We asked members of our Public Insight Network to respond to John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Here are some of their insights.
Amy Anderson, St. Paul
It made me glad that I've been supporting John McCain. I was so afraid he'd pick another white guy like [Mitt] Romney, which would have been so "safe" and unimaginative. The choice of Palin tells me he is who I thought he was, a man who is willing to swim against the stream. I have almost always worked at jobs that are dominated by men -- dairy herd manager, missionary/pastor and now college professor in a department with no other women. I am glad to see a woman in leadership who is conservative and spunky.
Kathryn Berg, Woodbury
I don't think that it is politically incorrect to ask how she can be vice president with such a large family and a baby with Down syndrome. I know personally I couldn't do it nor would I want to. I want to know how she can do it. Is it any worse to ask that question than to ask if Sen. McCain can realistically run the country at 72 years old? I'm sure just as there are women who are wondering how she can do it, there are elderly wondering how Sen. McCain can do it. Obviously, she has resources to help her; he can't change his age.
Erin Bissonnette, Mankato
I have found her popularity despite her conservative views and lifestyle very affirming. I hold very similar views to Sarah Palin and I'm quite pleasantly surprised to find she is so well-liked by Americans. I was a lukewarm McCain supporter prior to her joining the ticket. Now we have TWO McCain yards signs up and I'm a much more enthusiastic supporter of his. I am very impressed with the wisdom of this choice of Sarah for vice president.
Amy Bodnar, Elk River
I have a son with Down syndrome. He is now 20 years old. I have son, age 22, who is in the National Guard. I also have run for public office. I think this would be a very difficult time for a mother of a 5-month-old Down syndrome baby to be in a position to run for office. My son needed extra attention and so did I after he was born. Those were exhausting times. I wonder how a person with as much on her plate as Gov. Palin makes a decision to have another child, especially at her age, knowing the risks. We had a great woman who ran for office, Hillary Clinton. I supported her at the caucuses. She lost in a fair fight, against a black man who exudes hope and change. It made me realize that people are actually more sexist than racist. When I attended the caucuses back in March and looked over an audience that for the first time (in Elk River) included people of color and diversity, I knew that something special was going on. I am proud and amazed that a person like Sen. Obama won in areas like this, all across the country.
Shirl Chouinard, Cambridge
I am a highly-educated, older Democratic woman who has never missed a primary nor an election and am very proud of that fact. I was one of the pant-suiters who supported Hillary. The Democratic Party used to champion my cause, but I have been dismissed through the media and through the presidential candidate of that party. John McCain reached out to me and my vote counts. A woman such as Sarah, who is willing to stand up to the "old boys' club" and the Republican and Democratic political machine, is truly a "Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington" Hallmark special waiting to happen! I support women!
Sue Engel, Laporte
I was a Hillary supporter and proud of her -- there is no comparison between the two women. Hillary is committed to making the world better for women, men and children in this world. Sarah Palin may be unique with an interesting story but she is in no position to lead. Wouldn't it be nice if it was common place to have women on the presidential ballot instead of thinking this woman whom I could not support is a big deal?
Susan Doherty, Minneapolis
Women don't vote in a monolithic block! It's not just about sharing xx chromosomes. And I'm disgusted with the media for hyping this as though simply having a woman in the race is all that women care about. No one would ever expect all men to vote in a monolithic block, so why do we think women would? We're far more complex than that!
Kristin Eggerling, Hallock
I can say that I feel good that I took time off to care for my babies when they were born. I think of her taking a few days off when she had just had a special-needs child and I think that is not right. It sure doesn't sound like family values to me. And let me be clear, I am a feminist who believes in women working -- just not at the expense of their children. Gov. Palin is a perfect example of why we shouldn't vote for someone just because they are a woman. She does not represent the strong women I know. And she certainly does not speak for me.
Ruth Ehrenberg, Torrance, CA
It is encouraging to see women rise to such levels in our national governmental arenas. Women can hold vastly different opinions and beliefs. I would never vote for a woman just because she is a woman, but I do think that seeing women compete as they are this election season is energizing and uplifting. I think this primary and election season has done much to cause a male-dominated culture to actually have to take women and their voice and growing power much more seriously. They will probably decide this election.
