How Aaron Sorkin's West Wing Inspired a Legion of Lyman Wannabes

Another young White House staffer who has been with Obama since the campaign says the show set a standard that he and his colleagues self-consciously aspired to: “Yes, the show was sexier, faster-paced, and more idealistic than Washington really is, but what’s wrong with that? We should aspire to do big and ambitious and idealistic things in this country—even if it takes longer than one hour, or one season.” The West Wing, he says, “was idealistic and so were we. Everyone hoped politics would be like that.”

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the West Wing generation is that, for the most part, its members haven’t lost their Sorkin-fed idealism. Though “the people that get the headlines represent the worst [in politics], by and large, people are doing it for the right reasons,” says Bardella...

Read the full Vanity Fair article here. Go there, now. Signed, The Josh Lyman Fan Club.

7 Weeks Later

The updates have been lacking for many reasons in April. The first is how many times can you post that you are getting better? Plus, there are ups and downs of recovery that are sometimes hard to talk about. Please forgive me :-)

My Last Day at Home

Friday was my last full day at home. On Monday, I returned to work armed with my slip from my surgeon. This is the second time in my life I have used a permission slip at work. In case you are wondering, the first said I was having brain surgery. I had no clue how my body was going to respond to this. It is a big change from hanging around the apartment most of the day. I've been working on making sure my strength is where it should be and I have the stamina to work a full day. For the most part, I have returned to all of my volunteer activities to help with the transition. My only concern about all of this has been the deadly metro ride that I take into and out of the city each day. There is more on that necessary evil below. My body is handling the walking, carrying light things and most activities pretty well! I've graduated to picking up our 15 pound turkey (otherwise known as Scarlet) too.

Oh, Metro - I Still Hate You

Metro, Metro, Metro. I did NOT miss you in the almost two months I didn't have to set foot in your stations. Saturday, April 30th I decided to give it a go again and the first trip up to U street wasn't too terrible - other than your employees yelling at me because you didn't announce the train was going out of service.  My second trip, back from U street, just hurt. The jerky nature of bad drivers made my neck and titanium mess just feel absolutely horrid.  Thank goodness I had my iPhone games to concentrate on so I didn't focus on the pain.

Commuting in has been interesting. It takes me about 40 minutes on metro before we reach our stop - it should take 20 but that is metro for you. By the time I reach the office, the ride has exhausted me. I have started treating myself to some coffee to help feel a little more normal and to get my energy levels back up before work begins. If it weren't for metro, I think I would be fine returning to work full-time. I am hoping I don't have to give into driving into the city during the summer but it is starting to look like I may have to.

Hitting the Road Running

On my one month post surgery date, I just didn't feel like I could stand running or really doing much of anything, so I gave myself a few more days to get back to running and exercising. Running still feels like it will hurt, especially with how much it can hurt to take metro. But, I have gotten back on the elliptical and able to do a decent amount of time on it! I'm walking everywhere I can. I even put in over 5 miles walking around DC and Alexandria on Saturday. I would love to be able to run a 5K by the end of summer but I think I need to aim for a later date; especially with my body getting used to getting back to work. Maybe I'll aim for a Turkey Trot or something else at the start of the holiday season? At least then I would have an excuse to eat all the mashed potatoes I want!

Nerd Prom

For those of you who don't know what nerd prom is, it is one of the days that everyone in DC looks forward to each year. It is actually called The White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. What I love about the dinner is the humorous spin that is put on current events. For instance, I am assuming most of you have seen the movie The King's Speech, well, President Obama made a joke about how a sequel is being made - The President's Speech. Here is the trailer:

Yes, I love politics, but isn't that just hysterical!?! The trailer kinda makes me wish that actually was a movie - it would be rather entertaining.

That is a recap of what has happened over the last month. I am hoping to return to non-brain surgery posts as I start getting back to my "normal" routine. I can't believe it is May already. I feel like it should still be March and my mother should still be here taking care of everything. Here is to a great May!

