Ready for the Challenge of Making a Difference

Steve St. Angelo
By Steve St. Angelo  | 
Spring 2024 As Seen in Our Spring 2024 Issue
Ready for the Challenge of Making a Difference
Uncle Sam and alumnus Kristin Lyman Nabors need you to run for Congress. She’ll even go first.

Twenty-some Democrats are running in the primary race for the Third Congressional District in Maryland to replace longtime incumbent Democrat John Sarbanes. That sounds like a lot of choices. Until you look at who they are: for the most part, same old (white guy), same old (lawyer), “rinse-wash-repeat,” says Democrat Kristin Lyman Nabors of Anne Arundel County. That’s why the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing alumnus threw her hat in the ring for the vote on May 14.

(Winners likely won’t have been determined by the time the first subscribers receive this magazine. The general election is November 5.)

“Congress is 77 percent male, and 30 percent attorneys. The 49th-richest member of Congress is worth
$10 million,” she explains, adding that it’s long past time for more women’s voices, more nurses’ voices, ANY other voices to be heard on Capitol Hill.

“No great woman in this country—and I stand by this statement—ever got anything done by politely waiting her turn. And, by the way, who is in charge of creating the queue to begin with? It’s a big motivation for my running in general. I want to offer an alternative to voters.” She also points to nurse lawmakers like JHSON grads Lauren Underwood, now an Illinois congresswoman, and Sara Rodriguez, lieutenant governor of Wisconsin. “I want to keep treading that path.”

So Lyman Nabors, a 2015 JHSON grad, doesn’t worry about the numbers against her as a first-time candidate.

Instead, she leans into her platform: equitable, accessible, and affordable health care, abortion rights and maternal care, better public schools, veteran issues, addressing gun violence, environmental protection … and term limits for Congress, among other issues. Many of these can be accomplished without raising taxes, she insists. Oh, and don’t defund the police. Pay a wage commensurate with the difficulties and dangers of the job, then demand policing that’s worth the price.

“No great woman in this country—and I stand by this statement—ever got anything done by politely waiting her turn. And, by the way, who is in charge of creating the queue to begin with?”

She didn’t expect this to be easy, and she was right. Besides campaigning—and a day job in nephrology research at Johns Hopkins—Lyman Nabors has a family to care for. “I take it day by day. If I look too far ahead of myself or too far behind, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning.” She is upfront about painful past experiences that have put her in the same boat as many constituents: emotional and physical exhaustion and burnout as a younger nurse; substance abuse and recovery; living without health insurance.

“This has been the biggest, scariest challenge I have ever undertaken,” Lyman Nabors explains, “but it’s
the challenge that I felt most right about taking on.”

And if being an admitted introvert in politics requires really psyching herself up to knock on doors sometimes? So be it: “I think it’s important for introverts to sometimes come out of their shells and share what’s on their minds and what they can contribute. And it’s equally important for extroverts
to switch roles and listen.”

Active listening is a skill Lyman Nabors has always prided herself on, honed through interactions with patients, family members, and now voters. “Anyone who knows me knows that I’m probably 70 percent listener and 30 percent reluctant talker.” The grassroots nature of her campaign means she’s had to get even better. “I have to understand that small and effective, smart and genuine interactions with voters create this flywheel of momentum.”

She’s learned to cherish those moments where she meets like-minded people, realizing that “what I’m doing is worthwhile to someone else besides me. It gives me a sense that I’m not completely off base on this campaign.”

What about those who she can’t sway, including the party establishment? “I don’t believe it’s my job to change anybody’s mind in this campaign,” Lyman Nabors insists. “I need to speak with community members who already think like me and are just waiting for one of us to go for it. We need to mobilize these voters, and that’s where the flywheel momentum comes in.” Meantime, why sweat it?

“One quote that has stayed with me since my high school days is, ‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ That’s Henry David Thoreau,” Lyman Nabors says. “The first time I ever heard that line I vowed—and I don’t even know if I fully understood it at 15—but I vowed that it would never describe me.”

A history buff—especially World War II, in which both of her grandfathers fought—Lyman Nabors finds another strong influence in Albert Einstein. “He was a patent clerk, and he turned the entire world of physics upside-down. He also said we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Or the same voices, argues Lyman Nabors. So, win or lose in this election, she’ll keep pushing for more and different voices—brown, female, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, whomever—to be heard … and to take those steps from the voting booth to the campaign trail and, eventually, to Congress as part of a truly representative force for change.

Then? Rinse-wash-repeat, but on the colors cycle.

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