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It’s Election Day In America

February 1, 2013 by Charity Wallace

It’s Election Day in America.  Without doubt, citizens of battleground states are eager for this day to be over so that they can return to some semblance of normalcy – sans political attack ads and endless phone calls from pollster and campaigns.  But, we all must remember what a privilege it is to vote and the sacrifices made to afford us this right. On election days, I am reminded of the experiences I have had monitoring elections in the Middle East and North Africa region.  As part of an election observation team with the International Republic Institute, I witnessed poignant moments as generations of Tunisians and Jordanians stood in lines for hours to ensure their voices were heard in their historic elections, a first for many of them.  Mothers brought their children with them to vote – whispering the significance of that moment to the next generation.  Elderly women walked miles for the chance to cast their ballot for the first time in their lives.  And farmers, using donkeys as their mode of transport to the voting stations, dressed up for the special occasion, signifying their reverence for this sacred act. These memories are ones that replay in my mind as I fill in the bubbles for the candidates I support.  And, it reinforces the fact that we must not take this privilege for granted. Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, which ignited the entire region, exemplify the overwhelming human desire for freedom and democracy.  Freedom to make your voice heard without fear of retribution, freedom to gather around a cause, and freedom from tyrannical governments that oppress their citizens. But countries must understand that a critical component to these movements is women. In the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, women played a significant role in the revolutions.  Unfortunately, since those heady days of transformation, women have been sidelined.  Their rights are being debated in their respective constitutions, their active involvement in society is being challenged, and their voices are being stifled.  For countries to be free, stable and prosperous, women must be part of the equation. Through the George W. Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative, we are working to equip women across the Middle East and North Africa and around the world to be leaders in their respective countries, so that they might influence the direction of their nation.  We know that investing in these women will pay dividends toward peace. As our country learns the results of the 2012 election, my thoughts wander to those I’ve met with purple stained fingers who voted for the first time in their lives.  And I feel exceedingly grateful for those who have gone before me in my own country to give me the chance to make my voice heard.

This post was written by Charity Wallace, Director of the Women’s Initiative  at the George W. Bush Institute.


Author

Charity Wallace
Charity Wallace

Charity N. Wallace serves as the Senior Advisor to the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute and is in an executive graduate program in pursuit of a Global Master of Arts degree in international relations from The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Most recently, Ms. Wallace served as the Vice President of the Global Women’s Initiatives and Senior Advisor to Mrs. Laura Bush. In this role, Ms. Wallace was responsible for setting the vision and managing the policy engagement for the women’s initiatives, including Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon global health initiative, empowering women in the Middle East and working with First Ladies from around the world. The Women's Initiative aims to improve access to education, health care, and economic opportunity for women and children in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

From February 2009 through September 2010, Wallace served as the Chief of Staff to Mrs. Laura Bush.  Wallace oversaw Mrs. Bush’s initiatives - from her wide ranging policy agenda to her the publishing and promotion of Mrs. Bush’s bestselling book, Spoken from the Heart. Wallace served in the Bush Administration from January 2001 to January 2009.  During her tenure in the administration, she served as Deputy Chief of Protocol of the United States (2007-2009), Director of Advance for First Lady Laura Bush (2004-2007), and worked in public liaison positions in Presidential Advance, the U.S. Department of Education, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and USA Freedom Corps. During her tenure in the Bush Administration and in her current role, Wallace has traveled to 70 countries.

Ms. Wallace serves on the Board of Advisors for the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, the Advisory Board of ARZU Studio Hope, the Advisory Board of 4word Women and the Advisory Board of All In Together, an bi-partisan organization that promotes women’s engagement in political and civic life.  Ms. Wallace is an ex-officio member on the Human Freedom Advisory Council for the Bush Institute.  Ms. Wallace wrote the foreword for the book Work, Love, Pray, which was released in 2011. A native of California, Ms. Wallace graduated magna cum laude from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, with a focus in international relations. 

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