Paulette Jordan speaks during Day of Dialogue at NIC

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  • LOREN BENOIT/Press Communications instructor Stacy Hudson and former NIC student Shawn Collins share encouraging notes from their red boxes during a group activity at Day of Dialogue Wednesday at NIC.

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    Paulette Jordan speaks about purpose, community engagement and diversity during Day of Dialogue Wednesday at North Idaho College. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

  • LOREN BENOIT/Press Communications instructor Stacy Hudson and former NIC student Shawn Collins share encouraging notes from their red boxes during a group activity at Day of Dialogue Wednesday at NIC.

  • 1

    Paulette Jordan speaks about purpose, community engagement and diversity during Day of Dialogue Wednesday at North Idaho College. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

COEUR d’ALENE — Small, glossy, red boxes loosely wound with gold ribbon were stacked in the centers of the tables in North Idaho College's Lake Coeur d’Alene Room.

They represented the stumbling blocks of life, containing encouraging quotes such as, “View stumbling blocks as stepping stones to the stars."

For former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan, who would have been the first female and first American Indian governor of Idaho, those stumbling-blocks-turned-stepping-stones are a part of being female.

"Some of the challenges have been just being a woman," Jordan said Wednesday, speaking to the many women and a few men who packed the room.

She said during her campaign that people often spoke about her being "the first woman to do this, you’re the first woman to do that, you're going to be making history."

"This is not necessarily about making history," she said. "This is about leading and being a leader. Period. Whether I’m a man or a woman. That’s all that we should be focused on. And someday, we’re going to get there, just like 100 years ago when we were talking about voting and having the right to vote.

"And now, we’re going to be talking about just being considered a leader, not a female leader or a woman leader. Being considered equals, as we should," she continued. "Because someday, we’re going to be president, and someday, whether we have a man or not, they will see us as being the key figure making very important decisions on behalf of the country. We’re going to get there, whether that’s this election cycle or the next. I’m optimistic."

Jordan was the keynote speaker during NIC's sixth annual Day of Dialogue, a celebration of Women's History Month, which commemorates and encourages the study, observance and celebration of women in American history.

She shared a bit about her background growing up in North Idaho as a member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and the elders who lifted her up to help her become the person she is today. Jordan, who was elected to the Idaho House of Representatives in 2014 and was re-elected in 2016, spoke of the importance of leaving politics out of what really matters — "There are no sides at the end of the day," she said — and she honed in on the challenges, or "stumbling blocks," that women face when they're in the public eye.

"One of the things I was reminded of is how people would judge me based off of my looks," she said. "Even men, men will sometimes expect you to smile more and judge you and your leadership and your abilities based off of that, your likeness. I was often questioned about my hair. I remember at some interviews that we did as live town halls, people would say, ‘Who has done your hair?’ but when would they ever ask a man this? Hell, look at Bernie Sanders … Are they asking these men the same questions? No.

"And why would we? Why would we question how a person looks, based on their ability to lead? So why should we judge a woman on her looks, versus her ability to lead? We must ask ourselves these questions, ask ourselves about these double standards."

The Day of Dialogue was organized by communication instructor Tracy Struble.

"We have a lot of people that bring this together," Struble said. "It definitely is a community event as far as a large group of people at North Idaho College."

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