Women & Political Leadership

Do women make better politician's? I believe so! This is what the Big Think discusses. I was having my first cup of coffee this morning when I saw this video featuring the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson. In her video she talks about different styles of leadership that women and men utilize. I found it very interesting. Hopefully, this greater understanding of leadership styles will lead to a greater representation of women in Congress, where currently women have 16.8% of the seats. That number must grow. 

The Presidents and their Net Worth

I was scrolling through my RSS feed this morning and stumbled across an interesting post over on Budgets are Sexy. Have you ever wondered exactly how much net worth our Presidents have? I must admit, I never really thought about it. But, it is interesting to see all 44 Presidents compared to each other based on their peak net worth. To make the comparison they used current 2010 dollars. 

The Atlantic (who calculated the net worth)  took:

into account hard assets like land, estimated lifetime savings based on work history, inheritance, homes, and money paid for services, which include things as diverse as their salary as collector of customs at the Port of New York to membership on Fortune 500 boards. Royalties on books have also been taken into account, along with ownership of companies and yields from family estates.

The net worth of the presidents varies widely. George Washington was worth more than half a billion in today's dollars. Several presidents went bankrupt.

Let's look at our very first President, George Washington, and see how he earned his new worth of $525 Million:

His Virginia plantation, "Mount Vernon," consisted of five separate farms on 8,000 acres of prime farmland, run by over 300 slaves. His wife, Martha Washington, inherited significant property from her father. Washington made significantly more than subsequent presidents: his salary was two percent of the total U.S. budget in 1789.

In contrast, President Obama is:

the grandson of a goat herder. He is a former constitutional law professor and civil rights attorney. Book royalties constitute most of Obama's net worth.

But, I think it is safe to assume that President Obama hasn't maxed out his earning potential. It would be interesting to see where he is several years after he has left office.

Budgets are Sexy put together this table for easy comparison:

President (#) Net Worth How they built it
George Washington (1st)
John Adams (2nd)
Thomas Jefferson (3rd)
Abraham Lincoln (16th)
Ulysses Simpson Grant (18th)
Theodore Roosevelt (26th)
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (35th)
Lyndon Baines Johnson (36th)
Richard Milhous Nixon (37th)
William Jefferson Clinton (42nd)
George W. Bush (43rd)
Barack Hussein Obama (44th)
$525 million
$19 million
$212 million
< $1 Million
< $1 Million
$125 million
$1 billion-ish*
$98 Million
$15 million
$38 million
$20 million
$5 million
Real estate, Presidential Salary
Real estate, Law practice, Farm
Real estate, Political positions
Family Trust, real estate, books
Family Trust *Had he inherited it
Real estate, Business (radio & TV)
Interviews (think David Frost), Books
Autobiography, Public Speaking
Oil, Sale of Texas Rangers
Mainly Book Royalties

Feminism or Bust

This morning on twitter one of the female pilots I follow posted a link to the story below. It is written by someone who grew up in similar conditions to myself, which is part of the reason I identify with it so well.

It is only recently that I decided that I am a feminist. Women still have a glass doors in front of us and it drives me nuts. According to a  brochure that I got at SXSW (get yours here) 57% of 2008 undergraduate degree recipients are women and 56% of advanced placement test-takers are women. BUT only 25% of professional IT-relates occupations in the 2008 workforce are held by women (which is down from 36% in 1991) and 11% of corporate officer positions at Fortune 500 technology companies are held by women. How dismal. 

What is going on? For me, I was taught I could be anything, just like the author of the post below. I still have my Barbie Astronaut. It was shocking when I got to the workforce. There are so many women at my level and above, but, there is a shift that happens around the vice-president level and suddenly, there are hardly any women. 

Click Image for SourceIt drives me nuts when people accept this as just a fact and decide that it won't get any better. Why aren't they pushing barriers? Why aren't WE pushing barriers and not only opening those glass doors but shattering them. As a newly wed, I find it even more degrading that people think that having a child is what I should be doing right now. I have a career a head of me with specific goals and a plan. I refuse to let the status quo slow down my journey of removing the glass door. 

We need to change the way we educate women in our society. We need to keep telling them they can do anything but also remind them that the path hasn't been completely paved for them. Hopefully, one day it will be. Until then, we have a lot of work that needs to be done. I hope you join me in busting a few glass doors.

