Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Michelle Obama’s “No Real Change” Disappoints Loyal Democrat

One Reason President Obama is Losing the Women’s Vote

Do you remember the constant message during the presidential campaign that an Obama victory would bring real change to “Washington as usual” pledged on the stump by both candidate Barack and potential first lady Michelle? Do you remember feeling a vote for Barack Obama would bring “Hope & Change” to the political process and America? Loyal Democrat and Obama supporter Leslie Harris does.

Leslie Harris is the President and Founder of the 501c3 non-profit organization Women On The Move. WOTM is a phenomenally growing brand in the philanthropic grant and scholarship giving non-profit sector. Ms. Harris’ vision and the company’s motto is “Promoting Positivity in Women”.

Women On The Move is also an emerging star in the online media sectors especially their consistently highly followed and iTunes downloaded blog talk radio programs. WOTM offers diverse programming with shows like The Round Table, Minding Our Business, Worth Reading, and specials featuring interviews with diverse industry leaders.

Women On The Move is a group that seeks and includes women of all ages, marital status, sexual orientation, employment levels, economic status, ethnicities, religions, and political affiliation if any. WOTM encourages women to “share their views, listen respectfully, agree and disagree about the important events of the day that affect women, the world, our families and ourselves.”

Ms. Harris spells out the vision and mission clearly on the WOTM website: “We want women who want to share their stories, their advice, their ideas, their recipes, with women who are looking for stories, advice, ideas and recipes. We want women who want to share their businesses by networking. If a subject affects women or affects the world it is considered neither too small nor too large to discuss in our forums, blogs, and news items.”

“Women On The Move is not a group that will seek, as a group, to promote one political party over another. Instead, we seek to provide a forum for all points of view to be heard, agreed with, disagreed with, argued and informed.”

“Women On The Move is not a group that hates men. We are a group that believes that the very fact that we are women is a gift, a blessing, a burden, an opportunity, a detriment. Just like men, we have an obligation to give back to society. We want women who are proud to be women and want to give back.”

Anyone would agree WOTM is an organization that should fit seamlessly into promoting and affecting real hope and change in America for women as well as men. That’s what Leslie Harris believes and works toward.

Ms. Harris is a loyal Democrat and is proud to put her money where her mouth is in making political financial contributions. She contributed to the Obama presidential campaign. She receives fairly constant solicitations by phone and email for additional contributions.

She was excited to receive a non-transferable invitation from the Democratic National Committee and The Women’s Leadership Forum cordially inviting her to a reception for First Lady Michelle Obama on November 22, at a private home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The attendance required a $5,000 minimum contribution.

Ms. Harris sent an email to the DNC reception contact, Florida Finance Director Jessica Clark, inquiring about having 10-15 minutes of Ms. Obama’s time to “talk about women’s issues, as my organization, Women On The Move, is a 501c3 organization that focuses on issues concerning women.” She also included the website URL and the growing numbers of WOTM.

You can imagine Ms. Harris’ initial surprise, believer’s disappointment, and eventual outrage at being unceremoniously told in an email response by Ms. Clark that she would have to write a check for $10,000 for even a few minutes of Ms. Obama’s possible direct attention in a photo line at the reception. To sponsor the event, with no guarantee of actual interaction with Ms. Obama, she would have to write a check for $30,400.

Here is Leslie Harris’ exact email response to Ms. Clark on November 12:

"Hi Jessica,

If the only way to get to speak to the First Lady is to pay at least $5,000.00, I’ll take a pass on that. I will, however, let our members, as well as our listeners to our weekly internet radio show know that the only way to speak to our First Lady is to pay money, and lots of it. I hope Democratic elected officials who still have their positions don’t question why we, who once were 100% in the corner of Democratic candidates have now moved away. It’s unfortunate that the change we thought we could believe in, has turned into change that we don’t want any part of. You take care, let the President know that we will see him in 2012!! "

Is it good policy and advocacy for real change to have a reception welcoming Ms. Obama sponsored by The Women’s Leadership Forum that will not permit brief direct conversation about women’s issues with Ms. Obama absent a large contribution?

Is it reasonable to invite someone to a reception with an entrance contribution of $5,000 and then acknowledge there will be no access to the honored guest without an additional $5,000 contribution for a minute or two in a photo line?

Is this reflective of real hope and change in “Washington as usual”? Leslie Harris doesn’t believe so. She certainly understands the need for politicians to solicit campaign contributions, and her objection in this situation was not about soliciting donations at a private reception.

Her objection was a “pay for access” at a reception that blatantly reflected it only being about “what can we bring in” and not even slightly about “what real changes can we learn about and lead for women”. She felt genuine outrage at what she believed was a stunning display of “Washington as usual” behavior and attitude.

Ms. Harris believes the American people thought they would be getting leadership that wanted to rise above empty campaign promises being the norm. Is this why President Obama is losing the women’s vote?

Leslie Harris continues promoting positivity for women through Women On The Move – with or without The Women’s Leadership Forum or Ms. Obama’s interest in what she sees as walking the talk on facilitating real change in the lives of women from all aspects of real life and circumstance.

In full disclosure, I work with Leslie as a Co-Host of WOTM Presents The Round Table. I personally know the sincerity and commitment she has to her vision for all women.

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