The highly respected National Journal has recently named Denise Feriozzi, a graduate of the College of William and Mary, one of the 25 most influential women in America, under the age of 35.
Feriozzi serves as the political director at Emily's List, the nation's largest and most effective resource for women in politics. She is in charge of developing programs to educate, persuade and mobilize female voters. Her aim is to increase female representation among elected officials.
After graduating from William & Mary with a degree in government, she went to work at a lobbying firm on K Street in Washington. Soon, however, she realized it wasn't her calling. I asked her, why not?
"As someone who benefited from scholarships and student loans, I'm not particularly motivated by the idea of making a lot of money," she said in an interview with the Lake Placid News and The Virginia Gazette. "But rather giving back to the same people who helped me attend college."
After leaving K Street, she went to work as a field organizer for South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson's Senate campaign. Than, she joined the staff at Emily's List as Campaign Corps deputy director. Martha McKenna, a Democratic strategist was quoted saying, "She's always on the cutting edge of new technologies and innovations in voter contact programs."
No wonder that Feriozzi was chosen to serve as the Iowa Caucus field director for then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, during the 2008 presidential campaign.
She recalled an event that took place in Western Iowa. "After Hillary spoke, she was shaking hands with people who attended. As Hillary approached, a young mother, leaned, down to her three little girls, and said to them, "This lady is going to be the first woman President." The girls jumped up and down screaming "First Lady President!" Hillary, reached over and picked up the youngest one and held her in a way that only a mother can.
"It reminded me of the approach that she and women in general would bring to an elected office," Feriozzi said. "I am really excited to work towards electing more women to state legislatures and governor's mansions in 2014. There is only one pro-choice Democratic woman Governor in the country right now, Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire I have learned over the years that electing women to executive positions is even tougher that our work increasing representation in Congress. And that all leads to 2016, when we are going finally put a woman in the White House."
I asked Feriozzi, whether she credits her education at William & Mary with preparing her for a career that earned her the distinction to be considered one of the most influential young women in the country.
"William & Mary prepared me in every way for the work I am doing," she said. "It was my Government classes that first stoked interest in politics and the small community at W&M is very similar to Democratic politics in Washington. Forging relationships, which I learned through rushing and being part of Chi Omega sorority, is just as valuable a skill in this business as the knowledge and critical thinking skills I learned in the classroom."
I have also asked Feriozzi, what she sees as her mission, having attained such an influential position.
"I really am inspired and motivated every day by the mission of the organization I work for, Emily's List, that helps elect pro-choice Democratic women to office, from city council to the U. S. Senate and one day, to the presidency. If I can continue to do my part towards that mission, I am lucky."
If the past is any guide, should Hillary Clinton chose to run in the 2016 campaign for the presidency, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Feriozzi on the campaign trail, as she once said, "to get her hands dirtier."
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.