All Articles Tagged "President Obama"

Such An Inspiration: Meet Haben Girma The First Deaf-Blind Woman To Graduate From Harvard Law

November 19th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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When you get ready to complain or think of an excuse about why you can’t do or accomplish something, think of Haben Girma. You just might find that her story gives you the inspiration you need to push through.

Girma is the first deaf-blind student to graduate from Harvard Law School. Now, the Eritrean-American woman is fighting for better access and education for other deaf-blind people around the world.

In a speech she delivered at the White House, Girma shared some of her family’s story. In Eritrea, when Girma’s grandmother took her older brother to school, they told her that deaf-blind children could not be educated. It was impossible.

At 16-years-old, in the midst of Eritrea’s 30-year-war, in their fight for independence from Ethiopia, Girma’s mother walked three weeks, through Eritrea’s deserts until a refugee organization helped her immigrate to the United States.

It was there, in the U.S. that Haben Girma was born. Like her brother, she too was deaf and blind.

But in the United States, there was a different attitude toward educating children with disabilities. And, as you might imagine, that made all the difference.

Haben, now 27, used her access to her education to make her way to and eventually graduate from Harvard Law School.

“Graduating from Harvard Law School says a lot about what can be done when you have the right attitude.”

She was able to do this by using a digital braille display and a QWERTY keyboard for communication.

In a visit to the White House earlier this year, celebrating the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, President Obama used the technologies to communicate with Girma.

Girma said “That sends a very empowering message. It reminds the rest of the United States and the rest of the world that having an inclusive attitude ensures that people with disabilities can contribute their talents to society.

She’s now a lawyer who works to ensure with the Disability Rights Advocates in California to ensure that other students don’t face the challenges, with lack of technology.

This is such an amazing story and a reminder to us all about the importance of a positive attitude, determination and inclusion.

You can see how Girma navigates everyday life and watch her meeting with President Obama in this video over at the BBC Africa. 

On Hillary And Why There Isn’t One Candidate I Want To Vote For At This Point

November 17th, 2015 - By Cynthia L. Dorsey
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Alberto Reyes/

Alberto Reyes/


Let me be brief: The current Presidential campaign has become a big top circus act that I simply cannot subscribe to. It makes me sick to my stomach the endless mockery that is made of the American political system at the expense of the American people. We have spent eight years under the leadership of a president who, even if you disagree with his agenda, has carried himself with the utmost class and respect for not only this country, but the entire world. Now that his term is quickly coming to an end, we are forced to witness mediocre shenanigans by mediocre candidates as they attempt to use their mediocrity to get into the Oval Office. And I’m not here for any of it. There isn’t one candidate at this point that I want to vote for.

I recently came across an article on The Daily Beast titled “Will Hillary Be Our Third Black President?” by Michael Tomasky, and from the title alone I gasped and clutched my pearls. In it, Tomasky looks at the numbers of Black voters who voted for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012. President Obama received over 90 percent of the Black vote during both elections. The question the article asks is if Clinton can have the same success with Black voters. But the eye-opening statement in the article that differentiates the Obama campaign from the Clinton campaign is the reality that “Obama inspired Blacks to vote in larger numbers.” The entire journey on the Obama For America campaign trail was nothing but inspiring. As a gifted orator, he had the unique ability to bridge both generational and gender gaps, getting everyone from the young to the old excited to get to the polls and vote. Clinton has yet to do anything to inspire or motivate people. Here’s why.

Right now, our country is in social unrest whether you want to accept it or not. Racial issues that many have swept under the rug are resurfacing, some of which have resulted in the death of innocent human beings–innocent Black human beings. Our Black President has been disrespected and stifled during his term by a racist Congress. Our children are walking in fear not just in their neighborhoods but on their college campuses. And here comes Hillary Clinton with no clear agenda or priority to even address racial injustice in America, despite the candidate being the clear frontrunner. You would think that being a woman and having to face discrimination throughout her career, one of her priorities would be to make sure those facing such obstacles deserve, at the very least, a comprehensive strategy that will begin a path to justice. Not just occasional euphemisms about criminal justice reform but a real genuine concern about racial injustice and a plan of action. But then again, does she have that ability amid her White female privilege?

Clinton, in so many ways, reminds me of Scandal character Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young). Grant had to deal with the very private issues of her marriage with the entire world watching, just like Clinton. And just like Clinton, Grant has kept up her smile and kindred persona with the public to fuel her professional agenda–the ultimate goal of being President of the United States of America. But neither Grant on television, nor Clinton in real life, have proven themselves to be trustworthy enough to lead an entire nation.

