Their persuasion can build a nation
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
They say behind every successful man stands a strong woman, and this sentiment has been especially apparent during the Democratic and Republican conventions.
Ann Romney and Michelle Obama gave heartfelt and powerful speeches during each party’s convention – arguably the two best of the series.
It’s a weird concept: we, as Americans (whether Democrat or Republican), trust candidates’ spouses to validate our votes. As all presidents have been male since 1776, women have delivered the spouse speeches.
We trust their perceptions of their men, and we trust these women will back the presidential hopefuls.
Many argue these women are biased toward their men (why wouldn’t the wives support their husbands?), but I think their opinions matter most. If the marriage is strong, it endures the stress of a political campaign and the wives see a side of the candidates not shown to the public eye. Many argue men wouldn’t and shouldn’t give speeches if the candidates were female, but it isn’t an argument about gender.
And even though the first lady and first lady hopeful both gave impressive addresses, both had a different target audience that – in my opinion – could make or break the election.
Ann Romney spoke on Aug. 28 and addressed mostly the nation’s “mothers.” While she was a dynamic and captivating orator, Ann ultimately did not touch any political points and spoke more to her husband’s character than his policies.
“It’s the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right,” she said. “It's the moms of this nation – single, married, widowed – who really hold this country together. We’re the mothers, we’re the wives, we’re the grandmothers, we’re the big sisters, we’re the little sisters, we’re the daughters.”
She continued on to say moms are the “best” of the nation and the “hope” of the nation, and America would cease to exist without them.
While this is a beautiful sentiment to mothers, I just can’t seem to connect. I’m 21 years old, and this is the first presidential election I am eligible to vote in. In 2008, I was on the cusp of 18, wishing my birthday came a few months sooner. And as November approaches, I want to side with a party or candidate who understands that, a party that is willing to grow with me and welcome me into its circle.
I am a big sister, daughter and granddaughter, but nowhere near ready to become a wife or a mother. I’m a student, as is most of my generation (both male and female) – the newest wave of voters each party must recruit. But I feel like Ann wasn’t able to identify with me. And if she cannot identify with an arguably large and crucial part of the voting population, what will happen in the polls?
Ann discussed Mitt’s best characteristics and touted he’s the one who can save this country, but didn’t cite how. As a young voter with a lot of voting years left, I want to put my faith in a candidate who can make promises and keep them.
Michelle Obama spoke to the Democrats on Tuesday night, her second spousal speech. In 2008, she had a tougher battle – she had to convince voters her husband was more than a man who could deliver a speech and he was more than the color of his skin.
In 2012, after four years in office, Michelle is one of the most popular and recognizable women in America (as any first lady should be), and she is arguably the most influential first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt. A fashion icon and proponent of healthy living, Michelle has connected with the American people.
While Barack is under attack for his leadership during his first term, Michelle testified to her husband’s strength and assured voters why he can endure another term. She also spoke more to women, both young and old, and let them know what Barack is willing to do for them.
She cited the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which will help a working woman earn pay equal to a man’s. But the most resounding statement?
“…He believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care … that’s what my husband stands for,” she said.
As a young female who understands this election is key in the fight for women’s rights, I respect Michelle’s – and more importantly, Barack’s – dedication to topics more relevant to my generation.
She brought back the hope Barack preached in 2008.
Both women spoke of their rise and their husbands’ rise to higher status through hard work and the American Dream, trying to relate to middle-class America. Both stressed their husbands’ strength and why America should back them for the next four years.
Sure, only Mitt and Barack can speak to their policies and what they plan to do for the nation, but the women behind them vindicate the promises.