Tag Archives: first lady

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore wants Trump to see her, front and center

Some members of Congress are boycotting the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., plans to attend the inauguration. The Milwaukee congresswoman explains:

I support my colleagues in their decision to boycott the Presidential Inauguration, but knowing how he operates, I suspect President-elect Donald Trump will use this expression of free speech as an excuse to bypass Democrats and to push his extreme agenda with utter impunity. With that in mind, I refuse to be a pawn in the president-elect’s efforts to rally support from congressional Republicans. As a proud Democrat, I want President-elect Trump to see me front and center as he’s sworn in. I want him to see exactly what his opposition looks like. When he sees me, I want him to see The Resistance.

I did not come to this decision lightly. I weighed my responsibility as an elected official against my disgust over the president-elect’s vile tactics employed to ascend to the presidency and the disrespectful treatment of revered civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis. I considered the multitude of supportive phone calls and tweets from my constituents in light of the embarrassing and ongoing petulance employed by the president-elect. I prayed on this and thought of First Lady Michelle Obama as she reminded us to refrain from abandoning decency in the face of intolerance and moral depravity.

It’s no secret that I find President-elect Trump and his policies repugnant and anathema to my efforts to pursue social justice, and I know a majority of my constituents feel the same. In November, Milwaukee sent a strong, clear message that Donald Trump was the wrong man to lead our country. I intend to deliver that message with my presence at the Presidential Inauguration and serve a symbol of opposition, not normalization.

A first lady who followed her own path more than precedent

When Michelle Obama considered the daunting prospect of becoming first lady, she avoided turning to books by her predecessors for guidance.

Instead, she turned inward.

“I didn’t want to be influenced by how they defined the role,” Mrs. Obama once said. She instinctively knew she had to define the job “very uniquely and specifically to me and who I was.”

That meant doing it her way: shaping the role around her family, specifically her two young daughters, and not letting her new responsibilities consume her.

Throughout her eight years, Mrs. Obama has been a powerful, if somewhat enigmatic, force in her husband’s White House. She chose her moments in the often unforgiving spotlight with great care and resisted pressure to become more engaged in the mudslinging of partisan politics.

At times, she’s been more traditional than some expected — or wanted from this first lady. At other times, she’s been eager to update stuffy conventions associated with the office.

As she navigated her way through, the woman who grew up on the South Side of Chicago discovered a talent for television and a comfort with Hollywood A-listers, haute couture and social media. And she used all of those elements to promote her causes — childhood obesity, support for military families, girls’ education — with at least some success.

When she leaves the White House next month just a few days after celebrating her 53rd birthday, Mrs. Obama will do so not just as a political figure, but as a luminary with international influence.

Friends say she charted that path largely on her own.

“What she did was she sort of listened to herself and allowed her own inner voice and strength and direction to lead her in the way that felt most authentic to her,” Oprah Winfrey told The Associated Press. “And I think watching somebody makes you want to do that for yourself.”

Let’s Move

Mrs. Obama grappled with the childhood obesity issue before becoming first lady; a doctor had warned her about her daughters’ weight.

At the White House, she decided to share her experience with the country and started by planting the first vegetable garden there in more than 60 years. That led the following year, in 2010, to the launch of her anti-childhood-obesity initiative, “Let’s Move.”

The first lady appealed to elected officials, food makers, sellers, restaurant chains and others to try to make healthy food more accessible. She lobbied lawmakers to add more fruit, vegetables and whole grains, and limit fat, sugar and sodium in the federal school lunch program.

That led to the first update to the program in decades, and for Mrs. Obama the process was akin to a crash course in Washington sausage-making. Mrs. Obama’s effort was not universally welcomed. Republicans in Congress wanted to reverse the rules. Others said Mrs. Obama was acting like the “food police.” Even the kids she wanted to help added to the backlash. Some students posted photos of lunches they found unappealing on Twitter with the hashtag (hash)ThanksMichelleObama, or simply tossed the food into the trash.

Mrs. Obama had won. But she would never again try to work closely with Congress on an issue. She chose instead to use her platform to press industry to change its ways.

