In 2004, I was teaching a class on critical thinking at a community college. During the class, I showed a documentary about the history of the credit card. One of the experts they featured was a Harvard Law professor named Elizabeth Warren who struck me as incredibly smart and well-informed. I went to the store that weekend and bought one of her books on personal finances and it changed how I thought about budgets and still influences how my husband and I talk about financial decisions we make.
In the years since 2004, every time I’ve seen Elizabeth Warren I’ve thought about how damn smart she is. I cheered for her to become a senator. I’m now donating to her campaign for president and I don’t know that I’ve wanted someone to win more than I want her to win. I wanted Obama to win and wept when he did, but the idea of President Warren makes me catch my breath.
Allow me a little digression. A few years ago there was a meme going around Twitter where you chose the top three fictional character that represented you. I wanted to play and the first choice was obvious and fairly common. Apparently a lot of us think we are a Leslie Knope. My very patient husband would assure you that I am FOR SURE a Leslie Knope, only with more blank writing notebooks than binders.
For my second choice, I was going to choose another popular choice: Hermione Granger. My inner and untamed teacher’s pet feels her every time she frantically raises her hand in class, desperate to share the right answer. But as I started to list her, I got shy. One of Hermione’s defining characteristics is the fact that she’s the brains of the story. I’m currently reading Harry Potter to my 7 year old daughter and she’s already marveled that “Hermione is A LOT smarter than Ron”.
It was just a silly meme but I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t put it out there that I think I’m smart.
The thing is that I love when other people call me smart. It is one of my favorite compliments. When I was in school, I loved getting grades. I always wanted proof that I was smart. I felt like smart was a status that someone else had to give you. I’ve always wanted the A and the gold star. I’m embarrassed to admit that getting told I’m smart by a male boss or professor gave me a special little frisson of joy. Somehow that felt more real? Socialization: the struggle is real.
A colleague told me the other day that they had told someone “Wow, Wendy is really smart. Like really smart.” I ate up the compliment, even as a part of me was trying to decide if there was a note of surprise in his voice.
For most of my life, I’ve thought of myself as a grinder, someone who may not have a lot of natural talent but who is willing to work hard. (Did I spend time in therapy discussing the number of times I’ve heard people in my family say some variation on “Your sister is smarter than you, but you work harder”? Yes. Yes I did. Also? On a related note? THAT IS A TERRIBLE AND DESTRUCTIVE THING TO SAY TO A GIRL. Don’t do that shit.).
There’s definitely truth to the fact that I work hard but now that I’m 40 I’m trying to get more comfortable with pushing back on that idea and believing I’m smart, even if nobody else tells me so.
This is perhaps a long winded way of getting to my point, which is that part of what makes Senator Warren so exciting to me is that she is so clearly one of the (if not THE) smartest people in the field and she isn’t afraid to show it. She isn’t waiting for other people to ask her opinion. She isn’t playing small. She wants to be president and she’s willing to do the work to win it.
There is nothing apologetic about her desire to lead. She’s okay with being the smartest person in the room and she is absolutely fine pointing out when she knows more about things than whatever random old white guy is trying to bullshit her.
I am so ready for a woman to be president. That we could get that in a woman who is a combination of Leslie Knope, Julia Sugerbaker, and Hermione Granger? Hot. Damn.
(I’m so afraid I’m going to get my heart broken)
(America, can we please agree that “smart” should be a minimum qualification for President?)
I want to be a bad ass smart lady leader. I think Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that.