A Mom Finds Her Political Voice


Written by Irma Ilustre, Manheim Township, for Lancaster Speaks Up.

Written by Irma Ilustre, Manheim Township. This piece was first published on the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on May 16, 2021 with permission from the author.

What kind of world do I want my children to grow up in? This question has been one of my guiding principles as a mother and Lancaster SPEAKS Up member.

I want my children to grow up in a community that reflects the values that our family believes in. After the election of 2016, I realized that I could no longer be a bystander in my community, riding out the ebb and flow of politics. I needed to be an active part of my community. I needed to take a stand to promote the values and beliefs that I was teaching my children. I also wanted to be a better role model for my children and “practice what I was preaching.”

Like many people, I’m an introvert. Attending a protest or canvassing our community is not easy for me. As a mom my life is very busy, but my urge to participate and add my voice to move my community towards a greater good remains– so that leaves me wondering, how can I make a difference?

Luckily, I found Perry Hazeltine through a mutual friend. Perry is the founder of Lancaster SPEAKS Up, a group that focuses on making a difference using the written word. The idea of writing letters to the editor or emails like this one appealed to me. I have always been a writer and have kept a blog for a number of years, but writing for political purposes was a skill I needed to learn. Perry and the talented writers at SPEAKS Up were very helpful. Not only did they give me feedback, but they also discussed current events and issues and provided multiple points of view that made me re-evaluate my writing. Meeting in the evenings was difficult for me, so Perry and I started the daytime SPEAKS writing sessions for people (like moms) who were not able to join the evening writing sessions.

Working with Lancaster SPEAKS Up fits my schedule and has enhanced my writing. It provided the outlet I needed to be an engaged citizen in my community. Since I have joined Lancaster SPEAKS Up, I have had a letter to the editor published. I also lead the Lancaster SPEAKS Up blog, where we promote and support the SPEAKS writers.

If you’re someone who has limited time or if you’re unsure about how to get more involved, I highly recommend joining a SPEAKS writing session. Come for discussion, writing, and connections with like-minded people. This group provides a great opportunity to be involved and voice your opinions!

Our next virtual daytime writing session is on Thursday, May 20th at 10 AM. Please email lancasterspeaksup@gmail.com for the link.