It’s too early to know how Mrs. Obama’s efforts may affect childhood obesity rates long term, but advocates believe she helped change the national dialogue around healthy eating. And although incoming Republican President Donald Trump, a proud patron of McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken, has yet to comment on school meal regulations, advocates worry about the fate of Mrs. Obama’s effort under a White House and Congress that will be controlled by the GOP.

Reflecting on her childhood obesity work, Mrs. Obama said some people initially wondered why she would bother with such a “softball issue” but “now, all those challenges and criticisms are off the table.” She told talk-show host Rachael Ray that “at least we’ve become very aware as a society that this is one of our most important health issues.”

Mrs. Obama’s push to put the country on a health kick extended to exercise — and she made herself exhibit A.

To promote “Let’s Move,” the first lady often donned athletic wear and ran around with kids at sports clinics, some on the South Lawn. She twirled a hula hoop around her waist 142 times and kick-boxed in a video of the gym workout that helped tone the upper arms she showed off regularly, as in her official White House photo.

She did pushups with Ellen DeGeneres, raced in a potato sack against late-night TV’s Jimmy Fallon in the East Room and shimmied with a turnip in a brief video popular on social media — all to show that exercise can be fun.

“I’m pretty much willing to make a complete fool of myself to get our kids moving,” she once said.

Instead of going the fool’s route, Mrs. Obama turned herself into a fitness guru and a figure significantly more popular than her husband.

A role not imagined

First lady was never a position Mrs. Obama imagined for herself, given her modest upbringing, her distaste for politics and having never seen her skin color on a U.S. president and first lady.

Her early aversion to politics developed while watching her father navigate Chicago politics for his job with the city water department, and was reinforced by her husband’s pursuit of a political career. Both Obamas have said his political ambition had strained their marriage and family.

Once in the White House, Mrs. Obama vowed to protect her then 10- and 7-year-old daughters’ right to a normal childhood. She declared being “mom in chief” to Malia and Sasha as her priority, irking women who hoped the first lady might be less constrained by stereotypes.

She showed few signs of trying to push those boundaries.

Mrs. Obama was an enthusiastic White House hostess. She rarely spoke about issues that were outside of her portfolio. She crafted her public schedule around her daughters’ activities and limited her travel so she could spend time with them.

The Obamas’ parenting style — often described by both Obamas as warm, but strict — made them role models on that front, a point of pride, particularly in the African-American community.

“We have heard no Obama children drama,” said Ingrid Saunders Jones, national chairwoman of the National Council of Negro Women.

Mrs. Obama didn’t really begin to open up about the historic nature of her service as the first black woman to become first lady until the end of the presidency was in sight. She mostly addressed the subject in interviews when she was asked to reflect about it, and discussed how important it was for children to see a black president and first lady.

Longtime friend and White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said Mrs. Obama was often reluctant to talk about such matters earlier because she wanted her legacy to be more than just her place in history.

“Her goal is not what she is, but what she does,” Jarrett said.

One last campaign

In the final weeks of the presidential race, Mrs. Obama set aside her distaste for politics to wage one last campaign, an ultimately futile attempt to help elect Democrat Hillary Clinton. She quickly became one of most passionate Democratic voices opposing Trump and calling him out for “bragging about sexually assaulting women” in comments caught on a 2005 video.

“I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics,” she said at a Clinton rally shown live on cable TV news, rare exposure for a first lady in a campaign. If Trump’s past words are “painful to us as grown women,” she asked, “what do you think this is doing to our children?”

It was yet another moment when Mrs. Obama again seemed to be following her path rather than precedent.


That New Hampshire speech…

Natalie Portman explores the mysteries of Jackie Kennedy

Jacqueline Kennedy did not have a conventional speaking voice. It’s part New York, part prep school Mid-Atlantic, and it’s jarring to most modern ears. Natalie Portman remembers her first few days on the set of “Jackie,” going all in on that very specific accent and looking up to see her director Pablo Larrain’s wide-eyed bafflement.

“Pablo’s face was like ‘uhhhhh…’,” Portman said laughing.

They were filming a recreation of the television special “A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy,” where CBS News correspondent Charles Collingwood followed the first lady around with cameras as they spoke about each room and her pricey restoration. Larrain stopped during one take and played footage of the actual tour just to check. He was amazed at how spot-on Portman’s interpretation actually was.