So no matter how many whips and nae naes she does on the campaign trail to try and relate to the Black community, Hillary Clinton still won’t secure this Black woman’s vote, despite the name association.

White House Announces $118 Million Initiative For Women And Girls Of Color

November 16th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Hug. #Obama2012

A photo posted by Barack Obama (@barackobama) on

When the White House announced their “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, a program which united nonprofit organizations, businesses, state and local leadership and the religious community to help Black and other boys of color, many of us applauded.

…But we also wondered if such a program would be implemented to help Black girls and women. 

Thankfully, the White House took heed to those concerns and launched a similar initiative for women and girls of color.

According to the Washington Post, the White House Council on Women and Girls hosted a forum to determine ways they could improve the lives of this population, starting with a commitment of $118 million is assistance from public and private organizations.

The five year initiative will use the allocation to help lift these women and girls out of poverty.

During the forum, panelists spoke about a report called “Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color.” In it, several problematic areas are highlighted, including education, criminal justice, health and economic conditions. The report, in the education portion, sought to find ways to reduce the number of school suspensions for girls of color. It also highlighted their push to encourage more young women to pursue STEM specialities.

The Ms. Foundation and Prosperity Together, a collection of 20 different women’s organizations, pledged to contribute $100 million over five years to develop programs to lift these women and girls out of poverty. The money could be used to provide job training, encourage entrepreneurship, or pay for child care so mothers can work during the day.

The remaining amount was pledged by the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research. This organization will study and collect data to identify the struggles and challenges faced by women and girls of color and strategize solutions to these challenges.

All Grown Up: A Look At Malia Obama Through The Years

October 27th, 2015 - By M A
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Credit: Mario Mitsis/

Credit: Mario Mitsis/

Boy, oh boy, has she grown up right before our eyes. Yesterday she was the little girl bouncing around the halls of the White House with her sister, Sasha, and mom and dad, Michelle and Barack Obama. But Malia Obama has certainly matured into a poised and beautiful young lady who will soon be making a decision on which college she will attend. She is considering such top-tier universities as Harvard, Yale, NYU, Brown and many more. Though we’re all feeling exceptionally old at the minute, we couldn’t be happier for the eldest Obama daughter and thought it only right to celebrate Malia via a gallery of her best (and cutest) moments through the years.

President Obama Explains “Black Lives Matter” For All Those Who Refuse To Get It

October 22nd, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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"Barack Obama pf"


The next time a former associate from high school or a complete stranger tries to come for the Black Lives Matter movement, trying to counter with “All Lives Matter,” direct them to President Obama’s recent words.

ABC News reports that today, during a White House forum on criminal justice, President Obama noted that “Black Lives Matter” was birthed after the deaths of two unarmed, young Black men in Florida and Missouri, (Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown).

In response to those who saw the movement as racist, separatist or anti-police, President Obama defended the necessity of it, saying:

“I think everybody understands all lives matter. I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ was not because they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter. Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that’s happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities.

And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.”

President Obama encouraged people to realize that “the overwhelming majority of law enforcement’s doing the right thing and wants to do the right thing” and he asked that people “recognize that police officers have a really tough job and we’re sending them into really tough neighborhoods that sometimes are really dangerous and they’ve got to make split-second decisions.”

Then he continued, “But having said all that, we as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously. And one of the ways of avoiding the politics of this and losing the moment is everybody just stepping back for a second and understanding that the African-American community is not just making this up. It’s not just something being politicized. It’s real and there’s a history behind it and we have to take it seriously.”

Some suggestions as to how politicians and policy makers should be taking this seriously would be nice; but, it’s a start. I’m happy to know he gets it.

Why Isn’t The Religious Right Helping This Black Church?

October 16th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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I don’t even know why the Black Church continues to involve itself in what are basically conservative right-wing gripes like abortion and same sex marriage, when those same institutions are never around when Black Churches need help.

Like in Oakland, where the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church has publicly been declared a nuisance. According to local CBS affiliate KPIX 5:

“Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in West Oakland recently received a letter from the city threatening a $3,500 nuisance fee and a $500 a day fine unless it toned down its choir practice.

The letter states in part, “…this activity may constitute a public nuisance due to its impact to the use and quiet enjoyment of the surrounding community’s property.”

Kind of hard to believe because we’ve been here about 65 years in the community and all of a sudden we get some concerns about the noise,” said Thomas A Harris III, the pastor at Pleasant Grove.

Church pastors who met Wednesday said the real issue is gentrification. The church sits in a neighborhood full of old Victorians being snapped up by affluent tech workers.”

