By Rich Polt
Published December 18, 2012
For someone who is coming to grips with “living a normal life” (her words, not mine), Lydia Bowers is doing some pretty extra-ordinary stuff.
Lydia is the National Deputy Policy Director of the Roosevelt Institute, a nonprofit that gives college students the knowledge and tools they need to create progressive policy. The Institute is full of extremely intelligent and driven people (Lydia among them), who are churning out some really innovative solutions to the challenges facing this nation.
This past spring Lydia graduated Mount Holyoke College, where she was an American Studies major and a Study of Organizations minor. Not only did she graduate with honors, but Lydia was also captain of the swim team and holds six team records.
As a student, the Connecticut native worked at the National Priorities Project, an initiative that strives to make information on federal budgets transparent so citizens can influence how their tax dollars are spent. In addition, she interned with the City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection working on the Green Taxi Program and effectively used the program’s million dollars in federal funds.
I admire Lydia’s passion, sense of humor, and will to change political structures that greatly affect our lives. I look forward to seeing what other “normal” things Lydia will be doing in the future. Thanks for talking with us Lydia!
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
To engage, empower and promote the next generation of progressive leaders. Well, that’s the mission statement of the organization I work for but as I’ve been involved with them for over fours years and I believe deeply in the work we do I’m going to adopt their mission as my own for now.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU “EXPIRE?”
I want to have my own homestead and produce as much of what I need that I can myself. So much of our lives are focused on consuming and not producing. Taking a more active role in the production cycle of a good makes the consumption of that good even more enjoyable. I want to show others it can be fun to live a sustainable life. Also I want pigs on my homestead, because there is nothing happier than a happy pig.
IF YOU COULD MEET WITH ANYONE (ALIVE), WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM?
I’m going to willfully ignore that you asked for someone alive and say Eleanor Roosevelt.
Most biographies describe her as a woman who in her adolescents and early motherhood was deeply intelligent but reserved. I’ve always wondered how she developed, at a later point in her life, into one of the most respected and prominent advocates for human rights in this century.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
Dr. Exceptional or How I learned to stop worrying and love normalcy.
My generation was raised to believe we are exceptional and we will be the best. I’ve struggled to learn that having a “normal” life is okay if it makes me happy. I should start a support group for children of the baby boomers! Our mantra can be: “I may never be president, and that’s okay.” Repeat as often as you need. However, accepting normalcy isn’t accepting the status quo. Everyday I have the opportunity to work with passionate and articulate students whose ideas I know will change our world for the better. You don’t need to be president in order to make change. You can make it at the local level, while still being “just” a college student, or “just” a teacher, doctor, etc. It is possible to live a normal life that makes you happy and still create exceptional change.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU, IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE?
No idea. They’d probably decide they wanted to take the movie in a different direction make it an action film and cast a male lead.
WHAT IS A BELIEF THAT IS CORE TO YOUR BEING?
The beauty and potential in every life.
WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?
My parents. My mother volunteers at a local soup kitchen and my father works to preserve open space that is accessible to all. But they’re not perfect. My dad snores and my mom watches House Hunters on HGTV obsessively. What they taught me is that it is possible to take time out of your life to improve our world for the better. Also, they always supported and loved me. That makes them heroes to me.
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
Being a fitness guru. You think I’m joking, but that is my back-up plan if this whole change the world thing doesn’t work out.
TELL US SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT YOURSELF.
My middle name is Devotion. It makes for a good ice breaker.
WHAT QUESTION(s) DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED?
“What totally reckless and irresponsible thing do you do on a regular basis, even though you know better?”
ANSWER: Stand too close to the edge of the subway platform. Oh, I’m going to get an angry phone call from my mom about that one.