Still, “at the beginning it was shocking,” Larrain said.

It was also, he notes, different from how Jackie Kennedy sounded in other circumstances. She had a public voice and a private voice, which Portman was able to study through Kennedy’s recorded interviews with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

The film “Jackie,” out in limited release, explores the nuances of these public and private sides of the enigmatic figure in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband in 1963 as she plans the funeral, exits her home, comforts her children and tends to her husband’s legacy.

It’s what compelled screenwriter Noah Oppenheim to make her the subject of his first script.

“Most often she is perceived through the lens of being this style icon, this beautiful woman at her husband’s side. People are fascinated by their marriage and his infidelities. But I didn’t feel like she had ever gotten enough credit for understanding intuitively the power of television, the power of imagery and iconography and her role in defining how we remember her husband’s presidency,” Oppenheim said.

It was she, a week after the assassination, in an interview with Theodore H. White for LIFE magazine, who first uttered the word Camelot in reference to their time in power.

“I always assumed that the Kennedy administration had been referred to as Camelot from the beginning, that they were this young, handsome couple and American royalty,” Oppenheim said. “The fact that she came up with Camelot is incredible. That one reference accomplishes more than any list of policy accomplishments ever could have in terms of cementing in people’s minds who Jack Kennedy was.”

The film, however, isn’t out to provide answers. It relishes in Jackie being this inscrutable figure, showing the subtle differences in her interactions with the people around her, including a priest (John Hurt), the journalist (Billy Crudup), her longtime friend Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) and Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard).

“(Oppenheim) told her story through these different relationships and the different roles she played around the people in her life at different times. I think that’s really powerful … Consistency or arc is really a narrative fiction. Human beings are not like that,” said Portman, who is earning some of the best reviews of her career for her performance.

Larrain wouldn’t do the film without Portman. The script had been around since 2010 before getting the attention of Darren Aronofsky, who was set to direct his then-fiance Rachel Weisz in the role. After exiting, Aronofsky stayed on to produce and was the one who made the somewhat unconventional ask of Larrain, a Chilean filmmaker, to consider it.

When Portman met with Larrain, she said it was akin to “being dared” to do the film.

“He was like, ‘we’re going to do this together or we’ll both walk away,’” she said. “I was like ‘all right, this is good. Let’s take each other’s hands and jump.’”

The tone, thanks to studied editing of Sebastian Sepulveda and a striking score by Mica Levi, can sometimes seem more like a psychological thriller than a conventional character study. Larrain delights in the beauty of bringing an audience to “that indeterminate place.”

Portman, on the other hand, knows she’s at the disposal of her directors and often isn’t aware of the exact tone until she sees the finished product.

“When we were making ‘Black Swan,’ I thought I was making a completely different movie from the one I saw. I thought we were making something almost like a documentary and then I saw it and I was like ‘What? What is this!?’ I literally had no idea,” she said. “I thought it was like a realistic portrait of a psychological breakdown of a person and it was not at all. You can totally misunderstand tone, but still it can work.”

The film, heavy with historical and emotional significance, did allow for some levity, though, compliments of that White House Tour.

“We enjoyed that so much,” Larrain said. “It was just talking about furniture and chairs. And she would even make the same mistakes Jackie did.”

Portman: “We laughed a lot. Pablo kept being like ‘be more excited about the chair!’ She’s REALLY excited about the chair.”

Larrain: “But it was necessary because it shows a kind of splendor. I think when you are portraying such a tragic and critical moment, you need to have splendor to really understand that.”

Last dance: Obamas hold final musical night at the White House

President Barack Obama said he’s sad that one of his and the first lady’s favorite traditions, musical night at the White House, ended on Friday.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, have reserved certain evenings over the past eight years to celebrate music that has helped shape America. They held big blowout concerts spotlighting classic, country, blues, Broadway, gospel, Motown, Latin and jazz either inside the White House or out on the lawn.

The tradition ended Friday as Obama kicked off his final musical night, BET’s “Love and Happiness” event in a tent on the South Lawn.

He joked that he wouldn’t be singing any Al Green — despite the concert title. When Obama sang the opening lines of Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at a fundraiser at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in January 2012, the video went viral.