According to KPIX, the church is working with a local affordable housing and local arts activist group called Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition to help come up with solutions for everyone to work together including getting legislation through city council that would “protest Oakland churches.” Likewise, the NAACP has also stepped in and are “demanding more specifics from the city and criticizing its handling of the issue.”

That’s all nice and gravy, but you know who is not there helping those churches in their fight against gentrification?

Those White, conservative right wing churches. The same ones who are always declaring any attack on their doctrines and agendas as a so-called “War on Christianity.” That includes the time Fox News used the phrase after Dylann Roof shot and killed 9 African-Americans at a prominent Black AME church in South Carolina church.

The same folks who have roped quite a few Black churches and prominent Black leaders into being on the front lines of this fictitious war on Christianity by paying them to publicly to use the Bible to say regressive things about President Barack Obama, same-sex marriage and other gay rights.

Those folks are nowhere to be found during what can reasonably be justified as a battle on Christians. Not Glenn Beck who earlier this year organized thousands, including hundreds of Black pastors, for the “Never Again” protest in Birmingham, Alabama. A protest dubbed the “All Lives Matter” march. Or Donald Trump who had dozens of Black pastors pray over him and his racist campaign.

In spite of all of the cheerleading that the Black Churches have done for the political right, these churches in Oakland stand alone.

To be fair, I don’t know what kind of ministry being practiced at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church or any other Black church who now finds themselves threatened by gentrification. I really hope that it is sanctuary of love and peace as opposed to a den of fire and brimstone. But I do believe that the Black Church, particularly the ones who continue to side with the conservative right (most times at the expense of your own people), should take note of who your friends really are.

“Don’t Cry!”: This Is What Happens When An Introvert Tries To Network – With Tracee Ellis Ross

October 15th, 2015 - By Cynthia L. Dorsey
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

After finishing graduate school, I was determined to be a working actress. However, after numerous casting calls in several different cities, the starving artist façade quickly became a reality. I was broke, and my student loan payments were due, so I quickly had to find a “real” job. I landed a gig on Capitol Hill in the office of then-senator and now our illustrious president, Barack Obama. I know what you’re thinking: an actress on Capitol Hill? How does that work? Well, aren’t politicians the best actors in the game?


However, a true artist is immensely restricted on the Hill. Consistently hidden behind a muted color palette of navy blue and black suits, coffee, C-Span, and whatever flavor of frozen yogurt is being served in the cafeteria on any given day. But that never stopped me from indulging in an occasional pirouette down an empty Senate hallway. Or from singing the intro to the “Circle of Life” from The Lion King on an empty train car ride over to the House side. The acoustics in the Capitol dome are just that amazing.

When President Obama announced his campaign for president, I was excited and quickly did anything I could do to help. From attending rallies in D.C., Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, to even attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver. I was focused.

But before I left for Denver, my mom (more like my mom-ager) quickly reminded me that attending the DNC was not only an excellent opportunity to support the Obama For America campaign, but also a great time to network as an actress. Everybody who is anybody in the industry would be there. She even made sure that I had 100 headshots and resumes to pass out. But there was one major problem. I am also an introvert who can be very uncomfortable in many social situations. Again, I know what you’re thinking: “How can an actress be an introvert?” Well, I am. Just accept my reality, please.

The thing is, I find my uninhibited strength when I am performing. And I don’t have to endure small talk and awkward silence while I’m doing it either.

Despite my nerves, with a lot of love and encouragement, I packed my bag and prepared to confront all my networking possibilities.

My mother was right. Everyone who was anyone was there. I rode the elevator up eight floors with President Jimmy Carter. I took selfies with Danny Glover. I watched Blair Underwood shade autograph-seeking hopefuls by saying, “I’m with my family.” Congressmen and women, filmmakers, actors, artists, singers, ambassadors, preachers, and journalists were all there. One of the duties I had was escorting VIP guests into a Congressional Black Caucus reception. Many well-known stars arrived at the event, from Congresswoman Maxine Waters to Alfre Woodard. All I kept thinking of is what my mother had told me to do. Network. What the hell does that even mean? I don’t know how to do that! What am I even supposed to say to these people? I thought to myself. I was a nervous wreck. Time was winding down at the event, and I had yet to net or work anything. I knew I had to do something or the headshots I was carrying around in my bag would surely have been a waste of good ink. Then out walked Tracee Ellis Ross in all of her beautiful, bubbly, curly-haired glory. She was heading to the bus full of other celebrities to shuttle them back to their hotel. This was it. This was my time to net the work.

