Members of Congress aren’t always willing to walk across the aisle and compromise in the name of progress, but with her new program, Running Mates USA, Molly Barker is hoping that they’ll run 5K to inspire America’s next generation of leaders.
Barker is launching Running Mates USA in March, building on her experiences heading Girls on the Run, a nonprofit initiative that teaches girls in the third through eighth grades “life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games,” per the official website.
Running Mates USA focuses on fourth-graders, and Barker’s aim is for House and Senate members to engage with youngsters and join them in training for a 5K in Washington, D.C., set to take place on June 14, Runner’s World reports.
While the details have yet to be fully hashed out, the plan calls for each participating member of Congress to select young adults in their 20s to serve as “Team Leaders” and meet each Saturday with youngsters from their voting districts.
The Team Leaders will lead runs, teach leadership-based curricula, and connect the kids to the lawmakers, who will participate by writing letters, hosting luncheons, and perhaps even joining the groups for workouts.
“We have a perception of leadership that is very difficult to break out of,” said Barker, a member of the Commission on Political Reform. “The idea with Running Mates is to provide a space for kids and adults to converse about leadership a little more broadly and safely. If we can get a whole generation of kids who will one day be our leaders thinking in a slightly different way than our current culture, a shift will occur.”
Illinois House member Rodney Davis has already jumped on board, and Jason Grumet, president of partner organization at the Bipartisan Policy Center, says others are showing interest.
"Running is a good opportunity to find common ground between kids and adults and also to show how to find that common ground with the issues they face each day,” said Rep. Davis, according to Runner’s World.
Grumet agrees, and says that with luck, Running Mates USA will help combat the “disillusion that some people might have about the government.”
“If we can connect a number of our nation’s current leaders with hopefully a few thousand of our future leaders, that could benefit in both directions,” he says.