“We’ve had Bob Dylan and we’ve had Jennifer Hudson. Gloria Estefan and Los Lobos. Aretha, Patti, Smokey,” Obama said to open the show. “I’ve had Paul McCartney singing ‘Michelle’ to Michelle and Stevie singing ‘Happy Birthday.’”

“We’ve had Buddy Guy and Mick Jagger getting me to sing ‘Sweet Home Chicago,’” he continued. “So this has been one of our favorite traditions, and it’s with a little bit of bittersweetness that this is our final musical evening as president and first lady.”

Jill Scott opened with a booming version of her hit “Run Run Run.” The show was also featuring performances by Usher, The Roots, Bell Biv DeVoe, Janelle Monae, De La Soul, Yolanda Adams, Michelle Williams and Kiki Sheard.

Actors Samuel L. Jackson, Jesse Williams of “Grey’s Anatomy” and Angela Bassett were also appearing.

Terrence J, the former host of BET’s “106 & Park,” and actress-comedian Regina Hall were the presenters.

Obama described the ability to summon celebrities as “one of the perks of the job that we’ll miss most, along with Air Force One, and Marine One,” the presidential helicopter. “You know, if you can just call up Usher and say, ‘Hey, come on over …’”

Before taking a seat in the front row alongside Mrs. Obama, the president reviewed White House musical history and said live performances have always been a part of life there, dating to 1801 when the U.S. Marine Band played at the first reception hosted by President John and Abigail Adams.

President Chester Arthur invited an all-black singing group to perform, and Teddy Roosevelt welcomed ragtime composer Scott Joplin because Roosevelt’s daughter wanted to hear that “new jazz,” Obama said.

Guests of President John F. Kennedy even did the “twist” in the East Room, “which may not sound like a big deal to you, but that was sort of the twerking of their time,” Obama told the star-studded audience of several hundred people, seated in an elaborate tent that was used earlier in the week for the Obamas’ final state dinner. “There will be no twerking tonight. At least not by me. I don’t know about Usher.”

Obama said the White House is the “People’s House,” so it makes sense that it reflect the diversity, imagination and ingenuity of the American people.

He said that, although much of the music being performed at Friday’s taping “is rooted in the African-American experience, it’s not just black music. It’s an essential part of the American experience.”

“It’s a mirror to who we are, and a reminder of who we can be,” Obama added. “That’s what American music’s all about.”

BET says it will broadcast the show on Nov. 15.

On the Web

Remarks by the president at BET concert.

At the DNC: Dems showcase diversity, seek unity with 1st night

The Democratic National Convention opened July 25 in Philadelphia with a series of votes, including the adoption of the party’s most progressive platform.

The theme of day one is “putting the future of American families front and center and how we’re stronger together when we build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top and when everyone has a chance to live up to their God-given potential.”

But the early speakers made clear that the first day is about celebrating the party’s diversity and building unity to challenge Donald Trump and Republicans in November.

At the podium, were Hillary Clinton delegates and Bernie Sanders delegates, and all urging the party to come together.

Day one at the Wells Fargo Center began with a call to order by  Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, DNC secretary and the mayor of Baltimore.

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, founding and pastor at Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Georgia, delivered the invocation.

Members of the Delaware County American Legions and Veterans of Foreign Wars presented the colors.

Ruby Gilliam, a 93-year-old delegate from Ohio, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Early speakers included Clarissa Rodriguez, who at 17 is the youngest DNC delegate. She’s from Texas.

Fourteen-year-old Bobby Hill of the Keystone State Boychoir sang the national anthem.

The roll call followed, and then the introduction of and report of the rules committee by former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, who was met with cheers and boos — and recognized both — as well as former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, U.S. Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Marcia Fudge and Maxine Waters, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Next, the draft platform was presented and adopted.

Speakers, before prime time in Philadelphia, included U.S. Reps. Robert Brady, Brendan Boyle, Raúl Grijalva, Nita Lowey and New York Sen. Adriano Espaillat, Oregon Rep. Tina Kotek, California state Sen. Kevin de León,  Georgia Rep. Stacey Abrams, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and DNC CEO Leah Daughtry.

Still to come, in the evening, were remarks by Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta, U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and labor leaders Lee Saunders of AFSCME, Lily Eskelsen Garcia of the NEA, Mary Kay Henry of SEIU, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, Sean McGarvey of NOBTU, Randi Weingarten of AFT.

