San Francisco Chronicle: Beyond Wardrobe: Sarah Palin Speaks for Special Needs Children

The Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund, a political action committee that supports pro-life female office-seekers, endorsed Sarah Palin’s 2006 Alaska gubernatorial run because she was the whole package – a politically astute, smart, traditional woman.

We were thrilled to watch her rise. She was a popular governor whose ego did not eclipse her determination to reform. She gained a reputation for clearing out the good ol’ boy underbrush in government. Not one to stir up the stew of feminist victimhood, she advanced a new sort of self-reliant, obligation-oriented feminism. As a woman with traditional values doing nontraditional things, she was a fresh role model. She and her husband advanced this philosophy together, as equal partners, while bringing their entire family along in the project.

Not one of us stopped to consider her wardrobe.

To all those feminist organizations so deeply threatened by her pro-life political position and meteoric rise, I have a message: Shut up and listen. She is the future.

No matter how one tries to destroy her, this woman’s core values do not change. She knows who she is – and her outfits are not central to it. What is central are the timeless principles she embodies and seeks to advance. Her focus is on the obligations that we have to our children, our families and our nation.

When she is ridiculed for her decision to bring her son Trig, diagnosed with Down syndrome, into the world and then bring him along on the campaign, she only becomes stronger.

Why do you think she’s attracting crowds of 10,000 25,000 and 60,000? Because she reminds us that each of us as individuals has the power to change our world, to organize solutions to others’ sufferings – one decision, one individual at a time. She understands and articulates a principle about which we need to hear more – the value inherent in those deemed imperfect.

If the media chatter over her outfitting had subsided for 15 minutes last Friday or Saturday, the nation could have seen the real Sarah Palin. So wrapped up in tearing her down, the left and the media largely missed her Oct. 24 policy speech on special needs children. She knows of what she speaks.

Very rarely does an issue speak to the heart as poignantly as special needs children. Palin understands that heart and offers concrete help to those of us hungry for better information, authentic support and schooling solutions. Most important to me as a mother of a special needs child, she pointed to the power, strength and influence that individuals with special needs can have in our homes and our nation.

Her child, my child, and every special needs child, are not to be pitied. They are to be emulated. What a salve to the soul that Palin understands and articulates this. It brings so many special people and their families out of the shadows and into the limelight. They have so much to be proud of, and she helps them recognize that.

How does she have such a beautiful perspective? Because she sees the power, value, necessity and joy inherent in each individual life. It takes different eyes to see that, and a different voice – a mother’s voice – to articulate it.

In the next few days, the women of America may have to work hard to hear Palin’s voice. They will have to strain to focus on ignoring the media filter and intense anger and exclusionary politics of some on the left; persevere before it is too late. Palin’s leadership brings with it great heart and profound respect for life and the ingenuity of every individual. She brings a fresh perspective that America needs.

Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a nationwide network of pro-life Americans dedicated to advancing pro-life women in the political process. The organization is based in Arlington, Va. She is co-founder of Team Sarah, a national grassroots effort in support of Gov. Sarah Palin’s vice presidential candidacy.

This article first appearead in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 29, 2008

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