Marguerite (Maggie) Kennedy is a sophomore double majoring in Political Science and Communication Rhetoric with a double minor in French and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. As you can see from her degrees, Kennedy is passionate about politics and women’s issues, particularly with improving education and awareness surrounding sexual violence.
The Pitt sophomore remembers falling in love with politics during the ‘08 election, when former president Barack Obama’s name was on the ballot. Even though she wasn’t even old enough to drive a car back then, let alone vote, she was driven to start becoming informed on what was going on in the country she lives in, and that same drive is still motivating her today.
The most previous election has Kennedy especially riled up. As a huge Hillary Clinton supporter (and fan), she spent the months leading up to Nov. 8, 2016, participating in rallies, posting on social media and trying to raise awareness in every way she possibly could.
The political figures she has either met or attended rallies in support of include Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton herself (twice!), Michelle Obama, Chelsea Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and Katie McGinty. Let’s just say, with all the star-studded selfies she has, she’ll probably never need to take another profile picture ever again.
Kennedy has looked up to her older sister and her mother throughout her life. Both of them have set great examples for how to be strong, compassionate and ambitious women.
“I myself have always strived to be this kind of a woman, too, but I didn’t truly recognize or identify myself as a feminist until my junior year of high school,” Kennedy says. “During that year, I took AP Language and Composition and I had an outstanding teacher, Mrs. DiPrinzio. Through the works of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Kate Chopin and others, Mrs. DiPrinzio taught us the true meaning of feminism and its importance in today’s society.”
Kennedy also said she strongly identifies with other famous female figures such as Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Obama, Rupi Kaur, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Angelou.
One of the deepest impacts on Kennedy’s strong beliefs was something she endured during her senior year of high school. “I lost a friend to suicide,” she says. “We learned after her passing that she had been raped and abused by her ex-boyfriend. He threatened to kill her, so she didn’t let him.”
In response to losing her friend, Kennedy turned the entire situation around and founded the NO MORE club and the first of what has now become an annual school assembly at her alma mater, Great Valley High School. Kennedy has carried these same passions with her to college through her continual participation in clubs and organizations which serve to protect these same rights.
One of the biggest ways Kennedy gets to impact the lives of other young women on campus includes serving as a resident assistant in the only all-female residence hall at Pitt. She is also a member of the “It’s on Us” Task Force, as well as an “I am a SAFE” (Sexual Assault Facilitation Education) Peer Educator for the SHARE (Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Education) Office. She is also a member of the SECCS (Students Engaging in Conversations about Consent and Sexuality) club and a member of the Student Government Board Wellness Committee.
“I am heavily involved in eliminating campus rape culture and improving communication about healthy sexuality,” says Kennedy. “Throughout the past 3 or 4 years, I have grown in my knowledge and identity as a feminist. I am passionate about helping women, because I have seen firsthand examples of the oppression that women all around the world deal with every day.”
And, while she does have personal reasons for participating in these organizations, Kennedy believes everyone should be well-informed on these subjects, especially when it comes to sexual violence. “Sexual assault education and prevention should not be a partisan issue,” she says.
Kennedy woke up early on November 8, 2016, with a special sort of pep in her step. After months of rallying, she finally got to cast her vote for HRC. She went on to spend the rest of her day canvassing and campaigning with Pitt Dems and Hillary For America Volunteers. “All day, I was surrounded by strong, hopeful people like me, and I was so insanely excited to elect our first female president,” she says.
That night, she was watching the election results on the news with a few friends. When they first flipped on the TV, they were in good spirits, eagerly watching the numbers roll in.
None of them were prepared for what was about to happen. “I remember a harrowing, gut-wrenching feeling creeping in as Donald Trump won more and more states,” Kennedy says. “When it was clear what was going to happen, I couldn’t stop crying. I was, and still am, devastated.”
Kennedy wanted Clinton to win so badly. She thought 2017 was finally going to be the year that the glass ceiling would be shattered.
The following is an excerpt from a Facebook post Kennedy made following the election results: “Though I feel defeated, I must not be defeated. I will not give up. I will not let this break me or our movement. Someday, hopefully someday soon, there will be a woman president. Someday, enough of us will recognize, accept, and encourage the power, strength, and intelligence that is the woman. I don’t know when, I don’t know who, and right now, I really don’t know how, but I know it will happen.”
Nevertheless, She’s Persisting
Despite having her spirits dampened by the election results, Kennedy’s passion for politics continues today.
She’s currently staying involved by continuing to work for the causes that are important to her, such as the various sexual assault resources previously mentioned. She also volunteers with the Campus Women’s Organization, Pitt Dems and Rainbow Alliance. Kennedy strives to stay informed through these organizations, as well as through attending rallies, marches and protests.
She also continues to flood her social media with politically-aimed posts. Despite the criticism from some of her followers, she feels this is part of her duty. “I am comfortable and confident in my beliefs and therefore I feel some level of responsibility to share what I think is right, connect with others who think the same way, and maybe provoke thought and development for those that think differently,” she says.
After graduation, Kennedy is currently considering law school, getting involved in non-profit work helping women and potentially running for some form of office someday.
For those interested in supporting her (potential) future campaign, here are some of her possible plans for a platform: “I would love to see security and expansion of women’s accessibility to affordable birth control, medical testing, counseling, and abortion services—especially through continued and increased funding for Planned Parenthood,” she says. “I’d also like to see divestment from fossil fuels and investment in clean energy, furthered research and investment in environmentally friendly practices, prison reform, security and expansion of LGBTQIA rights and resources and nationwide laws outlining and enforcing specific means for gun control.”
And those are just a few off the top of her head.
Unfortunately, Kennedy has a long way to go before she can hit the campaign trail herself. For now, she’s going to rock the hell out of her “Nasty Woman” shirt, sing in her college a cappella group and share political statistics on Facebook (along with the occasional cute pug video). She said she’s going to fight the good fight for as long as it takes.
“Despite the disheartening results of this election and the clear levels of sexism and hatred still present in 2017 America, somehow, I am still optimistic that we will conquer that hate and do what’s right,” she says. “I guess I still believe in the goodness of Americans.”
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