Did ‘Mom-in-chief’ Michelle make her case for Barack?

Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National convention last night was brilliant rhetorically and substantively. It was delivered with the passion of someone speaking her truth, the spark of a woman deeply in love, and the skill of a lawyer who knows how to build an arc of persuasion.

There was no ridiculous “I love you women!” moment in Michelle’s speech. There didn’t need to be because she actually communicated with women how her husband’s policies—from equal pay to reproductive rights—demonstrate that he respects and values them.

When Michelle said of Barack, “Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are,” she drove the ball straight home with voters. And she touched the hearts as well as minds of anyone watching.

The purpose of a presidential candidate wife’s speech is to humanize her husband. In the end, it was the humanity of Michelle’s stories and personal reflections that connected most viscerally with the audience. She brought them (and me, hardened as I am to political speeches) to tears and to their feet. For a shining moment, she brought back the aspirational hope and change that her husband promised and that had lifted Americans to our higher selves in 2008, and lifted him into the Oval office.

Paradoxically, though I felt she went a little heavy on her her “mom-in-chief” self- identification, her declaration, “Doing the impossible is the story of this nation,” is one of the strongest leadership lines ever uttered in a political speech.

Or maybe it wasn’t such a paradox after all. Being mom-in-chief is pretty good preparation for political office. I was left to wonder: why aren’t we running Michelle for president?



An excerpt from this article ran in the Politico Arena where the question “Did Mrs. Obama make a solid case for her husband’s reelection?” was asked. Here is a link to my response to the Arena question.



Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Back off, Rush, and Let the First Lady Shop

Mondays are typically slow news days, and today was apparently no exception to judge from the superfluous questions asked of Politico’s Arena panel today.  On the other hand, I’m still ticked off that I didn’t know about the Missoni collection at Target until it was sold out, so what do I know? Did any of you find the Missonis? And really, do you think the media should have spent one drop of ink reporting on Michelle Obama’s shopping trip to Target?

Politico TheArena logo

Arena Asks: An Associated Press photographer’s shots of First Lady Michelle Obama strolling away from the checkout counter at a Target store in Alexandria, VA, circled the globe Friday. While many found the photos endearing, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck saw it differently. Considering the photographer just happened to be at Target at the same time, was the first lady’s shopping trip an innocent errand or image manipulation?

My Answer:Who’s kidding whom? How can the FLOTUS ever do anything uncalculated even if she wants to? I’ll bet dollars to donuts she’d LOVE to be able to sneak away and shop anywhere without having to think about its impact on her husband’s polls. But she can’t, so that’s not really the question no matter how right-wing shock jocks spin it.

Symbolically, the message is one that struck home with me. Everyone wants to get good value for the dollar. I’ve found I can buy stylish workout clothes at Target for one-fourth the price I’d pay at major brand stores, for example. So why would I waste money I could save, spend on something else for myself or my family, or contribute to a worthy cause?

Whatever her reason, Michelle Obama was being smart to shop for value. Or maybe she was just trying to snag some of those made-for-Target Missoni garments before they sold out.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Tigers and Tigresses: 40th Anniversary of Coeducation at Princeton

This post is generously shared by its author, former New York Times reporter (she was their first female sports reporter) Robin Herman. It was originally published Sept. 12 on her blog girlinthelockerroom. Robin was also in the first class of women at Princeton University.

Forty years ago this September, on the first weekend after Labor Day, a group of just over 170 young women set foot on the Princeton campus as bona fide members of the University’s 3,400-strong student body. Their steps onto the ivied campus and into the old stone classrooms constituted an historic milestone for the more than 200-year-old Princeton, but it was also recognized as a symbolic act for a nation that was grappling with issues of equity in civil rights and women’s rights. For until that fall of 1969, young women, no matter their intelligence and potential, were still excluded from some of the greatest centers of learning in the United States — Princeton, Yale and Dartmouth — while several others of the Ivy League colleges maintained a technical distance from women by admitting them only through “sister schools”.

