by Patrick B. McGuigan
During her visit to Oklahoma, Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan, delivered an affirmation of progressivism, stressing the role women must play in advancing an alternative to the “far right,” which she says now dominates the Republican Party.
Her wide-ranging address centered on practical steps needed to advance policy alternatives in states like Oklahoma. She began with a poem dubbed “An ode to Sally’s List.” With playful riffs off Dr. Seuss, she predicted that in the 2016 presidential campaign, Americans “will work for a candidate who is heaven sent, there’s no finer words than ‘Madame President.’”
Drawing on experiences as chief executive, she praised her husband, who served as the family’s prime caregiver during her years in public life. Her advice for younger women in the room was to “Marry Well” – not necessarily in the financial arena, but in the sense of having a supportive spouse. Further counsel: “Remember, you represent everybody who’s behind you” – including “the woman sitting in a cubicle at an office who is not getting the same pay as her male colleagues.” She stated flatly that those seeking public office “have to be willing to get some slings and arrows if you are succeed.”
She placed the ethic of service at the heart of her belief system that “we serve God in serving others.” She wondered what it would be like to stand before God on judgment day with no wounds, to be asked, “Was there nothing worth fighting for?”
Gov. Granholm remembered her gubernatorial “body man” responsible for security, i.e. getting her in and out of venues. He made a point of taking her through work areas so she would encounter those earning modest wages. She recalled, he told her, , “You cannot lead them, if you cannot see them.”
Extending an olive branch to those with contrasting preferences, the veteran politician said she believes most people in public office have good intentions.
Granholm recounted success in working with two female legislators – one a Democrat and one a Republican – to advance shared objectives during her eight years in office.
Good leaders must set aside personal ego in many ways, keeping in mind the larger goal of the broad public good, she believes: “Keep that positive notion in front of you when you put your hand up to run,” she added.
She also encouraged Oklahomans to address the low number of women serving in the Legislature: “Make decisions based upon competency instead of plumbing!”
Granholm assailed the “toxicity” of the current American culture, laying much blame for that on the “Citizens United” decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which allows huge campaign contributions with few regulatory limits. She told The City Sentinel anonymous independent contributions have built on the harsh rhetoric of the blogosphere, feeding “escalation of that same toxicity.” Granholm made it clear that those who share her views “must respond” with “Super PACs” and “527s.”
Granholm answered questions from the audience, including from 10 year old, Rita Sloop, who wondered why some men do not want women to run for office. She responded with nuance, including stories of supportive men, asking the lass if she would run for office some day. The girl replied she would.
As for her future, Granholm told a questioner, “I want to elect the next president, whoever she is.”
Sally’s List co-founder Sara Jane Rose welcomed attendees to the event, held at the Will Rogers Theatre on N. Western Avenue in Oklahoma City.
The organization advocated five female candidates in the recent election cycle; three are now in office (state Sen. Kay Floyd, state Rep. Claudia Griffith and Tulsa School Board member Shawna Keller.
The crowd was introduced to Madeline Grunewald, a University of Oklahoma student serving as an intern for Sally’s List, and the group’s new executive director, Kendra Horn, who delivered an update on the organization’s activities. Grunewald’s mother, father and brother joined to support Madeline.
Former Oklahoma Gov. David Walters and his wife Rhonda served as co-hosts for the event, and welcomed guests into their home for an evening welcoming Granholm.
Notables in attendance included former First Lady Kim Henry, former Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, former Attorney General Drew Edmondson and his wife Linda, City Council members Ed Shadid (Ward 2) and Meg Salyer (Ward 6), state Sen. Kay Floyd of Oklahoma City, and former state Reps. Joe Dorman, Ryan Kiesel and Laura Boyd.
Other prominent leaders present included Democratic Party state Vice Chair Dana Orwig, 2014 statewide candidate Cathy Cummings, progressive stalwart Robyn Lemon Sellers, Peace House director Nathaniel Batchelder, Oklahoma Policy Institute President David Blatt, Mayflower Congregational’s Rev. Lori Walke, 2014 legislative hopeful John Edwards, MidTown neighborhood activist Leslie Batchelor, and former OU Law Dean (and Oklahoma City Mayor) Andrew Coats.
Others present were Kay Goebel, a prominent civic leader, and Carole Kelley, former principal of Harding Charter Prep High, now working at the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center.
Sponsors of the event included Randall Mock & Caroline Mock, Pam & David Fleischaker, John Kennedy, Linda Larason, Beth & Jim Tolbert, former state Sen. Penny Williams, George Kaiser, Aldean Newcomb & George Krumme, Bob Lemon, Shannon & Chip Fudge, Marin & Phil Horning, Vince Lovoi, St. Gregory’s University President Greg Main, Melvin Moran, Shirley & Ben Shanker, Kalyn Free, the Edmondsons, the Walters, Julee and John Coyle, Mrs. Henry and her husband, former Gov. Brad Henry, Rep. Jeannie McDaniel of Tulsa, and LaShonda Williamson-Jennings.
Sally’s List honors the late Sally Rae Merkle Mock, who graduated first in her class at the OU Law School. In addition to work as a prominent Oklahoma attorney, she went on to be a member of the Planned Parenthood Board of Directors.