Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Joanne for President

I'm a former Hillary supporter now doing whatever I can to see Obama and Biden elected. I'll of course vote for them in November.

During the primary season, a friend of mine emailed me that she was convinced this would be the only chance in her lifetime to elect a Democratic woman President.

Unlike my friend, I believe we'll see a female chief executive sooner rather than later, and she won't be Sarah Palin (whose nomination would seem like a bad joke were it not for the risk that she might be elected).

For every Hilary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi or Janet Napolitano, there are dozens if not hundreds of women doing terrific work in state or local government--women like the dedicated and dynamic Andrea Stewart-Cousins, NY State senator from Yonkers. Among the ranks of volunteers in this year's campaigns are young women who'll be inspired to embark on political careers. We'll be voting for them before you know it.

I've long thought that my wonderful sister Joanne would make an excellent President, and for her birthday some years ago, told her so in the following poem, which I've just updated. When you read it, think of women you know or know of, whom you'd like to one day see in the top job.

A Nomination

When times are rough and portents grim,
I think it like a mantra:
Joanne for President.
A thankless job, but someone's got to do it.
Her day will come.

Age ten or so, worried that having been born in Newfoundland
(we called her Newfie) disqualified her for the job,
she wrote the President to ask.
The attorney general wrote back,
assuring her that being born a U.S. citizen
took precedence over any accident of geography
(or, he might have added, gender).

Strange to find yourself suddenly thinking of
your pesky little sister as your future leader.
What seems strange now is only that
she hasn't yet taken her first public step
to the White House. She's taken many privately:

As former baseball mom, PTA president,
ombudsman helping other Navy wives,
psychology student, secretary, seller of advertising,
she's had years of experience honing her
diplomatic, care-taking, and managerial skills.
Co-owning and managing a new restaurant gave her
experience in high-pressure, out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire
entrepreneurship--and a great place to win friends and influence voters.
Now a dedicated and beloved early elementary teacher,
she's helping to get some lucky future voters off to a good start.

She gardens, collects baskets ( sometimes makes them),
babysits her grandchildren, has raised and sold beagles,
enjoys reading, traveling, and riding roller coasters.
Vivacious, imaginative, thoughtful, curious,
empathetic, down-to-earth, she'll talk sense to the Senate,
charm the House, and build a dream
administrative team, filled with spirit and skill.

Without presuming to speak for her, I can
assure you that she does not believe in astrology,
numerology, or patriarchy. She does believe in
good education and health care for all, fair wages,
equal opportunity and rights, thoughtful
conservation of the environment, and generous,
peaceful relations with other nations.

You might think I'm prejudiced because she's
my sister. But who more than a sibling
would know all the reasons, if there were any,
she was unworthy of your support?

You can still see in Joanne the bubbly, spunky kid
with an imagination as boundless as the great
plains of Oklahoma, where she spent those years.
And the adolescent, up north in Michigan a few years later,
who let our little sister come along with her on dates
so that she wouldn't feel left out
(and maybe as a chaperone).

In a few years, I'd like to see her run
for local office. Before you know it, she'll
be looking for a campaign manager for a House,
Senate, or gubernatorial race. By the time she's,
say, 60 or so, the country should be ready
for its first chief executive with some
really good cookie recipes.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Joanne--
our future, first female President,
from the great state of California!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Let's be more like Patti.

August 24 was a lovely evening in New York City, and, wrapping up the free Roots of American Music festival at Damrosch Park, Patti Smith and her band were in typically great form.

Early on, she presented herself to us as a New York City neighbor, saying something like, "If you see me walking down the street and my shoelaces are untied, tell me. I am clumsy. If you see me going down the subway stairs and my shoelaces are untied, please tell me. I can be clumsy."

But she sure wasn't clumsy on stage. Rocking her way through her own songs--"People Have the Power," "Because the Night," and lots of others--and great covers including "Smells like Teen Spirit" and a version of "Are you Experienced" packed with improvised extras, she brought the audience to their feet and their arms into the air.

She urged us to vote (more than once, I think), asked us to remember those suffering elsewhere (not that we shouldn't enjoy our evening), and, at the end of the encore ("We've only got four minutes and we're going to pack in everything we can"), stopped while misspelling "Gloria," to say, "Fuck it, I can't spell--I should be in the Bush cabinet."

Afterwards, waiting for the bus on 9th Avenue, I heard a man jogging past the woman beside me say to her, "If you see me in the subway and my shoelaces are untied, tell me."

"You're not Patti," she answered with the ghost of a smile.