Starting the event with an emotional metaphor about swimming in water, Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and former White House communications director in the Obama administration, described what it was like to realize that she was “living in a world run by men.”
The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism hosted Palmieri for the “Special Event for Women Who Will Run the World” Thursday evening at the Wallis Annenberg Auditorium.
“I think that the amount of change that’s happening in the world is pretty revolutionary and we can’t talk about how we communicate around that without grasping the kind of change we are going through,” Palmieri began.
Palmieri believes that men do not necessarily hold women back, but power systems benefit men and “hold women back.” She explained that the summer of 2015 through the months leading up to the 2016 election made this clear to her.
“It was really hard … there was so much vitriol and I tried to wrap my head around, like what is it? Why do people hate her so much?” Palmieri said.
This revelation between the “seeds” of her book “Dear Madam President,” which she said she wrote as an open letter of empowerment to the first female president of the United States. She wrote it with the intent to inspire women who are going to “run the world.”
“My book in one sentence is that people take their cue from you,” Palmieri said. “If you act like you belong in the room, people think you do.”
Palmieri said that there is no right answer concerning the responsibility of the president, but that people should be using their voice.
“If you’re not speaking up, you’re not doing your job,” she said.
Palmieri argued that the reason people were uncomfortable with Clinton was because she stepped out and did things most women held back from at the time. Generally, society has not accepted women who defy gender roles, Palmieri said.
“People think if you have ambition that’s all you have as a woman,” she said, pointing out that it was no surprise that people were against a woman coming into power. She explains that Clinton was “being forced into a world that wasn’t made for her.”
Looking back, when Clinton first decided to run for president, Palmieri said she worried that the candidate could not give a unique story.
“What matters is the credibility, the authenticity, and the conviction of the person speaking,” Palmieri said. “As communicators, that’s the best thing that we can provide.”
What excites and motivates Palmieri is the time of change the world is currently experiencing.
The event was then moderated by Christina Bellantoni, director of the Annenberg Media Center. Bellantoni has covered the White House, Congress and three presidential campaigns throughout her journalism career before coming to Annenberg.
Palmieri also explained that she wrote her book during the period when President Donald Trump began to act on many of his campaign promises, such as repealing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This time of extreme political unrest inspired her to speak to the women of America in hopes that the country still has a bright future.
“I need the press to unearth something I don’t know about … or shine a light on an injustice,” Palmieri said. She argued that the press should be a tool for more than just a collection of occurrences, which can be found on social media.
Maggie Horne, a freshman majoring in law, history and culture, attended the event for one of her classes and said that Palmieri’s talk inspired her.
“I’m interested in politics so I wanted to hear what she [Palmieri] had to say,” Horne said. “I want to be a lawyer when I’m older and that’s a field women are getting more into now. I liked hearing how she was saying that women need to not be afraid to get their voice out there.”