I reached into my bag. My stomach was in my back with the rest of my nerves at this point. I started walking over to her, and I could feel the pain of fear take over my legs and feet. My heart was pounding a bass line beat to the tune of death accompanied by the ringing in my ears. I walked over to Ross, reached my trembling hand out with my headshot and resume attached and said, “This is my–” That was it. No other words came out. But what happened next haunts me to this day. I burst out crying. I’m not talking a cute cry with a few drizzling tear drops. Oh no! I balled like my very soul had been ripped from my body. The scripture says, “Jesus wept.” Well, I guess me and Jesus have something in common because I sobbed uncontrollably. I guess my nerves ransacked my tear ducts because I could not stop.

Ross took my headshot and said, “It’s okay! Don’t cry! I’m going to keep this.” She gave me a lengthy hug, wished me luck on my acting career, and got on the bus. To this day, I wonder if she really kept it or if she and her celebrity friends laughed about it all the way back to their hotels. Either way, I will forever be the girl who cried on Tracee Ellis Ross’s shoulder while trying to get my hustle on.

And that’s what happens when an introvert tries to network. Thanks a lot, mom.

“Thoughts & Prayers Are Not Enough” Pres. Obama Delivers Stern Remarks On Need For Gun Control Laws After Oregon Shooting

October 2nd, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Yesterday, when I heard the news that there was yet another mass shooting, this time at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, I sighed. I asked myself if I knew anyone in Oregon and then checked to see if that person was ok.

At the time, they were reporting that there were 10-15 deaths and I took a brief moment to think about the loss of 10-15 lives. And then I went on about my day. Mass shootings are all too commonplace in America and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t desensitized to people being killed as they’re trying to go about their everyday lives.

And that’s sad.

Yesterday evening, as the details of the shooting and facts about the shooter, who was killed, continued to trickle in, President Obama held a press conference discussing the shooting and how it evidences the need for stricter, more effective gun control laws.

He was not playing around with this speech. Watching him speak so emphatically, President Obama reminded me of the type of  lecture your parents would give, in the middle of the night, when you just couldn’t seem to do the right thing. He looked angry and yet exhausted.

Check out the most poignant words from his speech below and watch the full video below.

…America will wrap everyone whose grieving with our prayers and our love. But as I said, just a few months ago and I said a few months before that, and I said, ‘Each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough.’ It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted some place else in America, next week or a couple months from now.

We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did. And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on earth that sees these kind of mass shootings every few months.

You know earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying ‘The United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient, common sense gun safety laws even in the face of repeated mass killings.’ And later that day there was a mass shooting in a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. That day.

Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this. We talked about this after Columbine, and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newton, after Aurora, after Charleston. It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.

Later in the speech he spoke about the opposition:

Somebody, somewhere will comment and say Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.

I would ask news organizations, because I won’t put these facts forward, to tally up the number of Americans who have been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence and post those side by side on your news reports.

We spend over a trillion dollars and pass countless laws and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?

This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen, every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.

I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as president to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances. But based on my experience as president, I can’t guarantee that. And that’s terrible to say… and it can change.

May God bless the memories of those who were killed today. May He bring comfort to their families and courage to the injured as they fight their way back. And may He give us the strength to come together and find the courage to change. Thank you.


President Obama Shines A Spotlight On Black Women During Congressional Black Caucus Speech

September 20th, 2015 - By Ashley Monaé
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Fresh from his announcement of nominating the first openly gay US Army secretary, President Obama presented a speech fully dedicated to Black women at the Congressional Black Caucus dinner on Saturday night (Sept. 19).

“I’m focusing on women tonight, because I want them to know how much we appreciate them, how much we admire them, how much we love them,” he said.

During his speech, Obama touched shined a light on the adversities of Black women and just how much of a role they played a major role in shaping American democracy.

Characterizing the women of the civil rights movement as “thinkers and the doers,” he explained:

“Women were the foot soldiers. Women strategized boycotts. Women organized marches,” Obama said in a keynote address to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual awards dinner. “Even if they weren’t allowed to run the civil rights organizations on paper, behind the scenes they were the thinkers and the doers making things happen each and every day, doing the work that no one else wanted to do.”

Obama also spoke out on his focus for  “full opportunity and equality” for girls and women of color in America. He specifically made note of the disparities in regards to equal pay for Black women in particular.

“It is an affront to the very idea of America when certain segments of our population don’t have access to the same opportunities as everybody else,” he said. “It makes a mockery of our economy when black women make thirty fewer cents for every dollar a white man earns.”

Click play and watch President Obama’s full speech above.

Serious Question: Do You Like Hillary Clinton?

September 14th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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Hillary Clinton’s demise is clearly being overstated.

