So she went home and talked to her mom about it — her mother who worked 12 hour days to pay for daycare. Sometimes they were on welfare, but she made it work. After an intense conversation, Peggy’s mom said, “I wish there was a coalition of folks at the capitol fighting for you and me when you were coming up. Don’t you settle. I did not raise you to settle.”
It wasn’t her only “win” this year. After a special election Tuesday, in which she ran unopposed, Peggy joins Rep. Susan Allen, D-Minneapolis, as the only two Native Americans in the Legislature in Minnesota.
Don’t you settle. I did not raise you to settle.
At National Go Run, she challenged us to not settle and to ask ourselves not “what can we win, what can we get.” But instead, “the real question is: what do our communities and families deserve? Let’s start there.”
“What is your vision for your community? What do you want? Not the minimum of what you can get, but everything. Think of all the ‘ands.’ And consider this: do you get to all the things you want and need for your community if you don’t step up into leadership? Probably not.”
So what are you waiting for?
Here’s a first step in not settling and to start encouraging:
It’s gonna get better because of all of you.
It’s gonna get better because we are not going to settle.