Diane Hageman, St. Cloud
Sarah's decision made me think back to a conversation I had with a successful professional woman about seven years ago. She said, "You can have it all, just not all at once." I ran a part-time freelance business from my house for seven years when my kids were in their early teen years. I returned to a full-time position outside the home one year ago, when my children were 16 and 20. I think it's important for one of the parents to have the ability to focus on the children and work less, especially when they are teens. If Sarah's husband is now doing that, I can understand and respect her decision more. If not, I think she's putting her own needs before her children's.
June Hiza, Northfield
I am a mother of adult children, two grandchildren, two step grandchildren, health professional, raised in the Christian faith and active participant in the church all my life and she wouldn't represent my views about respecting diversity, choice, diplomacy and family. I am very troubled about her position on the ticket.
Jan Hoppe, Maplewood
As I see pictures of her family, I am reminded with sadness about the times my job kept me away from raising my son. I had an interesting and rewarding career, but was a single mother who had to work. I returned to work when my son was only eight weeks old, and I have never completely gotten over the sadness and loss I felt at not being able to stay home with him in the preschool years. Childhood passes so quickly and we still have plenty of years left for careers before and after our children's earliest years. I support every parent's right (male or female) to do what is best in their own situation. Still, when I see parents with highly-demanding careers raising young children, managing households and trying to balance it all, I still feed sad about the parent-child times together that are lost forever.
Anita MacDonald, Roseville
I have to admit that some of my first thoughts were about whether it is too much to balance raising five children, one of whom is a pregnant teen, and one of whom is a four month-old with Down syndrome. I now think that these judgments were unfair, and possibly sexist. I am a mother of three young children and work as a physician, and as such understand the difficulties with this balancing act. It should be up to Sarah Palin to decide how to run her family and her career. On the other hand, I believe she has extremist opinions and together with John McCain, has few if any good ideas to fix our economy and our health care system. If she becomes the vice president the vast majority of working mothers (as well as working fathers) are likely to suffer.
Jean Mattila, Hastings
It reminds me that we women have a long way to go to learn how to compete with each other. The glass ceiling is being held in place in part by many women in the media who keep dragging our gender down by criticizing female opponents in gender-based ways. I've been a working mother, a stay-at-home mother, and then a working mother again and have been criticized for those choices in the most unexpected ways by other women. I like her plainspoken demeanor. Her down-to-earth ways will contrast well with the competition.
Sara McGinley, Minneapolis
I have found myself thinking terribly sexist things which I'm not proud. Although I'm against almost all of her politics (or perhaps all of them) I'm really proud and excited that a woman is in her position. Really excited. I'm having a hard time not wanting to point her out to my two year-old daughter as a role model. If she were a man I would not see him as a role model. But she is a woman and I am proud.
Pat Nokleby, Paynesville
I think it gives women encouragement to try anything. I have to laugh at the elitists in this country who are putting Palin down. What they don't realize is that people from small towns or rural areas have had to do everything for themselves and because of it are very capable and hard-working people. Palin is the type of person we need in Washington!
Donna Peterson, Hutchinson
There is finally a candidate that I want to vote for. When I heard that McCain had chosen Palin and that her views in a number of areas were very similar to mine, I was excited for the first time during this unbearably long political campaign. I just hope she doesn't get nasty like all campaigning politicians tend to be. She seems down-to-earth, kind and gentle, whereas most female politicians seem harsh and forceful.
Mary Cathryn Ricker, St Paul
My opinion is that until it is the White House, it should be nothing. Maybe 25 years ago this was a progressive, maverick move, but all it does for women now is relegate us to the VP ghetto for the next 100 years. It gives men the opportunity to keep offering us the vice presidency as a way of not taking our presidential bids seriously.
Melina Simonson, Benson
I am the mother of a child with special needs. Sarah Palin has made me realize how much being the mother of a special-needs child affects my time. I cannot even comprehend how she can be campaigning for the next two months when she has a baby with Down syndrome and yet claim to be an advocate for similar families. How can you advocate when some of us don't think she's doing a good job? I do not think she should have accepted the nomination. She should be freeing up her schedule so she can be with that baby who needs her more than anyone else in this country.
Lori Steele-Hubin, Crystal
At last, someone who is "me!" I am a full-time working wife and mother of two, who can finally point to a politician who "gets it." She makes me proud to be an unrepentant, unabashed Republican. What a marvelous example for my teenage daughter! Their family is THEIR family - the choices they make may not be right for everyone, but that does not mean they are wrong.