What drew my attention was not the first-term, 44-year-old Alaska governor who was standing at the podium proudly accepting the invitation to join a presidential ticket. My eyes were instead focused on a woman in the crowd.
Dressed in a navy blue T-shirt bearing an American flag, the woman had, just moments earlier, been politely listening to GOP nominee John McCain explain why he made his particular choice of a running mate. Before revealing the name of his VP, Sarah Palin, McCain talked about how his announcement would “shake up Washington.” It wasn’t until he mentioned that it was the week of the 88th anniversary of women’s suffrage when it dawned upon the woman in the flag T-shirt -- who’d likely been standing in the Dayton, Ohio crowd for hours -- that the vice presidential nominee was not a guy. The spectator’s mouth fell open. Her eyes widened. She looked at the man standing next to her as though she couldn’t believe what she’d just heard. It couldn’t be a woman. Could it?
A few minutes later, a mother of five – who gave birth to a baby with Down Syndrome in April, whose eldest son is being deployed to Iraq in September and who was celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary on this day – stepped in front of her first national audience. With a nod to Senator Hillary Clinton’s 18 million primary votes and the 18 million “cracks in the glass ceiling” created by her failed presidential bid, Palin said, “. . . [I]t turns out, the women of America aren’t finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”
It was stunning news to try to absorb as viewers watched Palin, her children and her husband on stage, particularly coming on the heels of the previous evening’s historic speech given by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama as he accepted his party’s nod on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
As word of the VP selection broke on the cable news networks -- that a former high school point guard who went by the nickname “Sarah Barracuda” and a self-described “hockey mom” was the GOP vice presidential nominee -- female TV journalists were as agog as was the woman in the Dayton arena wearing the flag T-shirt.
“I’m a working mom who fails miserably with just two kids,” said Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I’m looking at her, and I’m looking at her resume and I see that she has five kids and I’m already impressed.”
After watching Palin’s speech Brzezinski said, “Let me just respond as a mother I am completely in awe of this woman.” Noting that Palin returned to work days after giving birth this spring, Brzezinski added: “I’ll be watching her. I’ll want to learn more about her. I’ll want to know how she does it.”
Upon learning of Palin’s selection, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell said, “This is going to be the year of the hockey mom.”
We’ve got two vice presidential candidates with adult children being deployed to Iraq this fall – Palin and Senator Joe Biden. We’ve got high profile working mothers all over the place, from Palin and McCain’s wife Cindy, to Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, a professor of English. Any way you slice it, history will be made in November. Hang on, folks. It’s gonna be a wild ride.