By Shannon Durazo
When junior Jenna Whitaker considers the most important issues facing the country in the upcoming election, her first inclination is to think beyond the nation’s borders.
Whitaker, a political science major and president of the American University chapter of She’s the First, has always has always had an interest in foreign policy, especially policy that effects women and girls. She’s the First is a national nonprofit that advocates for access to education for its women scholars around the globe via fundraisers, but Whitaker said that fundraising has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of our problems we’re having in the United States with COVID really do relay over to a lot of other countries,” said Whitaker. “A lot of our women scholars have dropped out of school or dropped out to do different jobs because of their local economies crashing.”
That’s why when Whitaker takes to the polls this fall she plans to vote for candidates who can re-establish the United States’ position as a leader in global conflict resolution and unite the world during times of crises like COVID-19, something she said has diminished under the Trump administration.
“This goes without saying for a lot of people that Joe Biden wasn’t my first choice, but I do think that Joe Biden has experience in these higher executive roles,” said Whitaker. “Under the Obama administration he did take a lot of lead on foreign relations and diplomacy aspects.”
Whitaker is hopeful Biden will appoint officials to his cabinet who can address these issues, and also plans to vote via absentee ballot for officials who she believes will address issues like COVID-19 in her home state of California.
Whitaker said she is confident that her ballot will be delivered appropriately due to California’s long-established vote by mail system, but that other states that don’t have as good of a system in place are a cause for concern.
“I think that regardless of your political party it’s something that everybody should be concerned about,” Whitaker said.
Despite the semester not being in person due to COVID-19, a decision that Whitaker said she believes was ultimately the right one by AU, She’s the First will still be prioritizing the education and advocacy aspects of the program even if members can’t do their typical in-person fundraising.
“Even though we’re not able to meet in person, we still have a lot of goals we want to accomplish to help our women scholars in the best way possible,” Whitaker said.