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Monday, May 05, 2008

Mom's Influence on the Presidential Candidates: Hillary Clinton

With Mother's Day being celebrated a few short days from now (hint, hint to those who've forgotten!) and all eyes on the primaries and election in November, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to marry the two topics and discuss how the candidates' mothers have influenced who they are and what they bring to the table.

Mom's influence has helped to shape all of us into the people we are, and to get a feel for our Presidential candidates, let's take a look at who their mothers are, starting with Hillary Clinton.
Hillary's mother, Dorothy, really taught her daughter to fight back. I remember reading a story about how at the age of four, Hillary was being picked on by some of the neighborhood girls. When she went crying to her mother, Dorothy told her to stand up for herself and that there was no room in their house for cowards. Empowering advice for all of our daughters!

This experience explains a lot about Hillary and the image she often projects in public. She's come out fighting with both gloves swinging and has taken what is traditionally a masculine stance on many of the issues. With all of the adversity and attacks Hillary's faced, the influence of her mother and being taught to be a fighter is very clear in how she's been handling herself.

But is this image of her as a fighter costing her votes among the female population?

Possibly. My personal opinion is that being a fighter is a positive image to be projecting; however, it cannot be at the expense of the unique compassion and softness we as women bring to what we do, whether in the workplace or with our families. To really connect with all the voters, Hillary needs to balance being a strong fighter with being a compassionate woman and mother so that she can relate to both men and women. So far she's had a difficult time reconciling those two sides of her personality.

I find it interesting that when she broke down a bit and cried in New Hampshire, she won by so many more votes than they had predicted. It wasn't sympathy that drove people to vote for her; it was that suddenly she was much more relatable. People who were very familiar with seeing her as a fighter were given a glimpse into this whole other side of her as a person, and they connected with that. Sometimes always being on guard for a fight can alienate people; to truly reach out to people, Hillary needs to temper that with her own natural female instincts and traits.

I've been hearing a lot of people grumbling about Hillary still being in the race and how she should drop out for the good of the Democratic Party so that it can be united come election time. Well, all I have to say to that is: I'd bet good money that if Hillary was a man in the running, those same people would be commending her for sticking with it to the very end and not giving up. I've seen the same type of situation happen in the workplace, the old "double standard", and with such a huge opportunity at stake, I commend Hillary for giving it all she's got to the very end.

Next week, I'll share my thoughts on Barack Obama and the influence his mother has had on him. In the meantime, if you haven't found the perfect gift for your mom, be sure to check out my new book, "From the Kitchen to the Corner Office: Mom's Wisdom on Leadership" available at your local bookstores and BarnesAndNoble.com.

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