Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kirsten for President

I am thrilled that Governor Patterson appointed Kirsten Gillibrand to Clinton's seat. Unlike Caroline Kennedy, Gillibrand has the skills and grit to retain her Senate seat in her next election. Kirsten is a prodigious fundraiser and campaigner, a pioneer in transparency, and a leader in economic development for her region. As a congresswoman, Kirsten represented a conservative upstate New York district and she supported gun rights, much to the chagrin of some progressives. Now that Kirsten represents the entire state, we will see some of her policies shift to a more centrist stance and she has already declared her commitment to controlling handguns. Most importantly, she has the charisma of a rising star, and yes, she has sharp elbows and ambition. Hallelujah. These characteristics differentiate her from other politicans and are the key to her potential to rise further. Kirsten reminds me of the charismatic Governor Jennifer Granholm, who other than her Canadian birth and the feeble state of Michigan's economy, is one of the few women that I can imagine becoming the first woman President of the United States. I'm ready to write Kirsten a check for 2016.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The More Things Change...

When I first saw this image, I thought someone had used photoshop to place a posse of white men around President Obama. Quickly, I realized that this was a real image. Clearly, there's a lot of work to be done to surround the President with a full spectrum of perspectives. Thanks to Andrea Dew Steele and Catalina Ruiz Healy for bringing this photo to my attention.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inauguration 2009: Frozen Toes, Heightened Rapport and Other Highlights

From the moment I boarded my flight to Washington, DC to go to the Obama Inauguration, I noticed that people were quick to smile and seemed eager to strike up a conversation about the exciting day in front of us. Of course, I had to wonder how much I was projecting my own excitement onto others.

On MLK Jr day, a day of service, I was a judge for young social entrepeneurs ("the young people") in the Do Something program. The young people were pitching their ideas about new programs. I was particularly star-struck by a serious, freckly, doe-eyed, 11-year old boy. He told me about the foundation he started four years ago, when he was seven, the Little Red Wagon Foundation. It provides relief kits to victims of natural disasters. His pitch was about taking his program national. Nancy Lublin, the CEO of Do Something, said at the outset that the "old people" should offer ideas to the young people as if they were capable adults that were ready to accomplish big things. After meeting 10 of them, I was happy to see what Nancy meant.

Over the days preceding the Inauguration, there was much chatter about the weather and which parties everyone was going to. We froze our toes, waiting in a mile-long line to go through metal detectors. During the inauguration itself, I cried when Aretha Franklin sang the national anthem. She made it her own and, to me, she captured the emotion of the moment. My one disappointment was that people boo-ed when Bush was announced. The inauguration is a celebration about the future, not a time to once again show our disapproval of the former President. I was glad that the brief round of hissing was not heard on television and broadcast around the world.

My toes re-froze that evening as I made a dash from the warmth of our car to the Convention Center in open-toed high heels. When I arrived at the Western States Ball, I saw a man who looked like a young Richard Branson and realized that he was, in fact, Sir Richard Branson. I walked over to him and talked with him about the UK’s Obama-love. After we spoke, I stood nearby and watched him interact with a few other well-wishers and noted his phenomenal openness. He spoke to anyone who approached him with the level of engagement that each person brought to him. One woman, who had some green-lit tassels hanging in her hair sidled over and said “I love Virgin’s black lights. If you put yellow highlighter on anything, like your hand, it glows in black light, and so I love Virgin America’s planes.” Branson gave her his electric smile and thanked her with an enthusiastic kiss on the cheek. I marveled at the voraciousness of his curiosity and openness and his enormous talent at just being himself.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Born Equal, Except…

A colleague in her twenties was surprised to find check boxes on a vendor form for “women-owned” and “minority-owned” businesses. She said with surprise and not a small bit of outrage, “I thought everyone was equal. This is unfair if some companies get an advantage just because of their owners.”

I was struck with her genuine view that the disconnect between rhetoric and reality is untenable. In rapid succession, I felt happiness that equality is so very REAL to her, frustration that Millenials see equality when the world is not yet close to this goal, and then hope in the belief that this passionately-held view will actually take hold as the Millenial generation dominates our culture.

Older generations need to beat back the temptation to see Millenials as naïve. They are actually our hope for a fundamental change in attitude that will drive behavior towards greater equality. How do we bottle that?