My Review: Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri

The unexamined life is not worth living (Socrates), and Jennifer Palmieri seems to subscribe to this adage in examining Hillary Clinton’s historic loss from her spot in the trenches. Palmieri was communications director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and she wrote Dear Madam President shortly after the election as an open letter to the future (hypothetical) first female U.S. president.

At the outset, Palmieri states that her goal isn’t to apologize or to explain herself. She then proceeds to apologize and to explain herself anyway for the 200 pages of the slightly repetitive (but very good) book. I caught myself about to critique the book for spending too much time discussing feelings, but then I thought: what’s wrong with spending a whole book discussing feelings?

Some ideas that stuck:

  • The life worth living should be rewarding, but it should also matter

  • The quiet moments-in-between often feel the most gratifying, not the big night, the big celebration, the thing that’s supposed to feel most rewarding

  • “The gratifying moment is simply the one in which your own mind decides to let you believe you have done your best and your effort has mattered.”

  • “People take their cue from you. If you act like you belong in the room, people will believe you do. If you act like your opinion matters, others will, too. Simple, true, empowering, and life-changing advice.”

  • Who are you when you are stripped of your title?

  • Speaking up and sharing your opinion actually becomes harder not easier as you gain power, since your opinion now carries weight in a way it didn’t before

  • You may not be the best person in the world for the job, but it’s likely that you’re good enough, and that that’s good enough

The book is divided into ten short sections; the titles speak for themselves:

  • Chart your own path.

  • When the unimaginable happens, imagine what else may be possible.

  • Brace yourself: Nothing draws fire like a woman moving forward.

  • Speak up — Your voice is needed.

  • It’s your world and you can cry if you want to.

  • Keep your head and your heart during a storm: You need both to steer the ship to safety

  • Show us what you have been through: It tells us what we can survive

  • Don’t search for your role in his story: Write your own

  • Even when you lose, refuse to be defeated

  • We are bound together. Now we need to unite.

The last point, especially, made me think. All division and separation among human lines are just an illusion. We’re already stuck together, so we may as well unite.