A segment on combating substance abuse is set to include remarks by Pam Livengood of Keene, New Hampshire, and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and be followed by a performance featuring Demi Lovato and the DNC house band: Steven Rodriguez, Charity Davis and Ayana Williams.

Other featured speakers will include U.S. Jeff Merkley, 11-year-old Karla Ortiz and mom and Francisca Ortiz, who will talk about immigration and dreams, DREAMer Astrid Silva, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Chicago.

In a segment on equality, Jason and Jarron Collins, twin brothers and former pro basketball players, will deliver speeches, along with Jesse Lipson and Nevada state Sen. Pat Spearman.

A segment on the economy will feature U.S.Sen. Bob Casey, Chillicothe Mayor Luke Feeney, U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Disability rights advocate Anastasia Somoza and comic Sarah Silverman will perform, as will Paul Simon.

Actress Eva Longoria, founder of The Eva Longoria Foundation, will speak.

And then there will be remarks by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Cheryl Lankford of San Antonio, Texas, first lady Michelle Obama, the U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren will deliver the keynote address.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison will speak, followed by Bernie Sanders.

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the first female rabbi to hold a chief executive position in an American rabbinical association, will close the program with a benediction.

WiGWag: Palin selling home, Rubio wearing heels, first lady asked to go vegetarian

Leaving Arizona: 
Sarah Palin’s vacation compound in Maricopa, Arizona, went on the market in early January, listed at $2.499 million. Palin purchased the home in 2011 for $1.695 million, prompting rumors she might run for Jon Kyle’s Senate seat when he retired in 2013 or wait for John McCain’s retirement. The 7,971-square-foot stucco house sits on 4.4 acres of desert landscaping and faux grass.

And the earth is flat: A North Carolina town rejected plans to rezone land for a solar farm after two residents warned local officials that it would cause cancer, stop plants from growing and suck up all the energy from the sun, leaving everyone to freeze, according to the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald.

No room at the shelter: In mid-December, a Kentucky town booted women and children from its only homeless shelter to keep them from “tempting” the men. The shelter’s fundamentalist Christian director told a local news station that an exception could be made for women and children accompanied by male relatives. The women were sent to a shelter in a town 30 minutes away, according to AlterNet.

Steakless state dinner: NBA champ John Salley, a vegetarian since 1990 and vegan since 2008, recently challenged first lady Michelle Obama, an advocate of healthy eating, to take PETA’s 30-day vegan pledge. “Vegan eating is not just a slam dunk for human health; it’s also the most effective way to combat climate change,” Salley wrote to the first lady. There’s been no word on menu changes at the White House.

Vegetarian humanitarian: Ellen DeGeneres, another famous vegetarian, recently won Favorite Humanitarian at the fan-based People’s Choice Awards in Los Angeles. DeGeneres said the award “sums me up perfectly as I am both a human and an itarian.”

City hall brawl: The mayor of Alabama’s largest city and a city councilor beat each other so badly during a backroom brawl at Birmingham City Hall that both landed in the hospital. The two were reportedly fighting over an undisclosed personal issue. 

Sneeze attack: In Joliet, Illinois, a woman was jailed on a battery charge after she “intentionally sneezed” in a bailiff’s face, spattering her with a “mucus type substance,” according to a police report. The sneezy assailant was in a Will County courtroom for a traffic case. The offensive discharge came after the bailiff repeatedly reprimanded the woman for putting her feet on the seats and speaking loudly while the judge was on the bench.

Listen up: Among the many 2016 trend reports WiG received in early January was this dispatch from Voices.com: 2016 is shaping up to be another year of growth for the voice-over industry. Listen for these trends: Out with the “announcer” guy and in with the “girl/guy next door” sound. And scripts with more story.

Climbers down: In 2015, for the first time in 41 years, not a single person stood on the summit of Mount Everest during an entire calendar year. After a record 358 permits were issued to climbers at the start of the year, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal in April, claiming 8,000-plus lives across the country and a record 18 (or 24, the numbers vary) on the mountain, according to London’s Telegraph. 

