Brand building through storytelling

Dear Governor Palin

Dear Governor Palin,

Funny the twists and turns that life takes. Until last Friday, I didn’t even know you existed. Okay, I knew that Alaska had a Governor. But I had no idea it was you, a woman who chit-chats at the supermarket with your newborn strapped to your chest, looking for all the world like an ordinary multi-tasking mom catching up with the neighbourhood news between the budget meeting and the next feed.

By now I must have seen that supermarket photo a dozen times, along with all the other ones (you as beauty queen, you as barracuda of the basketball court, you posed against that hide of a grizzly bear your dad shot). I’ve been pondering your face and your story so intently, it’s as if you’ve taken up residence inside my head.

Gov Palin 2006 WebOf course, that was part of the plan, wasn’t it? At least a few of Hillary’s disgruntled fans are already in your corner. And now it seems I’m supposed to identify with you. To let you carry the banner of female power and purpose into the next election, now that Hillary’s been sidelined. To overlook the fact that when it comes to the issues, you and I agree on absolutely nothing. You don’t believe global warming is for real. You want to see creationism taught in schools—but not sex education (how ironic, considering the latest twist in your story). You’re as fierce a foe as abortion ever had, and a vocal cheerleader for the NRA.

I don’t take you lightly, not a bit. From what I’ve read, you’re one tough cookie, a 21st-century take on the pioneer woman who could haul water, split logs, churn butter, teach the 3 Rs and shoot through the heart any low-down varmint who threatened her family. Except the White House isn’t the Wild West. It’s Command Central for discussions that determine the fate of this world. So I find it dismaying that you—former Mayor of Wasilla and neophyte governor—could be the woman to get there.

Given John McCain’s age and less-than-encouraging health history, I could soon be writing, “Dear Madam President.” But it wouldn’t feel right. Because, in spite of the all the issues that divide us (and our taste in kids’ names: Track? Trig? Did it never cross your mind that weird monikers are bully-bait?), we do share the most personal of bonds. So I think of you as Sarah.

And you see, Sarah, I’m a grandmother—as you will be, too, four months from now. Like you, I wasn’t prepared for this turn of events. My son and his girlfriend had what used to be termed “an accident.” Things worked out just fine, for a couple of reasons. A delightful grandson joined our family. As for his parents, they had the good sense not to marry. They were well into their 20s. Your Bristol is only 17. You’ve surely seen for yourself that building a marriage is as challenging a test of commitment, fortitude and good humour as most of us will ever face. Add faith to the list, as you surely would, and it’s still quite a feat, even for couples old enough to know who they are and where they’re headed. So I’m mightily perplexed to see you heading off on the campaign trail and blessing a teenage shotgun wedding as if everything is under control.

You know, Sarah, you’re someone I’d like to sit beside on a long bus trip. What stories you could tell! You strike me as warm, direct, absolutely yourself and highly principled, to boot. I believe you’re trying to make this world a more humane place. It’s just that your vision of that better world looks not one bit like mine. That’s why I’ll be relieved if your party loses this election. For you, though, I’d feel a twinge of sadness. Because when pundits ask where McCain went wrong, they’ll zero right in on you.

You’ve said you never planned to run for Vice-President, or even to enter public life. What a typically female statement; so few of us have five-year plans (I didn’t either, just in case you’re wondering). As far as I can tell, you just wanted what we all want—to use your talents as constructively as possible. You surely never intended to put yourself at the centre of the national agenda, but that’s precisely what has happened. In large part, this election is now about women—and you in particular. Talk about a strange twist of fate.

As one woman to another,

Rona Maynard


Posted by Rona

Leave a Reply

Stay up-to-date with Rona.

To see what’s on my mind these days, friend me on Facebook.

Miss my old site?

Visit the archive to find your favorite blog posts and Chatelaine editorials or browse my published articles. Sorry, I’m not blogging anymore.