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OP-ED: Let's Talk About Mother’s Day
I’ve always felt that the allure of First Ladies is in this country’s DNA, dating back to the time when we were a colony of Great Britain. Why else would Americans and the media go gaga whenever there is a royal wedding or birth or be obsessed about a Queen of England ruling a kingdom that the United States didn’t want to belong to?
What got me to ponder about our First Ladies obsession was our presidential election of 2012 and Mother’s Day of the same year, which was just days before Queens Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee; also the Royal Baby Birth Day of July 22, 2013, -- by all accounts he’s a prince of a fellow -- which was covered by the press in England’s former American colonies as if it was the birth of our nation instead of a baby. Who knows what will happen before Mother’s Day 2014 occurs? Certainly not me. However, I can safely predict how the U.S. media will respond in 2015 when Queen Elizabeth will become the longest – reigning English monarch in 1000 years. To paraphrase Al Jolson, “You ain’t seen or heard anything yet.”
(Adding to the allure of all things English by her former colonies is the success of British TV series like Downton Abbey, a long-running soap opera which shows how unsophisticated rebels we are when compared to the British upper class. Even the servants in the cast have better manners than our next door neighbors and definitely are more cordial than talk radio hosts.)
But I place the blame for this column on our current first lady, Michelle Obama, and a former wanna-be First Lady, Ann Romney.
Both the First Lady and her 2012 challenger joined the Chamber of Commerce in exploiting the day for their own advantage: Ann Romney was featured in a Mother’s Day attack TV commercial against President Obama. The president’s team asked people to sign an electronic Mother’s Day card for Michelle.
The Obama ad said, “Wish Michelle A Happy Mother’s Day, Join Barack And Sign Here,” another way of saying, “Don’t forget To Sign Your Check.” Ann Romney’s ad stressed that she raised five boys, but failed to mention that they were all born with silver spoons, or better, in their mouths.
Now, I’m not against First Ladies. I just don’t think they should play a role in electing our presidents and be hyped as a mother we should all be proud of unless they actually had a meaningful legacy, like Eleanor Roosevelt did by keeping the needs of the less fortunate in the headlines, being a fervent spokeswoman for democracy and a champion of civil rights. Or Betty Ford, a fighter for women’s rights, who raised breast cancer awareness following her own HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastectomy" \o "Mastectomy" mastectomy and also championed the fight against substance abuse by being the driving force for the establishment of the non-profit Betty Ford Center in 1982.
I have mixed feeling about Dolley Madison. On the plus side, she deserves kudos for saving the iconic portrait of George Washington during the War of 1812 and having a great ice cream named after her. (Note to the gotcha gang: even though the spelling of her first name is different on the ice cream container, this perfect, though potentially weight gaining, brain freezing and artery clogging food is named after her.) On the negative side, she was the first First Lady to publicly support civic projects, causing the media to forever cover the First Lady as if she was the Best Lady.
Sorry, Martha, Mamie, Barbara, Jackie, Nancy or wanna be Ann, and all the other First Ladies not mentioned, you might have your admirers, but it’s doubtful if our nation’s history would be changed one iota if you married another person, although Abigail’s letters to John Adams did provide a lot of information that helped historians and film makers make a few bucks.
Hillary Clinton, a proponent of health projects and women’s rights, probably ranks with Eleanor Roosevelt in increasing the stature of First Ladies because of her stints as U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. But those accomplishments happened after leaving the White House. But despite her involvements with urging children to be active and her support of
healthy eating our current First Lady, Michelle, will probably go down in history for becoming a guest TV celebrity and Oscar presenter, which is almost as bad as, or maybe worse, than a president making big deals about ball clubs by inviting them to the White House after they win a title.
I’m not one of those a “women’s place is in the house” Luddites. I do believe that women should be in business leadership’s positions, the House, Senate, presidential cabinet posts, and also as our leader at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Having a female president do a worse job than our recent presidents (yes, Jimmy, Dick, LBJ, Ronnie, George(s), Bill
(the verdict is still out on Barack, but it doesn’t look good)) would be hard to do.
My in-house expert on women and men, my wife, Judie, keeps reminding me that women are smarter than men. She says that I prove that it’s a fact, not a theory, and it should be accepted as established science. (Since she has more scholarly degrees than I do, I’ll take her word for it.) Smart is good when making decisions that can affect our lives, she insists. If only she was Marie Antoinette’s advisor, I’m sure she would have told her, “Be careful when making 10 second sound bites. They can cause much trouble.”
It’s tough enough on men to be reminded each year that telephone calls, restaurants and florist’s businesses increase exponentially on Mother’s Day without presidential candidate’s campaigns urging us to wish their candidate’s spouses Happy Mother’s Day.
My recurrent nightmare is having my mother call and say, “You don’t write, you don’t call, you don’t visit” and my reply is, “Mom, you know that Mother’s Day only comes once a year.”
Although I’m certain that the Chamber of Commerce’s would be against it, maybe it’s time to again celebrate Mother’s Day the way it was intended to be: as a protest against husbands and sons being killed in wars and to help alleviate disease-causing conditions in poor communities. But that’s as unlikely to happen as Father’s Day becoming as popular as Mother’s Day.
(Many Mother’s Days ago, I decided that John Buchanan is my favorite president. Why? No First Lady had he to give me guilt feelings about Mother’s Day and not try to convince me that it has not become just another C of C business promotion to show mom you love her by spending.)
Mother’s Day aside, I do think it’s time to have a woman as president. Even though women might not do any better than men, we know for sure that women are more nurturing and would bring a more compassionate administration to the White House and try to help the most needy in our country. Margaret Thatcher proved that during her days as Great Britain’s prime minister. Didn’t she?
Arthur Solomon was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles on national and international sports and non-sports programs. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations business publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com.