Being a Leslie Knope in a World Like Pawnee

by Abby Brummel

Human Connection

Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of the sitcom Parks and Rec. And when I say, “a lot,” I mean 7-seasons-in-2-months-a-lot. Because each episode is only 20 minutes long, I’m able to complete one or two during short dinner breaks between class ending and homework beginning (yes, I am still a college student, just in case you were wondering.) And every time I watch, I can’t help but relate to Leslie Knope, the main character of the show. If you don’t know, Parks and Rec is a show about a fictional parks and recreation department for the town of Pawnee, Indiana. The show follows the lives of the characters as they deal with each other, the outrageous things that happen in their town, and the other government offices around them.

Leslie is the Deputy Director of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department. She’s hard-working and passionate about everything she does, no matter how meaningless the task. However, she often faces opposition from her co-workers and town constituents when she tries to do something new or out-of-the-box, even if it is ultimately beneficial to the town’s residents. For example, when Leslie recommends merging the town of Pawnee with the neighboring town of Eagleton in an effort to save jobs, she gets made fun of and ridiculed mercilessly by her other city councilors. And when she tries to put a tax on soda—especially a 128-ounce soft drink offered by the local fast food chain—the town of Pawnee responds by getting her thrown off the city council.

Can you relate? Maybe you have a really good idea like Leslie. You’re super optimistic and passionate about it. Nothing can stand in your way—except a few nay-sayers telling you that what you’re proposing is a bad idea. But you keep pushing forward because you feel confident that the “masses” will like your idea. And then…sales are stalled, and no one is buying what you’re selling, literally. You’re feeling discouraged and like your ideas are meaningless.

Believe me, I’ve felt that way. It’s hard to be Leslie. All you want is for people to be as excited about your vision as you are, but you feel as if you can’t get the words out concisely or concretely enough to express what you mean. That doesn’t mean you have to quit, though. Instead, ask yourself WWLD (What Would Leslie Do)?

If you’ve watched any part of Parks and Rec (which you should because it’s on Netflix and Amazon Prime right now), you know that no matter how big the obstacle, Leslie Knope is a Boss B*tch and whatever she sets her mind to SHE GETS DONE. Planning a Unity concert to help sell people on the merger between Pawnee and Eagleton? Done, and done successfully. Re-marketing water so that people will drink it instead of soda? Done, and done with flair. 

If you’re like Leslie and feel like people aren’t hearing the message that you’re trying to get out, don’t get discouraged….get CREATIVE. Reword your message, or promote it on a different platform. And surround yourself with as many encouragers as you can, like Ron Swanson, Tom Haverford, Ann Perkins, and Jerry Gergich all rolled into one. Not everything is going to work out perfectly on the first try, but, just like Leslie, we know you’ll see it through.