In a New York Times op-ed, former CNN anchor Campbell Brown wrote that Obama "made reference to how women are smarter than men" in his Barnard College commencement speech, saying he "sometimes sounds too paternalistic for my taste." In fact, Obama said that "founding mothers" were likely "whispering smarter things" to the Founding Fathers about whether a woman should sign the Constitution.
Brown: Obama "Made Reference To How Women Are Smarter Than Men" In Barnard Speech
Brown: Obama Using "A Cheap Applause Line." From Brown's New York Times op-ed, headlined "Obama: Stop Condescending to Women":
WHEN I listen to President Obama speak to and about women, he sometimes sounds too paternalistic for my taste. In numerous appearances over the years -- most recently at the Barnard graduation -- he has made reference to how women are smarter than men. It's all so tired, the kind of fake praise showered upon those one views as easy to impress. As I listen, I am always bracing for the old go-to cliché: "Behind every great man is a great woman."
Some women are smarter than men and some aren't. But to suggest to women that they deserve dominance instead of equality is at best a cheap applause line.
I have always admired President Obama and I agree with him on some issues, like abortion rights. But the promise of his campaign four years ago has given way to something else -- a failure to connect with tens of millions of Americans, many of them women, who feel economic opportunity is gone and are losing hope. In an effort to win them back, Mr. Obama is trying too hard. He's employing a tone that can come across as grating and even condescending. He really ought to drop it. Most women don't want to be patted on the head or treated as wards of the state. They simply want to be given a chance to succeed based on their talent and skills. To borrow a phrase from our president's favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, they want "an open field and a fair chance."
In the second decade of the 21st century, that isn't asking too much. [The New York Times, 5/20/12]
What Obama Actually Said: "Founding Mothers" Were Likely "Whispering Smarter Things In The Ears Of The Founding Fathers"
Obama Noted That "No Woman's Signature Graced The Original Document." From Obama's speech at Barnard College:
It's been said that the most important role in our democracy is the role of citizen. And indeed, it was 225 years ago today that the Constitutional Convention opened in Philadelphia, and our founders, citizens all, began crafting an extraordinary document. Yes, it had its flaws -- flaws that this nation has strived to protect (perfect) over time. Questions of race and gender were unresolved. No woman's signature graced the original document -- although we can assume that there were founding mothers whispering smarter things in the ears of the founding fathers. (Applause.) I mean, that's almost certain.
What made this document special was that it provided the space -- the possibility -- for those who had been left out of our charter to fight their way in. It provided people the language to appeal to principles and ideals that broadened democracy's reach. It allowed for protest, and movements, and the dissemination of new ideas that would repeatedly, decade after decade, change the world -- a constant forward movement that continues to this day. [WhiteHouse.gov, 5/14/12]
Obama Joked In Speech That Praising Women At A Women's College Was "A Cheap Applause Line." From Obama's speech at Barnard College:
We know these things to be true. We know that our challenges are eminently solvable. The question is whether together, we can muster the will -- in our own lives, in our common institutions, in our politics -- to bring about the changes we need. And I'm convinced your generation possesses that will. And I believe that the women of this generation -- that all of you will help lead the way. (Applause.)
Now, I recognize that's a cheap applause line when you're giving a commencement at Barnard. (Laughter.) It's the easy thing to say. But it's true. It is -- in part, it is simple math. Today, women are not just half this country; you're half its workforce. (Applause.) More and more women are out-earning their husbands. You're more than half of our college graduates, and master's graduates, and PhDs. (Applause.) So you've got us outnumbered. (Laughter.)
After decades of slow, steady, extraordinary progress, you are now poised to make this the century where women shape not only their own destiny but the destiny of this nation and of this world. [WhiteHouse.gov, 5/14/12]
Obama Encouraged Graduates To 'Make A Difference," "Fight For Your Seat At The Table." From Obama's speech at Barnard College:
After decades of slow, steady, extraordinary progress, you are now poised to make this the century where women shape not only their own destiny but the destiny of this nation and of this world.
But how far your leadership takes this country, how far it takes this world -- well, that will be up to you. You've got to want it. It will not be handed to you. And as someone who wants that future -- that better future -- for you, and for Malia and Sasha, as somebody who's had the good fortune of being the husband and the father and the son of some strong, remarkable women, allow me to offer just a few pieces of advice. That's obligatory. (Laughter.) Bear with me.
My first piece of advice is this: Don't just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table. (Applause.)
So whether it's starting a business, or running for office, or raising a amazing family, remember that making your mark on the world is hard. It takes patience. It takes commitment. It comes with plenty of setbacks and it comes with plenty of failures.
But whenever you feel that creeping cynicism, whenever you hear those voices say you can't make a difference, whenever somebody tells you to set your sights lower -- the trajectory of this country should give you hope. Previous generations should give you hope. What young generations have done before should give you hope. Young folks who marched and mobilized and stood up and sat in, from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall, didn't just do it for themselves; they did it for other people. (Applause.)
That's how we achieved women's rights. That's how we achieved voting rights. That's how we achieved workers' rights. That's how we achieved gay rights. (Applause.) That's how we've made this Union more perfect. (Applause.)
And if you're willing to do your part now, if you're willing to reach up and close that gap between what America is and what America should be, I want you to know that I will be right there with you. (Applause.) If you are ready to fight for that brilliant, radically simple idea of America that no matter who you are or what you look like, no matter who you love or what God you worship, you can still pursue your own happiness, I will join you every step of the way. (Applause.)
Now more than ever -- now more than ever, America needs what you, the Class of 2012, has to offer. America needs you to reach high and hope deeply. And if you fight for your seat at the table, and you set a better example, and you persevere in what you decide to do with your life, I have every faith not only that you will succeed, but that, through you, our nation will continue to be a beacon of light for men and women, boys and girls, in every corner of the globe. [WhiteHouse.gov, 5/14/12]
Campbell Brown Is Married To Romney Adviser
Brown Discloses That Her Spouse Is A Romney Adviser, Says She Has "No Involvement With Any Campaign." From Brown's New York Times op-ed:
But Mitt Romney will never be confused with Rick Santorum on these issues, and many women understand that. (I should disclose here that my husband is an adviser to Mr. Romney; I have no involvement with any campaign, and have been an independent journalist throughout my career.) [The New York Times, 5/20/12]