Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri Summary

When Donald Trump was announced as the next president of the USA in 2016, he left a whole nation stunned with disbelief as they pondered on how could this happen. All it took was one night for the political structures established in the USA to be broken and the Americans to be radically divided. But then, what was it that fell through in Hillary Clinton’s plans? What happened to the expectations that surely she would be the next president of the USA?

Now, an insider who was part of Clinton’s staff during her presidential run provides us the true story for the first time. We’ll find out why the expectations on November 9, 2016, were wrong-footed, to begin with, why her hopes of winning were actually in vain even from the start, and what can an ambitious woman like Clinton do to avoid the mistakes she has done. 

This summarization of the book provides,

  • What Hillary Clinton did that caused the media to become uncomfortable
  • All the qualities that great presidents share
  • Why in professional environments women and men are judged by different, unfair norms.

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Chapter 1 – The presidential dreams of Hillary Clinton were destroyed because of sexism.

For Jennifer Palmieri, the author of this book, this election night will always be a nightmarish experience, unlike anything she has ever experienced before. On this night, Donald Trump became the official winner of the 2016 presidential race in the USA by defying all the expectations. Palmieri, who was an important member of Clinton’s team, was revolted and in utter shock. After all of his endorsement of hateful and discriminative speech, how was it possible for Trump to win? How could Clinton lose with all her experience as a senior in American politics?

For Palmieri now, it was sexism that played a key role in how the election was resulted in.

Think about the media’s reception of the speech in which Clinton accepted defeat: Clinton admitted that Trump was indeed the winner of the presidential race, stating that she was acknowledging this win to ensure the well-being of all Americans. In a baffling way, by the majority of the media, this admission was stated to be the best of her campaign. There were even suggestions saying that this softer side that was not seen before would actually get a positive response from the public at the time of the race.

According to Palmieri, this response to the concession speech shows the media’s sexist attitude towards Clinton. Why was that? Because even though she did not change the way she acted during her campaign, she was generously recognizing her defeat over a man. So, the media show positive reactions to this speech as it fit the image of how a woman should behave in their minds.

The incident shows how society feels more at ease with a woman’s attitude when she is submissive to a man. When a woman shows initiative like Clinton, our views on her are less favorable. 

For Palmieri, as a member of Clinton’s campaign, this problem society has when it comes to ambitious women was already clear. In the early stages of her run as a candidate, specialists alerted Clinton on how society was likely to think of ambitious women as self-centered and too eager. To fight back against these views, she felt an obligation to frame her ambitions in this race by relating it to a desire to help and supply for others.

Chapter 2 – Expressing your opinions freely is vital to achieving things.

The author, who had a key role in the staff of Obama as well as Bill Clinton managements, had the privilege of being invited to a number of highly significant meetings and discussions. She’s been a participant in various important discussions that shaped US politics. However, what equipped her with how to act in such places ruled by power was the knowledge she gained in the Oval Office.

If there was one thing she learned during her time as a member of a president’s team, it was the value of being able to tell whatever was on her mind had.

When it was Bill Clinton’s time as the president, Palmieri discovered that she would have to either express her opinions or take the risk of exclusion from the discussions. The participants interrupting each other was typical as the president’s staff meetings were likely to be turbulent and speedy. 

In fact, according to Palmieri, she never witnessed anyone being able to conclude a remark without someone chiming in, not even the president, when she was in attendance with Bill Clinton as the leader of the US. Because of this, Paremieri quickly learned that to not be excluded, she had to be assertive and speak up.

Although President Obama’s attitude regarding these staff meetings might have differed from Clinton’s, her take out from her time there still did not change, which was the necessity of telling her thoughts and views to others.

As Obama ended these discussions, he would always insist upon asking all participants who remained silent in terms of what were their thoughts regarding the issue at the table. Many of these more reserved members of Obama’s team also happened to be women.

After a while, a more experienced staff member of the team explained to Palmieri that Obama’s aim in this practice did not mean he was trying to be well-mannered; it meant that he was genuinely in need of opinions from every attendee of the meeting. The thought of how Obama, the actual president, honestly needs to hear her input encouraged Palmieri greatly. 

It is not rare for women to come across this obstacle of not being able to show the boldness to freely express themselves as a participant in a valuable discussion. Palmieri is deeply convinced that unless you act like your opinions do have value, then it is not possible for others to act as your voice matters. In short, women should be certain of the importance of their voices, and good things will come.