Although Yale University also went coed that same fall, it was Princeton that attracted television cameras, high jinx and hoopla as we arrived at the designated women’s dormitory, Pyne Hall, on a sunny afternoon, the yellow bees buzzing around the juice and cookies that had been placed on tables in the courtyard. Princeton and its Gothic architecture, beauty and fraternal traditions had been advertised for decades to thousands of high school English classes through its best publicist, Princeton alumnus F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his semi-autobiographical novel “This Side of Paradise.”

Princeton’s decision had come haltingly and hastily in the spring of 1969 as a means to blur its “old boy” image and stay competitive, recognizing that top high school students were showing Woodstock-era preferences for coed colleges. By admitting just a sprinkling of young women, Princeton became a coed institution that year in name only, our presence serving as a test case. Would we make it?

And so that September we were greeted by a welcoming committee of male student guides who gallantly carried our luggage up the steep flagstone steps to our dorm rooms. But we also soon heard about the outraged alumni who saw in us teenaged girls the slipping away of the all-male Princeton paradise that they’d known. In letters to the University and to the alumni magazine, furious male alumni baldly suggested that Princeton was wasting student slots on women — who would only get married and tend house afterwards — even mounting a discredited movement some 10 years later to “Bring Back the Old Princeton.”

But the education of women at Princeton moved on with hundreds more women admitted each year until eventually they constituted half the student body. And their education was not wasted. For the fruits of Princeton’s coeducation decision are being seen now, as the generations of Princeton alumnae mature into important roles in society and fulfill the University’s time-honored creed of “Princeton in the Nation’s Service.” This year in particular, in the Obama Administration, Princeton women are highly visible: Anne Marie Slaughter ’81, Director of National Security Policy, Elena Kagan ’81, Solicitor General of the U.S. and former Dean of Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor ’76 and, of course, First Lady Michelle Obama ’85. Princeton had also produced Pulitzer Prize winner Annalyn Swan ’73 and entrepreneurs Meg Whitman ’79, ex-CEO of eBay and Wendy Kopp ’89, the visionary founder of Teach for America. There are female doctors, engineers, bankers and Olympic athletes, all with Princeton degrees and orange and black reunions jackets in their closets.

These women, carrying on in the nation’s service, rebuke any lingering notion in this country that the best education afforded a young man might be wasted on a young woman. But elsewhere in the world there remains an unfinished agenda to afford equal education to girls and women — places where women are worth only the price of the dowry they will bring to a household or the babies they will make; where those girls with the temerity to walk to a school may have acid thrown in their faces or be beaten. Places where the potential of half a country’s citizenry is thrown away.

Economists, demographers and health researchers have lately demonstrated that the most effective way to improve the economic strength of a country and improve the health of its citizens is to educate girls and women. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals include the equal education of girls as one of its chief aims. Yet, in many countries, girls and women are still denied an education on the basis of their gender and are thus condemned to illiteracy, poverty and dependence.

There are now 24,000 female alumni of Princeton University. As we remember this week that decision of 40 years ago and our steps onto the leafy campus of one of America’s finest and most prestigious academic institutions, we should also recall the work that remains to allow girls and women around the globe to contribute their full potential in their own nations’ service by enjoying equal access to the education that is their human right.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Meaning of Michelle, Sonia, Ursula and Anne

This is what’s on Anne Doyle’s mind these days as she contemplates the recent rise of women in disparate worlds of politics and business. She’s “tired of tokens and trailblazers”, and looking for real, sustained leadership by women. Thanks, Anne, for sharing this thoughtful post.

What a month it’s been.

First it was an historic, stockholders meeting for Xerox. CEO Anne Mulcahy officially confirmed she will be retiring July 1st and introduced her personally selected and groomed successor, Ursula Burns. Not only will Burns be the first Black woman to head a Fortune 500 company, she and Mulcahy have also charted the path of another milestone: the first woman-to-woman CEO handoff in Fortune 500 history.

Then, my Time Magazine arrived with Michelle Obama’s strong and focused face on the cover. The featured article, entitled The Meaning of Michelle, probed the significance of the journey our national psyche has made as we’ve watched a trailblazing First Lady evolve from “the caricatured Angry Black Woman of last spring to her exalted status as a New American Icon . . . “

Will Sotomayor take Souter’s place and double the number of women on the Court?And when Judge Sonia Sotomayorwas introduced as President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, we witnessed another subtle shift of our leadership paradigm. Regardless of the gender bashing that Sotomayoris now enduring, this legal heavyweight, who was raised by a single mother working two jobs yet went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude from Princeton and edit the Yale Law Review, is modeling another national brand of fresh possibilities.

