Gender Breakthrough: 50% of the Candidates for President in 2020 are WOMEN!

Every four years, Americans, led by the media, ask:  who, among the many possibilities will run for president and, as each candidate announces his or her bid, the media and public assess whether or not that candidate is presidential material.

For many years, all the candidates have been male.  So extraordinary was it for a woman to be a candidate for president of the United States, that some of us have written about their trailblazing bids.  In a book I published in 2006 and re-issued in 2017, only six women were profiled.  There have been bids by other women, however, many of these women have been completely forgotten about and never in the history of United States political campaigns have four of the eight people announced for president–been WOMEN.

As of January 21, 2019, there are eight people who have announced that they are running for president and four of them are women.  The significance of this is something to write about, and appreciate.  For the past twenty years scholars, the press and the public have been asking:  When will America elect a woman president?

One thing is sure:  when more women run for president the likelihood that we will elect one, increases.

Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.)

The latest announcement came from the California senator who spent a lot of time traveling to key battleground states before the November election.  She is running because she says that America’s values are on the line.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Getty Images
California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)

Gillibrand has pointed out she was drawn into politics as a young girl.  She has been asked about her reversal on several positions since entering public office, but is a reliable liberal voice now and advocates for women’s rights.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) speaks during a news conference December 6, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Senator Warren was the first to announce her presidential bid for 2020.  Long an outspoken critic on economic issues, she is a well-known name, with a giant fundraising base and a demonstrated liberal record. Many wanted her to run in the Democratic primary in 2016 on the left of Hillary Clinton, but she didn’t, and the spot went to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.


downloadRep. Tulsi Gabbard


Rep. Tulsi Gabbard  of Hawaii announced that she will run for president.

Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, is the first American Samoan and the first Hindu member of Congress.  She explains why coming from the Aloha state gave her the incentive to  help others.

What my students say


Turn on any television station and you’ll receive an update about the differing experiences of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist in Northern California.  Ford asserts that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both high school students, three decades ago.  I asked the students in a Women’s Studies course at Penn State Lehigh Valley to share their thoughts on the situation.  This semester, we are exploring issues facing women and surveying the history of modern women from the 1960s to now.   I was impressed with my students’ participation, and I thought their thoughts might help you to sort out yours. Here are their class contributions (with their permission to share):

There are many people that could be nominated for SC, so why didn’t they find someone without this over him/her?

Did she accuse him in high school? If not, why bring it up now?  Maybe it was “hush hush” back then, even a person who was assaulted did come forward, but now in the #Me Too movement, we listen to accusers now.

They don’t know for sure if he did it or not, and there is no way to know if she is telling the truth or not. It ruins his reputation and brings negative attention to her, too. The whole situation is negative and until the facts come out, it should not be in public.

High school! That’s a long time ago. It was wrong, but it is ruining his reputation.

Even though it was in high school, things like that can tell a lot about a person and it is something to think about. Because if it is true, and he is lying, what does it say about his character?

It’s funny how it is just such a convenient time to bring it out. Why didn’t she come forward sooner?

Maybe she didn’t want it to follow him everywhere in the past but it hit her that now he is going to be a Supreme Court Justice and it makes sense to me that she would speak up now.

I think something as serious as a sexual assault accusation should follow you the rest of your life because it shows your character.

He’s not being accused of stealing a piece of candy from the grocery store, he is being accused of trying to rape somebody.

Because Dr. Ford initially did not use her name, suggests that she did not want to become famous for this.  I mean, who would want this to follow them around the rest of their lives?

She is going to get negative attention. But it is all “what if” without any proof.

Will it be just he said/she said.

But how factual can you get when it happened so many years ago?

If he thought he got away with it in high school, how do we know he didn’t do it again after that?

No one else is going to come out and say it happened to them unless the first person comes forward.

Speaking as a victim who was raped by a well-known person, whether they are in the public eye or not, they should be investigated.

It is a touchy situation, but someone has to speak up.

In so many cultures people are shamed for speaking out because you can’t prove things, so you try to protect Dr. Ford’s reputation, but I think we have to remove the stigma of people who speak out.

You can’t investigate something if no one says anything.

 I am proud of my students’ participation and we will all be keeping up with this unfolding story very closely.  It is why I tell my students, don’t hold back:  Speak Up and Speak Well!

Nichola D. Gutgold is a professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State Lehigh Valley and author of numerous books and scholarly articles on women leaders. She is a 2018 Penn State Alumni Association Teaching Fellow.


Don’t donate your suits yet, women!

The mid terms elections will have more women running–seventy-eight– than anytime in history!  In a New York Times article a number of women running during the mid terms were quoted and shared that they are not shying away from their personal stories, something women would not have done as freely in past elections.  And they are dressing differently, too.  Gone are the John Molloy “Dress for Success” grey suit dictate.  Instead, women are showing their tattoos, and campaigning in jeans.

This is totally refreshing!