No hats allowed: An executive producer for the program Good Day Chicago on Fox 32 Chicago banned female reporters from wearing hats during live outdoor shots, saying that women “look a lot better without hats.” But his heart isn’t all frozen. There’s an exception when the thermometer reads 20 degrees or colder, Chicago media critic Robert Feder reported. Male reporters are exempt from the ban.

Rubio’s growing support: Sen. Marco Rubio recently hit the presidential campaign standing 3 inches taller than his usual 5’10,” thanks to a pair of black boots with seriously high heels, reported The Hill. Rubio must have grown tired of looking like a pip squeak next to his former mentor Jeb Bush, who’s 6’3,” The Donald, who’s 6’2” and Ben Carson, who’s 6 feet tall. 

The love boat: Melissa Etheridge recently announced she’s headlining a concert cruise departing Tampa on Oct. 31 and traveling to Key West, Florida, and Cozumel, Mexico. She’ll be sharing the stage with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, The Cains, Lucy Angel, New Howell, Olivia Lane and DJ Tracy Young. Is this the replacement for the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival?

Say what? Wayne State University’s Word Warriors list is out with words the school thinks we should use more often in conversation and prose. The list includes “absquatulate,” “anathema,” “epigone,” “puerile,” “rumpus,” “sockdolager,” “sybaritic,” “torpid,” “turpitude” and “delectation.” WiG’s resolution for 2016 is to use all of these words in its continued coverage of the 2016 presidential race.

Polling shows differing hopes, expectations for female leaders

Four in 10 adults say they hope to see a woman elected to the presidency in their lifetime, while 57 percent say it doesn’t matter whether they say, “Madam President” or “Mr. President.”

Those percentages should work in favor of Hillary Rodham Clinton if she decides to seek the Democratic nomination in 2016. And if not Clinton, then perhaps U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who repeatedly has said she isn’t running but is the focus of a draft campaign in New Hampshire.

The voters most interested in seeing a woman elected president in their lifetime are Democrats — 69 percent of the women in the party and 46 percent of the men, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center focused on women in leadership.

The percentages drop considerably for Republicans — just 20 percent of the women in the Grand Old Party and 16 percent of the men. Do these numbers indicate trouble for Carly Fiorina, the former California U.S. Senate candidate who appears to be readying to announce a bid for the Republican nomination? No, the analysts say. More likely the diminished interest among Republicans is Clinton herself: The views of many Republicans may have more to do with the prospect of a Clinton presidency than with a major milestone for women.

Among independents, 45 percent of women and 32 percent of men say they “personally hope the United States will elect a female president” in their lifetime.

Double standard

In 2013, EMILY’s List, a group dedicated to electing Democratic women to office, launched “Madam President,” a campaign to shatter the glass ceiling in the Oval Office in 2016.

Americans need to “create a nation where women’s leadership isn’t the exception, it’s the rule,” EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock said at the time.

That’s currently far from the case. The Pew poll found that Americans claim to find women indistinguishable from men in key leadership traits. But women still hold a small share of top leadership posts: 20 percent of the U.S. Senate, 19.3 percent of the U.S. House; 10 percent of governorships; 24 percent of state legislative offices; 5.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and 26.4 percent of college presidencies. And in most cases, those low percentages are record highs.

The Pew poll, a survey of 1,835 people, found that four in 10 Americans think the reason more women don’t hold top posts is not about work-life balance, education or skill sets but instead a double standard: women have to do more than their male counterparts to prove themselves.

Ready for Clinton

Two weeks ago, EMILY’s List announced that its 30th anniversary gala in March would honor Clinton for dedicating her life to “bettering the lives of women and families and (inspiring) the next generation with a focus on increasing economic empowerment across the country and around the world,” according to Schriock.

The PAC has backed Clinton since her U.S. Senate election in New York in 2000.

Of late, EMILY’s List has been laying the groundwork for another, bigger Clinton candidacy, organizing special events promoting the idea of electing the first female commander-in-chief.

When EMILY’s List launched the “Madam President” effort nearly two years ago, the first polls showed that 86 percent of Americans said the nation is ready to elect a woman president. And 72 percent said it is likely that America will elect a woman in 2016.

The Pew poll also asked about expectations: “Do you think the United States will elect a female president in your lifetime, or not?” About 73 percent answered yes — 12 points less than in 2008 but 21 points over 1996. 