Three sterling examples. Each in the stratosphere of influential public arenas: global business,the political spotlight and the judiciary. They are fresh, sparkling evidence of why I am convinced that our nation of women Achievers is moving into an unprecedented era of women Leaders.

What does it all mean? It means women are on the move again.

Several years ago, I was discouraged about our progress. For all of our individual accomplishments, we seemed to be idling in place –stalled just below all those nearly impenetrable glass ceilings in every arena. There was even growing evidence that women were slipping.

Now, I sense the wind is changing. And it feels so good.

I believe the next phase of women’s evolution in the U.S. is about power. Not individual power, but collective power. Throughout all of history there have always been stunningly brilliant, courageous women who slipped their gender chains, bucked cultural pressure and pushed the edges of feminine possibility. Cleopatra, Madame Curie, Golda Meir, Sojouner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Coretta Scott King, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The list goes on and on. But cultural change requires collective power.

That’s what is still missing for women: a broad understanding that every woman for herself is a losing strategy. It’s time to cultivate Sisterhood, with a capital S. It’s time for women to begin actively reaching across racial, cultural, economic and generational lines to lift and lead one another into leadership positions – in big numbers. I’m tired of tokens and trailblazers. It’s time for women’s leadership –in numbers appropriate for 51% of the population and the most educated, skilled and savvy critical mass of women in the history of the world.

And there’s one other piece that’s essential for humanity to make the next significant leap forward. It’s the mindset of men. I’ve been disgusted by the depths to which some male commentators have sunk recently in their drive to derail Judge Sotomayor’s nomination. For example, national radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy recently opined to his listeners,“Let’s hope that they key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would be really bad. Lord knows what we would get then.”

How pathetic!

Men who are threatened by the ascent of women are making a critical mistake. For centuries, women and minority men have had to learn to play the games invented and controlled by white men. While everyone else was adjusting and hustling to make the grade according to white, male standards, those born to that homo-social group had little adjusting to do. Yet the rules of the game are changing and the players rapidly diversifying. There are some uncomfortable days ahead for the likes of G. Gordon Liddy. Fantastic,evolved men, who are eager to shed their own gender chains, understand that we will all rise together. Dan Mulhern, Michigan’s “First Gentlemen” and husband of our Governor, Jennifer Granholm, just wrote a terrific piece on this topic called, Father Leaders. His insight is more evidence of how the winds are changing.

What does it all mean? It means our culture is on the rise again. And it feels so good.

About Anne:

Anne Doyle is a Detroit-based leadership and communications consultant, former TV journalist and global auto executive. For more: her website — and blog.

Anne Doyle is a Detroit-based leadership and communications consultant, former TV journalist and global auto executive. For more, check out her website — and blog.

Pow! Bam! Comic Books on Today’s Women Leaders Pack a Strong Message

Superheroines, Quemosabe!

If art imitates life and pop culture depicts contemporary life most real and raw, then these new Female Force comic books deliver a powerful message that women in top political leadership have truly saturated our cultural consciousness.

There’s irony in that Female Force’s creators at Bluewater Productions are male, but also an important question of whether one gender is more likely than the other to see an opportunity and take a risk to grab it. And perhaps, as marketing guru Richard Laermer says in the video, this is just another business venture and it will sink or succeed based on whether anyone buys these comics.

Traditionally, comic book buyers have been largely male–though I certainly remember in my youth racing to the news stand on Sundays for the latest“Archie” comic books, mainly to see what Veronica and Betty were up to. I liked Veronica better because she had dark hair like I do.

And that’s probably the key here: will enough young women see Michelle and Hillary and, goddess help us, Sarah as characters they can not only relate to but characters that capture their imagination sufficiently that they will buy the comic and even return to purchase the next episodes? What do you think? Has the female superheroine saturated our consciousness sufficiently to make comic books about female leaders not just a momentary fad but a sustainable classic?

While thinking these questions over, feast your eyes on these graphics (with thanks to Jill Miller Zimon for calling this to my attention):

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.