A Grandparent in the White House
By Cheryl Harbour
Now it’s official. We have two grandparents running for President. One way or another, come January, there’ll be a grandparent in the White House.
It’s not the first time it’s happened. A quick study posted online a few years ago suggested 12 Presidents were grandparents when they were sworn in. William Henry Harrison had 25 grandchildren, thanks to his 11 children. According to the article, the only President who wasn’t a parent was James Polk, but the great majority weren’t yet grandparents.
The data came with a disclaimer that it might not be accurate because there were children unaccounted for, illegitimate children, poor record-keeping, etc. And the Presidents from the past didn’t always talk about their grandchildren. But these two candidates do. Especially Hillary Clinton.
Hillary said early on when her daughter Chelsea was pregnant that becoming a grandmother didn’t make her want to slow down. It made her want to speed up, considering there’s so much to do to ensure a good future for our grandchildren. She’s referred to her hopes for future generations many times over the past year. We get it, don’t we? The future becomes more personal for grandparents. We have “skin in the game.” In the non-political foreword to my book, Good to Be Grand, Hillary wrote “My friends had told me there is no greater joy than being a grandparent. I know that now.”
So here they are, two grandparents running for President, and they are doing it with great gusto. No one would argue that they aren’t vibrant, energetic, forceful and engaged.
And how do we feel as voting grandparents? Are we angry with the system? Ready for “a revolution”? Some portion of us may be disgruntled with the “way things are going.” It’s more crowded everywhere we go and technology is taking over and diminishing contact among humans and Congress isn’t’ getting things done and we worry about crime and terrorism. We worry about the kind of world our grandchildren will live in.
But the grandparents I’ve talked to still love America and are proud to be Americans. We still believe we can make an impact and solve problems.
At its core, America isn’t just a fragmented bunch of competing self-interests. Rather it’s like a big family – boisterous and rambling and even rowdy at times, with some members of the family all solid and stable and others trying to find their way. We might disagree sometimes and even argue at the dinner table, but we stick together and take care of each other. When things get tough, we pull together. We believe that we are stronger than whatever negative forces might oppose us. And if there are problems to solve and work to be done, we wake up every day ready to go back at it, because we have the experience and perspective to know these aren’t the first challenges our “family” has ever faced. Let’s hope our next President has that perspective, too.
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Cheryl Harbour, author of Good to Be Grand: Making the Most of Your Grandchild’s First Year, is a journalist and corporate communications consultant who has researched and written about topics ranging from nuclear energy to education to health to women’s leadership. She also founded Intelligent Women Dialogue an interactive online forum. She is the mother of three and was inspired to write Good to Be Grand when she was about to become a new grandmother.