That year, with Bill Clinton running for re-election, then-first lady Hillary Clinton delivered her first prime-time speech, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. 

“One thing we know for sure is that change is certain,” she said. “Progress is not.”

Clinton says future of Voting Rights Act in jeopardy

Hillary Rodham Clinton said on July 16 that the future of the Voting Rights Act is in “real jeopardy” following the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a portion of the law, telling a prominent organization of black women that Congress should act to preserve “fairness and equality” in the nation’s voting system.

The former secretary of state was feted with chants of “Run, Hillary, Run,” as she concluded her 30-minute remarks to nearly 14,000 members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, an historic black women’s organization celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said the Supreme Court’s decision “struck at the heart” of the landmark law and warned that it could undermine Americans’ most fundamental rights.

“Unless Congress acts, you know and I know, more obstacles are on their way,” Clinton said, walking freely on stage instead of delivering her speech from a podium. “They’re going to make it difficult for poor people, elderly people, working people, minority people to be able to do what we should take for granted.”

A divided Supreme Court threw out a key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act in June, stripping the government of its best way to prevent voting bias – the requirement that all or parts of 15 states with a history of discrimination in voting, mostly in the South, get Washington’s approval before changing the way they hold elections. The decision has been criticized by civil rights groups who contend it could undermine voting rights in upcoming elections.

“Now the law’s future is in real jeopardy and so are the rights of millions of Americans,” Clinton said.

Clinton made no mention of any future political plans, saying she intends to promote early childhood development, the rights of women and girls around the globe and economic development in her new role in her family’s presidential foundation. In a nod to the sea of women wearing crimson and cream, the organization’s colors, Clinton quipped that “in mathematics, delta means change. I think that’s pretty fitting.”

But her speech emphasized the importance of voting rights for black Americans, who supported Barack Obama in large numbers during their Democratic primary campaign in 2008 and in his re-election last year. Black voters have long supported her husband, President Bill Clinton, and would be a key voting bloc if the former first lady sought the presidency in 2016.

“I want to make sure that in the next election and the next election and the next and every one after that, people line up to vote and they vote regardless of those who may not want to count their vote or acknowledge their right to vote,” Mrs. Clinton said.

She cited her work with civil rights leader Dorothy Height, recalled attending a speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a young woman and noted the work of the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, a prominent member of the sorority. Clinton said the issue of voting rights resonated after she attended a congressional hearing on the issue with Tubbs Jones in Cleveland following the 2004 elections.

“The idea that in the 21st century African-Americans would wait in line to vote for 10 hours while whites in an affluent precinct next door waited just 10 minutes, or African-Americans would receive fliers telling the wrong time and wrong day to exercise their constitutional rights,” Clinton said. “That is not the America we would expect or the America we would want for our children.”

Clinton opened her remarks by offering prayers for the family of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was killed last year, and “with every family who loves someone who is lost to violence.” She said the week’s developments brought “deep, painful heartache” to many Americans.

“No mother, no father, should ever have to fear for their child walking down a street in the United States of America,” Clinton said.

It was her first public comments on the case since George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Martin case.

The Justice Department has said it’s considering whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges after Zimmerman’s acquittal.

Obama met with members of the sorority in the Oval Office earlier in the day, including former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio.

Laura Bush asks to be removed from marriage equality ad

Former first lady Laura Bush asked to be – and will be – removed from a marriage equality ad that’s part of a national TV, newspaper and online campaign highlighting influential support.

The Respect for Marriage Coalition announced the $1 million ad campaign earlier this week with a focus on statements for equality from Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, President Barack Obama and others.

Bush, in the ad, was talking to Larry King during a 2010 segment on CNN. She says, “When couples are committed to each other and love each other then they ought to have the same sort of rights that everyone has.”

A spokeswoman for Bush said Feb. 20 that the former first lady “did not approve of her inclusion in this advertisement nor is she associated with the group that made the ad in any way.”

“When she became aware of the advertisement last night, we requested that the group remove her from it.”

The Respect for Marriage Coalition includes more than 80 organizations.

In its press release announcing the ad campaign, the coalition said, “This is the first time in history that LGBT advocacy organizations across America have come together to fund a national ad buy.”