It reminded me of Washington senator Patty Murray who was once told that she could not get elected because she was “just a mom in tennis shoes.”  That was 1992 and she is still in office.download-2


However, I would advise women candidates not to let their guard down and to remember that we are a country that has yet to elect a woman president.  While it is progress, absolutely, to see women feeling more comfortable about sharing their own stories, and dressing more casually, many voters still have an image of what an elected official looks like to them, and that image is still likely a male candidate in a suit and tie (blue or red).

Showing your children, talking about your own lived experiences is all great, but remember, post primary, voters will be looking at the overall set of qualifications which, in many minds is a more traditional set of qualifications.

What about Ronald Reagan in his jeans and Barack Obama splashing in Hawaii’s surf?

See above paragraph and downloaddownload-1 polish up those sensible pumps, and dry clean that navy suit.


Post this: Work worth doing is a key to happiness :-)

My favorite scene in the movie The Post is when Katherine Graham is enjoying being the guest at a lovely dinner party, and when dinner is over, the women, including Graham, left the table so that the men could discuss politics over brandy and cigars.  It reminded me of a middle school dance when the girls would line one wall and the boys another.  She may have just spent a full day in the boardroom with the guys, but this is what was expected in polite company.

Throughout the film, and Katharine Graham’s memoir Personal History, there is a sense that she was reluctant to think that she was being treated with condescension from her male colleagues.  It was most certainly “the times”  although the 1963 publication had  of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963, exposed that being a “splendid wife” was not all it was cracked up to be for many women.  Certainly Katherine Graham discovered something that surprised her — she loved her job–and that work worth doing was and is a key to happiness for both men and women.



Will you RISE with me?

I will have a pleasure of speaking to a group of Junior National Honor Society students at their upcoming induction ceremony and I’ve been thinking about what to say (I love these kinds of events)!  No doubt the group is strong academically, so I want to give them some “out of classroom” pearls of wisdom, and here is what I know for sure.  I sure wish when I was 12 or so, someone would have shared this message with me. But you know what?  It is never too late!  So whether you are 12 or 50 or more, listen up and RISE!

Build a Global Perspective.    The chance that you will work and live with people from other cultures is very high.  To achieve this, you have to continue to work on it.   

Focus on friendships.  When you go through school, a lot of people tell you to focus on grades and to work hard, but having lasting friendships may be just as important for your future success as excelling in school.   You may be leaving each other one day to go to different high schools, but I want to encourage you to stay in touch. Your friends will be a source of joy your entire life, and will pick you up when you are down.  Your friends will also encourage you to go for your dreams.  

Do what you love.  Think about how fast the time goes when you are doing what you love to do.  When you love something, focus on it.  It will make your life as great as it can be.  Because passion is the key to success.   Whether it is drama, math, science, writing or performing – follow your heart. Whatever you love – throw yourself into that.  Time will fly by and work will be play.

Challenge yourself by saying YES when you are asked to do something and then let yourself fail if it doesn’t work out because we all learn from your failure.  Even if you are not successful, and maybe even more so, you will learn from doing things that are not easy.  In both fall and spring I understand that you lost the teacher-student soccer challenge games, but you won’t give up soccer because of it, right?  You will just keep trying to do better.  That’s a lesson for life.  You may not always win – or succeed, so learn to find the lesson in the losing and don’t give up trying.  Eventually you will be successful.  But you have to keep that spirit of saying YES to new challenges and Remember that if you are not successful, there are LOTS of lessons in losing.  Learn to learn from losing.  In that way, no matter what, your effort can be called a success.

Put the time in to work hard. Invest Finally, you have learned here that you have to put in the time if you want to be successful. Your school day is almost an hour longer than regular public schools – I probably don’t need to remind you of that.  That alone may be the best lesson of all.  When you continue to bring that sense of discipline and effort to your life – literally putting the time in—you will find that it pays off.
 You are on your way to great success.    By continuing to build a global perspective, foster lasting friendships, following your passion, learning from failure, and putting the time in — you will be setting yourself up for a life of continued success, passion, adventure and fun! 

Expect to RISE  Leadership * Connections * Growth


R  – relationships are everything – build them locally and globally

             How can you reach out to someone who can help you flesh out your dreams and goals? List three people you will call upon this week in some way to share your new ideas.


            What can you learn about another culture so that you are more globally aware?  Do you have a friend from another culture?  How can you get to know them better? 


I   – invest time in your friendships

What can you do to reach out to a friend to reconnect after a while or to make a new friend?  _____________________________

S  – share your passion with as many people as possible – blog, speak, write (it is not who you know, it is who you let know you)


E  – expect to evolve – if at first you don’t succeed (and you probably won’t) change and try again!

What have you tried to do that was not successful and what can you do to try again? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________






Elizabeth Dole’s Scholarly Papers

Everyone knows where a former president’s papers go:  to his

Presidential Library. That’s simple. But what about the significant collection of papers of a spouse of a candidate who has been a political powerhouse in her own right?  Where will her papers go?  To her alma mater?  As I walked around Duke University this past weekend, my thoughts turned to Elizabeth Dole, an alumna of Duke and North Carolinian,  since she was the subject of my 1999 dissertation, a co-authored book, a number of scholarly articles and chapters.  Her significant contribution to American life has shaped my academic career.  And yet, when I ask my students “who is Elizabeth Dole?” very few, if any, can answer me. That is just plain wrong!  I hope some of the work I have done and continue to do, about significant women in American politics helps improve the notoriety of Dole and other women who have made significant contributions.