Chapter 3 – Even if women’s feelings are more closely observed, this shouldn’t make them hesitant to shed tears.

As the clocks showed 10 on the election night, it got harder and harder to deny that it was Donald Trump who would be triumphant in the presidential race. Palmieri, alongside a female colleague from the Clinton campaign, was seated somewhere as they struggled to take in this mortifying news together.

Because the news left these women shocked and upset, one might naturally assume that they found themselves in tears. However, this was not what happened. All they did was nodding to one another while they hear the news.

After the fact though, Palmieri realized how she did want to cry but felt like it wouldn’t be appropriate as she was trying to avoid painting herself as the crying woman at her work.

In a larger context, this issue in professional settings like this often makes women feel compelled to have a firm hold on their feelings.

Palmieri argues that women are constantly being observed to see how they will react to emotionally complicated news. The contrived stereotypes when it comes to how women deal with their feelings also suggest that the way they behave is often judged in terms of how tough they are in their handlings of a problem. Women are aware of this extra observation they are subjected to, and this often causes them to act in an especially unemotional way in a professional environment.

For Palmieri though, the solution does not lie with women being cautious of crying in a professional setting. Moreover, she strongly suggests that shedding some tears should be treated as a weapon unique to women, not as a sign of weakness.

When a huge press conference was held after the elections, Palmieri ended up making a sentimental act of this kind. As all the disillusionment and shady ploys used by Trump campaign crushed itself on her, she could not stop herself from crying when some members of his staff confronted her. She was moved to tears while she was talking about the racist rhetoric that was used by their campaign throughout the election process.

Although this display of emotion was criticized by the majority of the news outlets and a number of people around her, Palmieri doesn’t have any regrets. She has a deep concern about the matters that caused her to cry, and she is not allowing the world to make her feel ashamed about it.

Chapter 4 – Using both your head and your heart makes you an ideal politician. 

As a woman whose career is in the most respected sphere with renowned world leaders, Palmieri was able to deal with several crises. Bill Clinton’s denouncement as the president, the hackings caused by Russia, and broadcasted executions of ISIS are all incidents she was a witness of.

As it is commonly known, navigating political storms like these examples requires composure as well as excellent problem-solving skills. But managing chaos such as these requires another element too: a sincere heart, and sensing when it is time to give a listen to what it says.

A few years ago, George Zimmerman got accused of shooting Trayvon Marvin, an African American teen. The verdict of this accusation resulted in an immense amount of pain and rage from the African-American community. Palmieri, as the director of President Obama’s communication operation, urged him to address the issue by speaking to the black community of the country. The president disagreed, suggesting that what needed to be done was speaking for African-Americans.

Palmieri saw Obama preparing and delivering a moving allocation that delivered how he sympathized and felt for the African-Americans as a member of this community himself. After this, she understood that part of what made Obama a great leader was his ability to listen to his gut without fearing any backlash, especially in a time of catastrophe such as this one. Obama was able to understand the deep emotions black Americans were in and felt the suffering and injustice with them.

Then, as Clinton’s entry to the presidential race began, Palmieri saw how Clinton followed her own gut feelings when she was evaluating some issues. But, unfortunately, Clinton’s intuitions were not always followed by her campaign team, which included Palmieri. For instance, how in her position as a government official Clinton had written formal emails using personal email, which became an issue of debate as the presidential race went on, is an incident that was not guided by Clinton’s intuition. For the public, this cast a shadow on Clinton’s reliability both as an individual and as a potential president.

Had Clinton followed her heart she would continue addressing the worries voters had around. this subject matter, which was what she proposed to her staff members, Palmieri, however, suggested she do the opposite of this. She was worried this would make the voters remember the scandal even more than they already did.

Finally, Clinton chose to go with Palmieri’s instruction. However now, Palmieri thinks that Clinton should have listened to her gut. If she spoke more on this issue, the untrustworthy image the public had of Clinton could have been corrected. But, her avoiding to talk about the topic of the emails caused Clinton’s opponents to fill the void that was created on this discourse with their own speculations on this misconduct. 

Maybe to be able to make her win the elections, her team should have more faith in what Clinton’s instinctive outlooks were telling her. 

Chapter 5 – We criticize women on how they look however the stories of their lives lie within their wrinkles.

