Book #72 complete!
Nikki Haley clearly has a political agenda, and you can see it here. She’s building her brand and trying to reach a broader audience. And this is, tbh, a brilliant way to do that.
If you’re a yellow dog democrat (or lean hard left politically), you’re probably not going to like her characterizations of the Obama or Carter administrations (amongst other things, like her use of the co-opted version of “woke”). Her criticisms are mostly related to foreign policy (which makes sense given her role as UN Ambassador). These characterizations are not a main focus of the book, but they are there, and I imagine party loyalists from both sides will take note and have difficulty separating those from the other themes of the book. Also, Haley’s not afraid to toot her own horn. I mean, this is part of the point after all: branding.
With all of that said, you might think this is purely a political book. It’s not. It is what it says it is: the stories of 10 women whose stories “will inspire the next generation of females leaders.” And, indeed, their stories are inspirational. They are interwoven with Haley’s own personal life stories, and in the conclusion, she says, “I have a kinship and sisterhood with women regardless of party” (218). She explains, “we are more than the issues the media divides us on” (218). That’s why she says she didn’t account for political party in choosing the women to profile in this book. She chose them because she was inspired by them in some way.
You might assume all ten women come from the political sphere, but you’d be wrong. For example, I was really pleased to see Haley include Nadia Murad’s story in the book. Nadia’s book Last Girl profoundly affected me. I still think about it on a regular basis. In fact, I 100% recommend that book. Haley is right when she points out that Nadia’s story is one of both survival and empowerment and that it should not be forgotten, should be told and retold over and over again. Because it’s that important.
Now, Haley ends Nadia’s chapter the way she ends each, bringing it back to herself, her brand. Listen: you won’t finish the book without knowing who Nikki Haley wants you to think she is: a strong woman, unafraid to stand up for what is right even in the face of strong opposition; a minority woman who understands firsthand the experiences of the working class; a woman who gets things done, who won’t accept “no” for an answer; a problem solver; someone who thrives on challenge. In short, she wants you to know she’s the kind of woman who could lead this country (stay tuned for her presidential announcement!). I’m not offering any value judgement here on Haley or a potential White House run. But this is the image she portrays of herself in the book. She also gives some solid hints to what her key platform issues will be.
There are people who will choose not to read this book because they already have an established opinion of Nikki Haley or because she’s a Republican or because she’s a Republican who served in the Trump administration. And I get that. Certainly, reading the book is unlikely to change anyone’s already established opinion of Nikki Haley. I’m a big proponent of reader-response criticism (hey, English majors!). And while this is non-fiction, I think some of the tenets hold true: we each bring our own unique background, experiences, beliefs, and ways of being to what we read. What we get from what we read is determined by that, and so each of us may take something different away from our reading experience.
Here are some of the key things that stood out to me as I read the book in this time and place in my life:
➡️ “Its easy to talk about principles. It’s hard to stand by them when everyone is lined up against you” (5).
➡️ “But to really work to lift up everyone and make lives better, you have to be willing to shake things up” (6).
➡️ “You have to be willing to put it all on the line. And you have to be willing to go through the pain to do what is right” (8).
➡️ A key to success in leadership is to, like Margaret Thatcher, “develop an immunity to the chattering class” (11).
➡️ “It’s easy to mistake noise for action, but those are not the same thing. Often, it is the quiet, determined people who put in the work while someone else gets the credit” (67).
➡️ “Courage doesn’t come from doing what everybody says. Courage comes from doing what you know is right” (137).
➡️ “If your heart is in the right place, if you know what you believe, if you put other people first, then you’re on the right track” (175).
➡️ “If you don’t fit the mold, break the mold. Our job won’t be done until we know our daughter’s won’t have any molds left to break.” (178).
➡️ She also had some thoughts on modern feminism that really resonated with me (196-98), but I won’t go into that here because I don’t want to start in on a debate about feminism.
So should you read it? Maybe. 🤷♀️ For me, it was a quick and easy read with some valuable reminders and a little insight into what Nikki Haley’s political future holds (something that interests me for a number of reasons). There were women included whose stories I did not know, so I learned something new (always a good thing in my book, no pun intended).
👀 SN: Interestingly, Haley also shared the story of Wilma Rudolph. And that’s a story that’s come up in the news lately because a teacher in Florida wants her school district to remove a book about Rudolph from school libraries. You can read more about that here: https://popular.info/p/meet-the-florida-english-teacher.
As Haley explains, Wilma Rudolph “continues to serve as an inspiration to millions of girls who refuse to give up on their dreams” (182). Hers is a story that “…reads like a fairy tale, except there were no fairy godmothers and no magic spells. Everything she did to overcome the obstacles in her life came from her–her tenacity, her training, her disappointment after defeat, and her refusal to give up” (182). Sounds like the kind of story all young women should read…just like the other stories of women in Haley’s book.