In a statement on Feb. 21 to Politco, the coalition said, “We appreciate Mrs. Bush’s previous comments but are sorry she didn’t want to be included in an ad.”

The coalition said it would move forward with new voices expressing support for equality.

The transcript for the original TV ad reads:

The transcript of the ad “Leadership” is:

VO: None of us would want to be told we can’t marry the person we love. That’s why a growing majority of Americans believe it’s time to allow marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Former First Lady Laura Bush: When couples are committed to each other and love each other then they ought to have the same sort of rights that everyone has.

Former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell: Allowing them to live together with the protection of law, it seems to me is the way we should be moving in this country

Former Vice President Dick Cheney: Freedom means freedom for everyone

President Barack Obama: Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.

VO: It’s time for marriage.

Police officer wounded in Oak Creek invited to State of the Union

A police lieutenant wounded last summer during the deadly mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek was among two dozen guests who sat with the first lady during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Oak Creek police officer Brian Murphy was shot multiple times by a gunman who killed six worshippers in Wisconsin before taking his own life. The veteran policeman is on medical leave from the force while recovering from wounds to his head, neck and body, the White House said.

The White House historically extends invitations to ordinary people to join the first lady in the public gallery of the House chamber during the speech, believing they can help put a human face on an issue or proposal the president  discusses during his annual address.

This year’s guest list demonstrated that gun control, education, immigration, jobs and the economy, health care and voting rights were among the issues Obama planned to highlight. The list included Kaitlin Roig, of Greenwich, Conn., a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Roig’s school was the scene of a mass shooting in December that claimed 20 students and six educators at the school.

“Some amazing Americans will be next to me for Barack’s State of the Union address,” Michelle Obama wrote Tuesday on Twitter.

Also joining the first lady in her box was Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel A. Pendleton Sr., parents of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed near Obama’s Chicago home days after she returned from performing during inauguration festivities in Washington. Mrs. Obama attended the drum majorette’s funeral on Saturday.

Other guests included:

  •  Marine Sgt. Sheena Adams, Vista, Calif., team adviser and lead instructor of the Female Engagement Team.
  •  Alan Aleman, Las Vegas, a Mexican immigrant and one of the first people in Nevada allowed to stay in the country under an administration initiative for immigrant children of parents in the U.S. without legal permission.
  •  Jack Andraka, Crownsville, Md., 16-year-old winner of the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
  •  Susan Bumgarner, Norman, Okla., early childhood educator.
  •  Deb Carey, New Glarus, Wis., owner of New Glarus Brewing Co.
  •  Marine Sgt. Carlos Evans, Fayetteville, N.C., who lost both legs and his left hand during service that included three deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. The president signed Evans’ prosthetic arm during a visit to the White House.
  •  Tim Cook, Cupertino, Calif., CEO of Apple.
  •  Menchu de Luna Sanchez, Secaucus, N.J., nurse at NYU Langone Medical Center who helped transfer at-risk patients during Hurricane Sandy.
  •  Bobak Ferdowsi, of Pasadena, Calif., flight director of the Mars Curiosity rover.
  •  Bradley Henning, Louisville, Ky., machinist, Atlas Machine and Supply.
  •  Tracey Hepner, Arlington, Va., co-founder, Military Partners and Families Coalition, providing support, resources and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military partners and their families.
  •  Peter Hudson, Evergreen, Colo., co-founder and CEO of iTriage, a health care company.
  •  Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.
  •  Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers, Avondale, Ariz., the city’s first Latina mayor and current president of the National League of Cities.
  •  Amanda E. McMillan, Jackson, Miss., victim of pay discrimination.
  •  Lee Maxwell, Wilton, Iowa, graduate of program at Kirkwood Community College for wind technicians.
  •  Lisa Richards, Arlington, Va., participant in a White House effort in which people were asked to share stories about what paying $2,200 more in taxes would mean for them and their families.
  •  Abby Schanfield, Minneapolis, beneficiary of Obama’s health care overhaul.
  •  Haile Thomas, Tucson, Ariz., a 12-year-old co-founder and director of the HAPPY Organization to help improve the health and wellness of young people.
  •  Desiline Victor, Miami, who, at age 102, made two trips and waited several hours to vote for Obama last November.