NEXT GENERATION FORUM--Moving towards New Leadership and Opening New Possibilities

December 5, 2008 posted by admin

Kyla Bender-Baird: What are your wildest dreams for Michelle Obama's four years in the White House?  (What alternate title for her might you suggest instead of "First Lady"?  What would her ideal role be?)  

Gwendolyn Beetham: Clearly a brilliant and extremely accomplished woman, Michelle Obama is well-qualified for many roles in the new Administration.  Like columnists Rebecca Traister and Meghan O’Rourke, I have been dismayed by the ‘momification’ of Michelle Obama. That said, I also think that public recognition of parenting duties, their importance and their value, is a conversation that the country could stand – in both red and blue states. A productive conversation in this area would touch on various elements of importance to working families – national health care, public education (including publicly-funded day care), and paid leave for parenting and other care duties. Sadly, I do not see the title of ‘First Lady’ going anywhere, which I think raises a larger question about single (or unpartnered) people – especially women - in the White House (see the recent comments about Governor Napolitano, and also, of course, similar comments over the years that have been made about Condoleezza Rice).

KBB: What message would you like to send to Hillary Clinton, our next likely Secretary of State?

GB: As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has the opportunity to renew America’s commitment to women’s rights as human rights, work that she began as First Lady at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.  

KBB: Who of your young feminist colleagues would you like to nominate for President in 2024?

GW: There are so many smart young feminist thinkers, activists, writers, and young scholars who spring to mind here. My dream Administration would probably include’s entire editorial team, Erin Vilardi of The White House Project, the Third Wave Foundation’s Monique Mehta, American University’s Sarah Brewer, activists Shelby Knox and Julia Serano, and the list goes on… But, coming back to earth…On the national stage, I’m quite impressed by President-elect Obama’s pick for US Representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice.  Christine Quinn & Mary Beth Maxwell have also been holding their own on the national stage- and would become the first openly-gay candidates if either were to run in 2024 (or maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have an openly-gay candidate before then!). In my own home state of Ohio, Capri Cafaro has been a rising star in the Democratic party.  Cafaro became a state senator in January 2007, quickly rose to become Assistant Minority Whip, and will become Ohio’s Senate Minority leader in January 2009. The thirty-one year-old is certainly one to watch out for in the future. It’s always good to keep an eye on the Women Under 40 Political Action Committee for rising stars as well.

--Gwendolyn Beetham This post is part of a forum

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