And I say this as an observer.  I say this as an out-of-the-box voter who voted far left during Barack Obama’s historic 2008 campaign. I choose to try to make history by voting for a Black woman. I also say this as someone who is considering casting my future ballot for Bernie Sanders.

In spite of recent polling by YouGov US/CBS, which has Clinton falling behind Bernie Sanders among likely voters in both New Hampshire and Iowa, another poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), shows Clinton holding a pretty dominant lead in South Carolina. More specifically, she leads with 54 percent to Sanders’s nine percent among likely voters. As PPP notes:

“This is the worst performance we’ve found for Sanders anywhere in quite a long time, but it speaks to his continued difficulty with African American voters. He gets only 3% with them- well behind Clinton’s 59% and Biden’s 27%- and in a state where a majority of Democratic voters are black that makes it hard for him to do very well.”

So much for feeling the Bern….

And yet, pundits in both mainstream and alternative media have been pushing this idea that Clinton’s campaign is in serious threat of being, once again, snatched away by Sanders. But according to the numbers, that’s not the case. Perhaps this all theater meant to get potential voters riled up for what is shaping up to be a real snooze fest of a campaign season, at least on the Democratic side.

But I also can’t help but notice how these erroneous predictions match the overall lack of enthusiasm over a potential Clinton nomination. Whereas the mainstream media appeared to welcome the possibility of the nation’s first Black president in 2008, it now seems less thrilled and supportive of an equally historic moment. The nation being led by its first woman.

And I don’t know why.

Those who voted for President Obama should feel right at home in the Clinton campaign. Not only had she served in his administration, which has been christened by many as the most successful in U.S. history, but according to an article from Politico, she even continues to support many of the administration’s policies. That includes the recent Iran deal – although she did caution that she would have done it slightly different than her potential predecessor.

And yet, there appears to be some skepticism of the former FLOTUS turned politician. An uncertainty, even as she has experience in the White House. Even as she vows $25 billion in support to HBCUs. Even as she does the Nae Nae with Ellen. Even among Obama loyalists, there is a tendency to shrug their shoulders at Clinton and go “meh.”

Far left-leaning candidates like Sanders barely register among pollsters, let alone the mainstream media because they are generally thought of as not being able to win. And yet, he is not only being seriously considered by the mainstream, but he’s also being considered by Democrats who have yet to declare their intentions for the White House, including Vice President Joe Biden.

In a nationwide poll conducted by Monmouth University, Biden has managed to increase his lead from 12 percent to 22 percent in the last month, while Clinton’s lead has decreased from 52 percent to 42 percent. What this means is that not only are some Democrats so hard-pressed to cast their vote for anyone but Clinton that they willing to consider a candidate who hasn’t even declared his intentions, but they are also willing to consider a candidate whose politics are almost identical to her own.

So what gives?

In an essay entitled Why Joe Biden Is More ‘Likable’ Than Hillarywriter Michelle Goldberg talks about Clinton’s perception problem. In short, she is not viewed publicly as open, honest or even as likable as Biden.

More specifically, Goldberg writes:

Try to answer this question: Is there a single woman in America about whom anyone could say, “Everybody likes her, right?” (I mean besides Beyoncé, who is worshiped for her aloof perfection.) A female candidate who was prone, as Biden is, to veering off script and saying things she should not wouldn’t seem frank and lovable. She would seem sloppy and unstable. No woman could say on national television that she might be too emotionally fragile to run for president, and still be seen as someone who could actually run for president.

This isn’t meant as a criticism of Biden, who appears to be a genuinely wonderful man. It’s only to say that Clinton is in a straitjacket. She’s excoriated for her inauthenticity, but also for whatever glimpses we get of her humanity: her wrinkles, her laugh, her awkward fashion sense, her devotion to her philandering husband. As first lady, she once told Time magazine that she longed for a second child—she and Bill had had difficulty conceiving Chelsea—and might adopt. The press found this uproarious. Maureen Dowd made a crack about “Chelsea’s new little sister, Tribeca.” There is a demand that Clinton prove herself a real human being, but no real human being could appear before the public unguarded, having endured the sort of merciless, jeering personal scrutiny that she has.

I think few folks among us stop to consider the very stringent tightrope women in positions of power must often walk. I recalled the emotionally real moment Clinton had during her first bid for the White House in 2008. I remember that folks called her “fake” and “weak” and accused her of using tears to gain sympathy votes. I also recall a time when Clinton was considered to be cold and domineering.

While it is true that most candidates for office must appear to be likable, I also feel that Clinton’s public face is in a no-win situation. And despite being completely aligned with the Democratic agenda and being the likely choice for the Democratic nomination, if folks had a choice, they would rather vote for someone (male) else.