A significant number of presidents have left a mark in the USA. Even though their differences in terms of their political placements are undeniable, there is one trait all of them seem to share; that is how they seem to look more and more old-looking during their time as the president.

Moreover, to make a comment on how a president significantly ages during their time as the president can even be seen as an American way of quipping. Palmieri, who has recently checked out photos of Obama taken at the time of his election campaign in 2008, thought that 2017 Obama could almost pass as a father to 2008 Obama.

However, according to Palmieri although aging in male leaders is not something that the public views necessarily negatively, the same cannot be suggested for a female leader.

It cannot be denied that a woman’s appearance is judged more harshly than a man’s appearance. Women of every age face judgment regarding their physical appearances whether it is their outfits or hairstyles way more than men ever do. Indeed, when it is time for a woman leader to take the seat of the presidency, Palmieri suspects that she will also have to face the necessity of caring about how she looks, which means she will also be subjected to the additional time women are required to spend to fix their physical appearances.

Because of her gender, Palmieri herself also cannot escape from the burden of how society dictates her appearance should be. However, now as a middle-aged woman in her 50s, she is glad to show the world that she has grown older.

Even though she is surrounded by advertisements telling women of her age it is wise to get rid of their wrinkles with botox, she loves how wrinkled her face is. Her creases are a reminder of many experiences she has had in her life. From her frown lines to her laughing lives all her wrinkles signify she has had a long life full of obstacles as well as joy. Why does she need to try to cover all of that?

Chapter 6 – The grievances of resentful American conservatives led to Trump’s election.

For American politics, it was not a typical day from the perspectives of millions of left-wing voters like Jennifer Palmieri on the 26th of July in 2015. This day of celebrations came two days after the Affordable Care Act passed into law making same-sex marriage legal, and bringing up important discussions on taking down the “Rebel Flag” in governmental establishments. Just within a week, years of struggles around these issues finally brought change.

That day Palmieri could not stop feeling full of joy, but looking back her feelings towards those days are muddled. Even on that night as she was walking past along the streets of Brooklyn, she could not help but think about whether these radical changes might have resulted in some serious setbacks. 

Sadly, her worries proved to be true when Trump was announced as the winner of the 2016 presidential election. On this day, Palmieri realized that not only many Americans were far from celebrating the new, reforming laws that brought freedom to many in 2015, but they received it with rage and deep disappointment.

For many white, right-wing voters the USA was transforming into an establishment they did not find familiar anymore with the decrease in the value given to the traditionality. The beginning of same-sex matrimony, the Rebel flags being taken down, and the legal backing of Obamacare were practices that made these voters estranged from their own country.

The manifestation of this adverse reaction to the progressive practices the government did, appeared in concrete shape as Donald Trump.

Ironically, now Palmieri is the one who feels alienated. In the America Trump presents, she now is conscious of what working in an unsettling environment looks like for the first time. Established political rules were stomped on and the core of any political structure was torn up by Trump’s campaign.

In the same way, it occurred in other industries like a factory worker losing his job with atomization or a taxi driver with uber, Palmieri found herself shaken up as her whole life was torn up by a force that came out of the blue. Despite the premise 2015 presented her, it turned out that the joke was on Palmieri.

But, did this force have a name? Could it be Trump himself? Probably not, what this force made out of was something much larger than him; it was the rage millions of soul-crushed Americans felt towards an increasingly withdrawn government.

So, what about today? How will the coming years turn out? For Palmieri, the only thing that is certain is that politics has changed forever.

Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri Book Review

Hillary Clinton had to deal with a number of obstacles that were never heard of before during her run as a potential future president. Just because she was a woman, regardless of her long-established political insight; everyone judged her through different, unfair standards in comparison to the other candidates. Even though this discrimination women have to go through still remains the same, women can also achieve their dreams of becoming renowned leaders by expressing their opinions freely, recognizing the importance their voices hold, and believing in their gut instincts.

Lost, but not defeated 

Although Hillary Clinton was not the winner of the election, thinking of this as an ultimate loss, in the end, is not necessary. Palmieri thinks that one is only really beaten once no hope remains in sight. A driven woman always encounters many obstacles and failures; what matters is how you choose to approach these difficulties.  Clinton did this by getting up and putting herself out there even during times of difficulty. Then, no matter what waits for her, she will continue to get up and work on her mission again and again. This unyielding attitude is what will make future women leaders of our world achieve their goals.

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