Here is  Jessica Bennett's post Feminism or Bust

Who needs feminism when we've already won the war? Oh wait—we haven't. 

If you'd have asked me two years ago, I'm not sure I would have described myself as a feminist. It's not that I didn't believe in women's rights—what modern woman doesn't?—but it was just that, well, I didn't really see the point. When I think about it now, it sounds ridiculous—I know. But it's telling of a generation like mine, who shrugged our shoulders at the thought of feminism; we were already convinced that we had won the war.

I was born in 1981, sixteen years after Barbie became an astronaut and just around the time that Sally Ride joined NASA. I might as well have come out of the womb with POSTFEMINIST etched into my forehead: by the time I reached age 1, women had surpassed men in earning college degrees; I turned 11 during the "Year of the Woman," and I remember annual trips to my dad's law office, long before Take Your Daughter to Work Day became Take Your Child [boys, included] to Work Day. All my life, I was told that men and women were equal—so equal, in fact, that it wasn't even worthy of discussion. Like most of my friends, I outpaced my brothers and many of my male peers by a landslide in school, and took on extracurricular activities by the handful. I'd had it ingrained in me that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. And I did, without ever embracing the fabled F word, or even learning about it in school.

So for all the talk about feminism as passe, mine wasn't a generation that rejected it for its militant, man-hating connotation—but because of its success. Women were equal—duh—so why did we need feminism?

It's only recently that I, and women my age, have come to eat those words. (In the words of Clueless's Cher, our own postfeminist idol, "As if.") High on our success in academia, entering the workforce was something of a shock: we felt like outsiders in a male-dominated club. I'll spare you the depressing statistics—if you want them, there are more than enough in this week’s issue of NEWSWEEK to get you started—but the point is this: equality is still a myth. We need feminism now more than ever. "I've heard people say, 'Why are you a feminist? You can work, you can vote, you can do everything you want,'" says Jessica Valenti, the author of Full Frontal Feminism. "And just because there aren't all these laws against us—your husband can't [legally] beat you—it doesn't mean that sexism has gone away."

It hasn't gone away, but it may be harder to pinpoint. Which makes the support of other women, whether they call themselves feminists or not, all the more important. "I think the biggest issue young women face today is that there's no real movement behind them," says Susan Brownmiller, the feminist scholar. Case in point: a 2001 Gallup poll found that only one in four women consider themselves feminists. I'd bet most of those feminists are my mother's age.


Part of the problem with feminism, of course, is the word itself. Though it was meant to be inclusive (men could engage in feminism in a way they couldn't engage in the "women's" movement) it has alienated from the start. When feminism first hit the American lexicon in the early part of the 20th century, suffragists were divided over its use; as early as 1919, women were calling themselves "postfeminists," says Harvard historian Nancy Cott. "There was only about two seconds in the history of the world in which women really welcomed [feminism]," says Gail Collins, The New York Timescolumnist. "There's something about the word that just drives people nuts."

Many would argue that it was the media which would pervert feminism's modern use: as NEWSWEEK put it in a 1970 cover story, "A new specter is haunting America: the specter of militant feminism." Even today, describe the the bloggers at The F Word, "No woman I know would unapologetically describe herself as a feminist." Feminism is something dirty, denigrated—to be looked upon with scorn. If, in the modern culture, gender equality does come up, the response is simply: "I'm not a feminist, but—" (Translation: Please don't think I'm a man-hater/ugly/being difficult!)

Feminists have long labored over how to change feminism's image, and the notion is perplexing. But perhaps the more important question should be not how we repair the word, but how we show young women that the meaning behind it—the simple belief in gender equality—is still relevant, even in 2010. "I don't think that not wanting to identify yourself as a feminist is particular to this generation," says Collins. "But the assumption that everything is fine is very strong with this [group]."

As Gloria Steinem once put it, you're either a feminist or a masochist. At 28, I now proudly choose the former. I hope the women that come after me won't have to wait that long.

For more on feminism, check out NEWSWEEK's article on young women and sexism and the authors' new blog, The Equality Myth.