I am Madam President.

Yesterday, I shared a couple of experiences that greatly influenced the way I think and act.  One of those experiences referenced the importance of representation.  It wasn’t until sitting to watch an Xavier Riddle movie with my kids that I realized personally how deeply impacted I was by representation in politics.  I knew from the title alone that this would be about a female president, but I was not prepared for how I would respond.  In Xavier Riddle, the characters go back in time to learn about history by meeting famous people, usually when they’re children.  During the movie, the little girl character is searching for a female president in the museum and sees that there are none.  Throughout the movie, they meet famous women throughout history, women who did important things that no one else had done before.  Eventually, the little girl realizes that she’s learning about herself and her possible future, that just because something hasn’t been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done.  Yet is a word full of longing and emptiness, but boundless potential.  All other Xavier Riddle episodes have titles with actual names.  This one does not, because there has been no Madam President yet.  By the end of this seemingly unremarkable PBS kids movie, both my kids were patting me on the back and asking me what was wrong.  It was their dad who told them that I didn’t grow up with any presidents who looked like me, that I didn’t know what it felt like to be told I could be president and actually dream it, because no one told that to girls when I was growing up.  What I couldn’t articulate then that I see now is the deep pain of understanding that when I saw the joy in my student’s eyes years prior, I didn’t see my pain regarding my own lack of representation.  When you’ve become so accustomed to women being absent from positions of leadership, you internalize that this must be good and right.  You learn to ignore and then forget.  If I ever wanted to be president, I have no recollection of it, and I’m not sure it would have ever occurred to me that I could want it.  Girls weren’t president, obviously, because I’d see them in my textbooks, right?  I had been lied to as well, just as my student had.  Unlike my student, this lie was so strong, so powerful that I didn’t even realize it was a lie.  I’m unbelievably grateful to the people working on Xavier Riddle.  The show is fantastic, but this particular movie was a giant band-aid to my heart.  It let me be little again and to see women presented in ways the girl inside me needed to hear them praised.  It gave my boys an understanding that my childhood was not the same as theirs and perspective they otherwise might not have.  They heard their father acknowledge and affirm that I did not have the privileges that he had, because he did grow up with representation when I did not.  This epic little movie put the magic back into “yet” and soothed wounds by allowing them to exist on the surface and not hidden where I’ve felt the world expected me to leave them.  

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