Madeleine Keith: Bridging the ideological divide
A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Dallas, Madeleine Keith left her mark on the campus as a former Archer Fellow serving in the U.S. Department of State, a commencement speaker, moot court competitor, and first ever Opinion Editor for the student newspaper, The Mercury. Madeleine’s unique education and upbringing allowed her to effortlessly start conversations with colleagues about culture, religion, and personal values. Her passion for people and politics has led her to pursue a life in public service while also working to branch the ideological divide within our increasingly polarized society.
Madeleine’s first role model was her grandmother who spent forty years of her life as a missionary in South America. Immediately upon graduating high school, her grandmother, Dorothy Alvear, fearlessly navigated the unfamiliar geography she stepped into to teach English, music, and the values of Christianity to strangers who would soon become family. The sense of service, duty, humility, grace, and generosity with which she lived her life instilled a strong regard for those qualities within her own family. A writer, poet, and avid accordion player, she raised six children while serving as a missionary, including Madeleine’s mother. Eventually, her mother made her way to Dallas, Texas, where Madeleine was born.
Madeleine was raised in Forney, Texas, a city which, though it has grown considerably since, was a decidedly rural environment without so much as a local Wal-Mart. Her years spent on sprawling acres of land, helping to care for her family’s farm animals and tend their small garden instilled in her a deep sense of duty and hard work. And, despite a household taboo regarding the discussion of politics, she also felt an obligation to be educated about her nation’s government. She vividly recalled gluing herself to the TV during the Presidential debates of 2008, attempting to evaluate what each candidate had to offer. She jokingly said she wanted to make an “informed decision,” even though she would not be eligible to vote for another 8 years.
Despite her early interest in government, it wasn’t until Madeleine’s family moved to Garland, Texas – a suburb just east of Dallas – that her passion for people and politics truly began to grow. Heavily involved in her high school’s International Baccalaureate program, Madeleine not only learned about a wide range of cultures, ideologies, and perspectives, but also how to challenge one’s previously held notions, question assumptions, and think outside established paradigms.
Madeleine went on to attend the University of Texas at Dallas where her “political” life began to bloom. Her exposure to UTD’s diverse community joined with her family history to give her a passion for international relations. Furthermore, her familiarity with a myriad of cultures and ideologies that she had gained throughout her life instilled in her a desire to act as a bridge between dichotomous communities by working to jump-start constructive conversations from individuals across the ideological aisle. She sought to combine these passions through her work at The Mercury, the student-run newspaper of UT Dallas. As a staff writer, she wrote a number of politically-focused articles and opinion pieces including interviews with former Congressman Beto O’ Rourke and Congressman Colin Allred, as well as stories about students engaged in political activism. Madeleine then took on the role of The Mercury’s first Opinion Editor wherein she was able help give students from all walks of life a chance to tell their own stories. She eventually secured the prestigious Archer Fellowship, a political internship program under the University of Texas System, where she was placed in the U.S. Department of State Office of Judicial Liaison and was privileged to work alongside and under members of the Federal Judicial Center, the U.S Institute of Peace, and the Supreme Court.
After graduating, Madeleine took a position with Hope International, an international adoption agency that works to pair children around the globe with loving families. She continues to encourage political activism (especially in women) while also ardently supporting bipartisan collaboration and conversations. Specifically, Madeleine is a member of the “And Campaign”, a faith-based organization working to perpetuate the concept that value-based policies and social reform are far from mutually exclusive ideals. Regarding gender, Madeleine wants to combat the stereotypical expectations placed on women, and the implicit requirement that they justify their accomplishments and ambitions to society.
Madeleine advises women interested in politics to look outside of their comfort zone for opportunity, which she describes as one’s personal “bubble.” She knows that everyone exists within their own comfort zones of thought but that she has flourished from pushing outside of that space. “It brings you a bit of humility… it helps you be a more well-rounded person when you take a moment to walk in someone else’s shoes,” Madeleine said.