At a time when the news out of Washington seems to get crazier by the day, many Americans were captivated by the image of a two-year-old girl.
It was captured as little Parker Curry — dressed in a red and pink coat with her curly hair piled high — got her first look at a new larger than life-sized portrait of Michelle Obama.
Many people have seen that painting since it went on display last month at the National Portrait Gallery. Parker wasn’t the first — but perhaps she is the most important.
Why? Because this child is a symbol of our future.
Michelle Obama said at the ceremony when the portrait was unveiled:
“I’m also thinking about all the young people — particularly girls and girls of color — who in years ahead will come to this place and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution.”
Girls like Parker. She went to the museum with her family on a dreary February day and when she saw the painting, she was mesmerized. In an essay for the New York Times, Jessica Curry recalled the look on her daughter’s face:
“I called her name repeatedly trying to get her to turn around so I could take a photo of her looking at the camera, with the large painting as a backdrop, but she was motionless, completely absorbed in the grandeur of the image.”
The photograph the nation came to love was actually captured by a stranger — a visiting minister from North Carolina who was waiting in line with his mother. He posted it on Facebook, and soon we all took notice.
The response on social media — at a time when so many comments posted are so incredibly dark— was full of light.
Jessica Curry said one man wrote: “This is what America is all about… this young girl can now dream about being someone like Michelle Obama.”
It didn’t take long before Parker got a chance to meet Ms. Obama — a chance to giggle, hug and dance to the little girl’s favorite song.
Jessica Curry said the whole thing brought tears to her eyes as she remembered Parker’s grandparents who grew up in a segregated America
“Maybe color, gender and race will be insignificant when Parker is an adult — we’ll just all be individuals,” she wrote, adding, “This dream lives on and seems closer to realization in every generation.”
Somehow, it seemed fitting that all this happened in the lead-up to International Women’s Day on March 8th.
In some places — like Istanbul — tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered together on that day to demand equal rights for women.
Here in Washington, it was more a day for study and reflection than marching.
We are in the midst of a grand political awakening of American women. You can blame it on the Trump presidency or the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse, but the bottom line is more women in the United States are running for office and taking a stand.
As of International Women’s Day, 420 American women had signaled their intent to run for a seat in the 436-member House of Representatives in November. Another 50 have lined up so far to run for the 20+ contested seats in the Senate.
Emily Liner — a political veteran with the group “She Should Run” — says “Women are realizing they are in the best position to be the change they want to see.”
These would-be office holders are coming from all kinds of backgrounds — from corporate leaders to activist moms who got involved by speaking out in their communities. And they include many women of color who trace their roots to Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
“Women of color is the really big story of 2018,” according to pollster Margie Omero. More African-American women are seeking political office than ever before. But just as important, they are turning out to vote.
In a special election last December for a vacant seat in the US Senate held in the Republican-dominated southern state of Alabama, it was black women who provided the margin of victory for Democrat Doug Jones.
This fall, women of color are running for offices ranging from local school boards to state governors.
It is one thing to run… it is another thing to win.
But one thing is becoming clearer with each passing day.
There will be even more role models for Parker Curry by Women’s Day 2019.