By Talbert Toole
“[Mississippi] is where I was born. It’s where I took my first breath. It’s where I learned to write,” said Jennifer Palmieri, Hillary Clinton’s former communications director.
Originally from Pascagoula, Mississippi, Palmieri has a deep connection to the Magnolia State. Her sister attended Ole Miss. Palmieri watched from a packed Vaught Hemingway Stadium as the Rebels suffered a loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks last fall. That’s where she found her inspiration for her new book which can be found on the shelves of Square Books.
After Hillary Clinton was defeated by Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, Palmieri decided it was her turn to restore faith, guidance and reassurance to the women who would pick up where she and Clinton left off.
Palmieri went back to the books she bought from Square Books, books by Mississippi author Willie Morris.
“I would read Willie Morris in the morning and at night as I was writing the book to take my mind off of [writing],” Palmieri said.
Palmieri encompassed Morris’ essay style – how he would leave stories dispirited but somehow weave them together in the end in “such a wonderful way,” she said. She intertwines the loss of her sister from Alzheimer’s disease to the loss of the 2016 presidential election vividly while offering advice to future women leaders.
“Dear Madam President,” an open letter to the women who will run the world, is a collection of essays, at its core, of tribulating trials Palmiere faced head on with Hillary Clinton. Each chapter addresses the future madam president on the things she will encounter and how to overcome such tribulations that the Hillary campaign met while going toe-to-toe with Donald Trump, Benghazi and the email server scandal.
Taking into account all the lessons Palmieri learned from the positions she had previously held, the night of the 2016 election sparked a new example for her on how to move forward when one fails.
“I think that for people who didn’t support Trump, after his victory … for women, there was a weird sense of empowerment that his victory kind of confirmed for us,” Palmieri said. “Maybe the way we’ve been engaging in the world of politics and business, there’s these sort of rules that had plateaued, and we were going to fight different ones, and that’s inspiring.”
As states were still being called the night of Nov. 8, 2016, Clinton called Trump to concede, which was something Palmieri learned after the fact.
“I actually thought with so much uncertain and unknown at that moment, that it was a prudent thing to wait until the morning,” Palmieri said. “But she decided that she [would concede] that night and go ahead with the speech the next day.”
In chapter two of Palmieri’s book, she starts off with the Clinton’s concessions speech and how many viewed it as her best speech and how it showed a different side of Clinton that many had not seen before.
“Yes, I’m sure you loved her concession speech, I thought. Because that’s what you think is acceptable for a woman to do – concede,” Palmieri wrote in chapter two.
“I think what people found appealing about the concession speech is that it is very selfless,” Palmieri said. “She was rising to the occasion, being very gracious.”
While campaigning for the presidency, it is not possible to seem as selfless as it is while doing the job inside the Oval Office, because as a candidate, the goal is to prove you can do the hardest job in the land, Palmieri said.
Palmieri has witnessed how the job is the hardest in the land due to the many hats she has worn in the country’s Capitol. She worked for John Edwards’ campaign, the Clinton administration and President Obama’s White House communications director.
From these positions, she faced crisis management head on while being there for John Edwards’ trial and during the Clinton impeachment. She tells the future madam president how to “keep your head (and your heart) during a storm.”
In chapter four, “Nod Less, Cry More,” she gives a description of how crying isn’t a show of weakness but “a powerful demonstration of emotion.” This chapter has made an impact on women around the country that Palmieri has met on her book tour.
“Women are really happy to hear that it is okay to cry,” Palmieri said.
A woman Palmieri had met in Seattle during a book event did a cartwheel because chapter four resonated with her, Palmieri said.
“People were ready to hear inspiring lessons,” Palmieri said. “People are engaging in their communities in ways they haven’t before, and they seem to understand. I feel like they are holding up the best principles of our country.”
As Palmieri continues her book tour, she looks forward to signing copies of her book where it all began, Square Books on Monday, April 16.
“I think about the thousands of conversations I’ve heard and the stories and the wonderful way people speak in Mississippi in time-devising sentences in just a very thoughtful way that will bring a smile to your lips.”