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The Audacity of Minnesota: Senator Amy Klobuchar

By Lisa DePaulo, Elle Magazine - April 7, 2010

 

The first day Amy Klobuchar arrived in the U.S. Senate, she needed to visit the ladies' room, as ladies do, and accidentally walked into the men's room instead. Well. She would like to tell you she discovered something truly spectacular in the men's room of the esteemed Hart Senate Office Building. Russ Feingold unzipped, maybe? (Hey, we'd line up for that!) But no. What she discovered was this: "It's twice as big as ours and has a shoeshine chair!"� Ba-da-boom.

She loves to tell that one. Today she is telling it to 800 wool-suited, kitten-heeled, and bow-bloused Minnesota women who have turned up in a ballroom in downtown Minneapolis to watch Amy"”everyone calls her Amy, and if they don't, she instructs them to do so"”get a Pioneer Award. Well, who's more of a pioneer than she? As the luncheon crowd is reminded, she's the first woman from Minnesota ever to be elected to the Senate. (When Hubert Humphrey died, his wife, Muriel, was appointed to serve out his term.) But we would argue it's more: Klobuchar is like the Cousin Marilyn of politicians in a state that for decades has produced Munsters: Jesse Ventura. Al Franken. Norm Coleman. And (cue the Star Trek music) let's not forget Michele "Obama-is-anti-American"� Bachmann.

So how, on November 7, 2006, did Amy Klobuchar get elected in Minnesota, in a landslide vote? Or perhaps more to the point: Could it be that her utter normalcy has something to do with the fact that while she's one of only 17 women in the Senate ("the great thing about having 17,"� as she puts it, "is they can no longer call us the Sweet 16"�) and serves on the commerce and judiciary and three other Senate committees and is a major player in the health care debate, that shockingly little is known about Klobuchar outside her home state?

This is not for lack of trying. The daughter of a well-known Minneapolis sportswriter, Klobuchar is one of the rare politicians who doesn't see the press as the enemy. She never turns down The Rachel Maddow Show (Rachel being one of the few who Gets It), nor does she ever turn down Fox News (which doesn't always get it, but still Amy goes on). The ugly truth is that when the national press deigns to come to Minnesota, it's to cover the circus (the recent Franken-Coleman contested senatorial election or the spectacle that is Bachmann), not the senior senator who recently appeared on a New York Times short list of the women most likely to become president. Amy"”"Please call me Amy"�"”prefers to shrug off all that president stuff. But not because the idea hasn't occurred to her.

Besides wandering into the men's room, the other story Amy likes to tell about her first day as a U.S. senator is about the first lunch she attended with the Democratic caucus. "There I am,"� she says in a car on the way to some event in the Minnesota sticks, "I've got eight senators at my table. I get some soup and salad, and I bring it back to the table, and I'm thinking, "�I'm in the LBJ Room!' I'm ready to dive into my soup. And Patty Murray [senator from Washington State] grabs my arm and says, "�Amy, you just took the entire bowl of Thousand Island dressing, and you're about to eat it.' And I said, "�That's what we do in Minnesota!' "�

Herein lies a key to Amy Klobuchar. She is acutely aware of the need to blend her folksiness, her realness, with her driving ambition, which, quite frankly, no woman should have to apologize for but all of them end up doing. That she does it better than most"”with humor and the requisite self-deprecation"”obscures the fact that Klobuchar is no accidental politician.

A few more things you need to know about her: She is funny. At times even funnier than Al Franken.

"It is what it is,"� she says about her colleague in the Senate, then quickly adds: "Oh, we get along, yes! I mean, he really, genuinely, you know, wants to do good. And he's working really hard."�

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The Audacity of Minnesota: Senator Amy Klobuchar

Celebrity Maladies

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Great article! I am so happy to see an articulate and well written article about Senator Klobuchar. She is truly an inspiration and a powerhouse. I would love to see her in the White House someday!!

Re: "Herein lies a key to Amy Klobuchar. She is acutely aware of the need to blend her folksiness, her realness, with her driving ambition, which, quite frankly, no woman should have to apologize for but all of them end up doing. That she does it better than most"”with humor and the requisite self-deprecation"”obscures the fact that Klobuchar is no accidental politician." Excellent point about women feeling that we have to apologize or tamp down our big dreams. It's our prevailing cultural paradigm: ambitious men are go-getters; ambitious women are the b-word, bad moms, mate repellents. No wonder so many women simultaneously crave and fear our ambitious goals. Wouldn't it be great if women could ignore what our culture thinks about high-achieving women and eliminate the fear part of our ambition equation? Just imagine how that would change our perspective. We can be ambitious without compromising our ethics and integrity. Without fear that we'll risk sacrificing our desire to have a full, happy personal life and without being afraid that we'll be less of a woman or that we'll mess up our kids. As ambitious women, we owe it to ourselves -- and the world -- to make the contribution we were born to make. Amy Klobuchar is an excellent role model showing women that the world deserves to hear from us. --Dr. Debra Condren, author of Ambition Is Not A Dirty Word: A Woman's Guide To Earning Her Worth and Achieving Her Dreams (Random House/Broadway). http://www.ambitionisnotadirtyword.com

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