09/30/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Open Letter to Sarah Palin: No, You Cannot Ride Clinton's Coattails

Dear Governor Sarah Palin,

I didn't have to support Senator Clinton in the primaries to admire her. I didn't have to volunteer for her to know that her accomplishments were making a difference in my own life. I didn't have to cheer for her during the debates to not appreciate meeting her last week. As she walked away I didn't have to yell thank you, but I did, and I meant it.

A man approached me in the airport yesterday -- he was a reporter with a New York blog and he asked, "Do you consider yourself to be black first or a woman first" slightly offended without skipping a beat I responded, "Neither, I consider myself to be an American first".

I am an American first. As such, I will do what I can in my own life to correct the misconceptions and stereotypes that have infiltrated our political discourse. What I will not do is support a candidate or a ticket merely because of the attributes of the individuals on it. You see Sarah, I pledge allegiance to the American flag not for what it is, but for what it stands for. Just the same, I support Barack Obama not for what he is but for what he stands for.

To be honest, I don't know you or what you stand for. I guess I can only hope that this clip is not an indication. You laughed when Senator Lyda Green was disrespectfully ridiculed on KWHL in Alaska. You didn't speak out-- you laughed. On Saturday when you mentioned Senator Clinton in your stump speech in Pennsylvania, the crowd booed while you smiled silently and continued your thought.

It's not enough to mention Senator Clinton's name, or share her gender, to win over her voters. That will not "break that glass ceiling once and for all" it will do the opposite and replace that cracked ceiling with the steal. Sarah, I met a woman the other day who isn't quite over the primary season. Not quite ready to support Obama but convinced that she could never support Senator McCain. Your selection as VP didn't win her over. She shared that her friend called her after you were announced Vice President in shock- "Why are they putting her on the ticket- she isn't ready to be Vice President".

Clinton supporters are skeptical about your nomination and I've talked to others who are insulted. You see Sarah; they didn't support Senator Clinton because she was a woman. They supported her because she was their advocate. She advocated on behalf of issues that are important to women of all parties. These are issues that are embedded into the Democratic platform and were articulated brilliantly by both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama last week. These are issues that you have rejected to the detriment of the next generation of young women who seek to break glass ceilings of their own.

I'm here to let you know that in spite of your nomination as Vice President, and your tragic embrace of identity politics, I will continue to work to break my own glass ceiling. In order to get there, I know that I must first do all that I can to ensure that Barack Obama becomes the next President of the United States and Joe Biden becomes the next Vice President of the United States. Their administration will begin to take steps to ensure that women are able to break glass ceilings in their own lives. Their administration will give women a means of accessing ladders of opportunity by providing little girls and little boys with quality early childhood education. If we want more women in positions of power then we have to invest in our little girls as much as we invest in little boys, we have to assure them that there is nothing that they can't do, and we have to pay them equally one they achieve their own dreams. I wonder Governor Palin, if you'll be paid the same while Vice President as Dick Cheney was. Even if you are, then what am I to make of the women in America who continue to make 75 cents to the dollar of what their male counterparts are making? What I am to make of your presence on a ticket that refuses to acknowledge that women deserve equal pay for equal work? I can only wonder how you feel knowing that the individual on the top of your ticket believes women who want equal pay should consider more education and training.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden will lead an administration that partners up with Senator Clinton to ensure that health care is not a luxury but a right. They will lead an administration that stops "mortgaging our children's futures" by taking on the oil companies and creating an energy policy that breaks the grip of foreign oil. They will be an administration that ends the war in Iraq and brings our men AND women in uniform back to American shores safely.

When Senator Obama shared his vision for America 45 years from the day when Martin Luther King Junior shared his dream, one thing became clear.

You can stop a man, but you cannot stop a vision.

The dream lives on. We should celebrate in the fact that Senator Obama is the nominee of the Democratic Party not because of the color of his skin, but because of the content of his character.

This same dream, this same hope of equality and opportunity for all, enabled Senator Clinton to take the stage 88 years after women were given the right to vote, to celebrate the 18 million votes that comprised her candidacy. Ballots cast by both women and men. These 18 million cracks, and the presence of a Woman and an African American as the two front runners of the Democratic Party affirm how far we've come. This dream of a nation where people are more than what they appear to be will continue to ring through the cities and small towns of our great country.

Sarah, I hope you don't feel as if I'm dismissing your nomination, I'm not. Congratulations. I am however adamant about putting your nomination into context. I want you to know that every time you infer that your nomination is a continuation of Senator Clinton's candidacy you are insulting the intelligence of the men and women who voted for her. I want you to know that we will one day launch a woman into the White House, a woman who shares our values, a woman who is qualified first and a woman second. With all due respect Governor Palin, you are not that woman, you are no Hillary Clinton.


Sara Haile-Mariam