When your parent or parents have been as involved in politics as Doctor Maureen Boyle’s, it is impossible to meet her without some preconceptions. Probably the most common would be that she is just trying to capitalize on her last name, but when there is an M.D. attached, that preconception seems unlikely. And if the M.D. in question is highly distinguished in her field, it makes it even less so. After all, why would a respected physician elbow her way into the rough and often nasty world of Omaha politics if there wasn’t a good reason? The answer is old school, like Maureen Boyle. There is little in our lives as Americas that is as noble as public service.
Even though there is nothing in the political process these days that seems all that noble, try to replace that cynicism for a moment and remember the kind of people we actually want as our elected representatives. If you can do that, you’ll start to understand Maureen. She is accomplished outside of the political world. She is bright, engaging and gracious. She thinks about problems in terms of what’s the right thing to do, rather than falling immediately in line with the Party lexicon. She’s her own person and makes no apologies for being so. And she was raised in a family where the virtue of public services was learned right along-side of telling the truth and going to church. For her, being a good person is as much about being of service to others as it is any other virtue. When you get to know her, it becomes absolutely clear that Maureen Boyle is an exceptional woman.
Surprisingly, she is not by nature a public person, and as a whole, would rather be at home with her family. She is drawn to the arena for a complicated set of reasons. Beyond her intense belief in public service, she does feel compelled to represent her family. There is no naivete about the game or the downside of a political life for her. She lived the worst of it when her father was recalled as mayor. She knows exactly what lengths people will go to get what they want. She understands enemies, allies and trust. However, in spite of it all, she is decidedly non-cynical. She does not see the world through a partisan prism. She has her views. She respects the views of others, and completely understands that progress comes from building trust and common purpose. All the other stuff is just adversity to be overcome. Another amazing virtue she possesses, that has become all but extinct in party politics these days, is that she is persuadable. Convince her she is wrong, and she will come along. These days, that in itself would make her a great candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize let alone County Commissioner. But don’t think that will be an easy task, she does her homework.
She also has a desire to carry a banner for women, but not in way that alienates men. She sees no purpose in alienating anyone that’s part of the mosaic of her constituency. She doesn’t feel the need to beat the drum, unless of course there is a larger point. She understands that when you stand for women, there comes a responsibility. She explains: Women can’t be the emotional one in the room. She has to be conscious of stereotypes and avoid them. She has to be level-headed and get buy-in from other decision makers. She has to do her homework – get advice from experts, reach out to different perspectives and always look for opportunities for cooperation. With her, doing the right thing is not a euphemism for a political goal, but an opportunity to do the thing that makes the most sense. And, if it turns out to be the wrong direction, have the guts to admit it and change course.
Rarely in my life have I ever met a child so dedicated to her parents – both parents. Her Father is an icon of the Democratic Party in Omaha. I have rarely attended an event, when I can’t remember him being there, and it’s obvious that in her life, he is an omnipresence as well. Maureen describes him as having a heart of gold and being wonderfully creative. Throughout her life, they have debated and argued, agreed and disagreed, but there is tremendous trust there in terms of his experience, judgment and outlook. He taught her how it all works, and she is constantly learning from him. And he from her.
Having recently lost her Mother, Maureen is still dealing with the shifting emotions of the loss. She really loves recounting stories from her life when her Mother was the star. It’s obvious that many of the qualities her Mom possessed are the things in her own life, she emphatically wants to live up to. She explained how her Mom was willing to take risks – political risks that might cost her more than she could afford to lose. But her Mom always said, “Stand for what’s right even if you’re the only one standing.” She lived it too. Maureen says, when she knew she was right, she was a pit bull. Her Mom was the first political leader in Nebraska to come out in support of Gay Rights, when it was a very unpopular thing to do. She told the community, “I’ll be your Mom” and she meant what she said. Listening to Maureen talk about her made me want to cheer – Yeah Baby! Oh yeah, that’s her campaign slogan for County Commissioner. It’s a good one.
Photo courtesy of Maureen Boyle, MD.