Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Experience vs. Entitlement

A lot has been written about the merits of Caroline Kennedy jockeying for the New York Senate seat left vacant from Hillary (that’s Madam Secretary Hillary!) Clinton. I’m most uncomfortable with Caroline saying she wouldn’t be willing to campaign for the seat if someone other than her was appointed by Gov. Patterson. I want to see more passion and desire for serving as a U.S. Senator than an unenthusiastic and carefully scripted "I'll do it if I'm asked."

Maureen Dowd really pushed my buttons in her defense of Caroline. This is the same woman who cannot give Hillary the benefit of the doubt if her next book deal depended on it, yet she goes out of her way to find a positive way to spin Caroline's interest in being a Senator.

This piece by Lisa Belkin (I miss her Life’s Work column in the NYTimes!) helped to reel in my knee-jerk anti-Caroline inclination. I appreciated her nuanced look at how “experience” needs to be more inclusive and broadly defined in the modern job market in order to benefit women's careers:
None of this is to say that Caroline Kennedy deserves to be senator, or that she wouldn’t be better off being elected to the post rather than appointed to it...But let’s stop with this talk of inexperience when we mean a range of experiences, many shaped by motherhood. The only way work will become more flexible for everyone, for all of us, is if the untraditional begins to count. Kennedys may not need that. But the rest of us certainly do.

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