Elizabeth Dole is a former presidential candidate and spouse of former Kansas Senator Bob Dole.  Bob Dole was the 1996 Republican nominee for president, and Elizabeth brought the house down at the 1996 GOP Convention with her speech about “the man I love.”  No spouse of a candidate since then has come close to “nailing” the spouse speech, although Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech and Bill Clinton’s 2016 speech come to mind as hitting the mark.

Elizabeth Dole is a former senator from North Carolina, former secretary of labor and secretary of transportation and former president of the American Red Cross.  So her papers could go many places, however, she has gifted them to The Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.  They will become part of the Dole Institute Archive and Special Collections. I had the great pleasure of visiting the Dole Institute a few years back and it is a treasure trove.

The Dole Institute will also feature the Elizabeth Dole Women in Leadership Lecture in her honor. The inaugural lecture was delivered by Elizabeth Dole  in spring, and the signature series will take place in the fall semester beginning in 2018 and will feature women who break barriers, make significant contributions to their fields and reach positions of leadership. Guest speakers will be leaders who exemplify perseverance, motivation, innovative thinking and the ability to overcome challenges.

I can’t wait to visit the archive and continue to read and write about Elizabeth Dole, who has had a groundbreaking career in American politics and who, in 2012, founded the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to increase services and support for America’s 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers – the spouses, mothers, dads and other loved ones providing voluntary care for wounded warriors at home.

The gift of Dole’s papers represents a new chapter in the life of the Dole Archive and Special collections, which already houses the career papers of former U.S. Sen. Robert J. Dole. By combining the papers of both public servants, the Dole Archives will offer a robust selection of information and knowledge for visiting researchers.

I will always be indebted to Elizabeth Dole for her gracious generosity and significant contributions to American life.  Onward!




Begin with YOUR end in mind

2015-12-28-1451312871-4311504-writingyourownobituary_v21600x500No one gets out of this alive:  Action Beats Inaction 

Life is short.  A cliché?  No, a fact.  We each have less than 100 years to make our lives happen, and some of us have much less than that.

In my view, growing old is truly a gift, and any day we spend not living the way we want, is simply a waste of a short time:  your life.

And yet, many of us are guilty of doing things we don’t want to do or delaying action on the very things we want to do most.

Think for a moment.

What do you really want out of life?  How can you take action toward it?

Action beats inaction.

Oh, but that sounds easier said than done and yet the doing is the most important part.

Do you want to travel more?

Write a book?

Spend more time with people you love?

Be thinner! ?  (ha ha – my all time favorite)!

I think I was born knowing that my time was limited here.  I showed up late and lost my parents when I was relatively young.  So early on, I had this built in voice in my head saying “hurry up” and DO what you want to do.  I’m impatient.  Just ask my husband.  (ha ha)

But what about YOU.  What do you want to do?

How can you take steps to DO it?

Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People tell us to “Begin with the End in Mind” – his motive is to help us have clarity when working on projects so that as workers or committee members we stay on task.  I would like to take the concept of the “The End” a bit further.

Which is why perhaps I’ve become semi-obsessed with obituaries.  Truly “THE END”  at least of this earthly life for the subject!  (ha ha)!

The obituary.  The New York Times recently published a book titled “The Book of the Dead.” I pre-ordered it.  Nothing entertains me more than a good, close read of the New York Times obituary page.  I love my local paper—The Morning Call — obits, too.  I read every one every day.
What do you want yours to say?

I’m not going to ask you to write down an action plan for your next big accomplishment.  Instead, I’m going to ask you to write your obituary.  A little morbid?  Maybe?  A practical exercise in seeing what else you want to accomplish OR how differently you may want to live?  Absolutely.

Let’s begin by taking a look at some other obits (always useful)!

Michael Redding, 74 of Macungie died on June 5, 2017 at Lehigh Valley Hospital.  He was the husband of Rita Redding and they would have been married 45 years in June.

Very nice.

Here’s another:  Clara Barton, who celebrated her 90th birthday anniversary on December 25th was president of the American Red Cross society which was established in this country, due to her efforts.


Here’s another:

Marilyn Monroe, one of the most famous stars in Hollywood’s history, was found dead early today in the bedroom of her home in the Brentwood section of LA.  She was 36 years old.

How bout THAT?

Now what will yours be?

Loving father of two who worked 40 years at a soul-sucking job to pay for a house nobody enjoyed living in?

Susie Smith, married to Dwane Smith who was not very happy….

Or will yours read….. Regina Jones made the most of her life by….

Think about it.

We don’t need to be famous to be our own bit of Obit Awesome. 

What is missing from your obit?

What are three things people WILL say about you when you are gone?

Think about it.  Do you like what people are saying?

Action Beats Inaction.

Life is Short.

Get to it.   Write Your Obit Awesome.  Action Beats Inaction and none of us are getting out of this alive.