In the weeks since Gov. Sarah Palin pushed through that vice-presidential nominee door crack, I have not found a single issue over which she and I might agree. I am a pro-choice, anti-war, wealth-spreading liberal with some very good friends who happen to have chosen the straight lifestyle. I favor gun control, alternative energy and The Nation over the National Review.
And yet, as I (slack-jawed at times) have watched Sarah Palin perform under the campaign spotlight, I have concluded that Gov. Palin is a profoundly positive influence in my life.
As it happens, Gov. Palin's ascent into our collective consciousness coincided with the publication of my first book, a public affairs title with a progressive bent that I worked on for four years. I began my book tour at the exact moment that Gov. Palin joined the Republican ticket. Unlike Gov. Palin, I am uncomfortable in the spotlight. But as any author will tell you, public speaking in support of one's book is as much a part of the writer's life as solitary days spent tethered to a keyboard.
And so, uncertain and untrained, I took to the podium hoping to spread the word about my book and the call to action it contains. The first outings on my book tour were extremely painful -- for me, and, I suspect, the audience. Cowed by a lack of confidence, I struggled through my initial appearances and cursed myself for choosing this new career path after decades as a newspaper and magazine journalist, safe from the spotlight
Then, as I watched clips of Gov. Palin -- winking, pointing, and smiling from the podium -- it struck me how unabashed she is, how absolutely fearless. She flubbed sentences -- entire interviews, even - and still the woman remained unfazed. I have to admit I watched these clips over and over, searching for what I might learn, hoping to see into the source of such chutzpah.
During the Palin "victory tour" as the governor spoke with interviewer after interviewer, it finally struck me: From the depths of her soul, Gov. Palin knows there is no one better or more qualified to deliver her message about the future of the United States. She believes in her experience as a governor, her political skills and her ability to connect with people, no matter what the pundits say, or how much Saturday Night Live makes fun of her, or even when her ticket goes down in flames. In this way, Gov. Palin is an anomaly among women of my generation, accomplished middle-aged artists and professionals (many of them feminists) who are far too often plagued by self-doubts and fear of criticism -- others and their own -- regardless of their sterling resumes and relentlessly hard work.
What I gleaned from the victory tour tells me Gov. Palin's confidence is deeply rooted in her religious beliefs. While Palin may be looking to God to show her the next crack in the door and the strength to muscle through it, one need not share Palin's religious views to understand the importance of recognizing opportunities and seizing the moment. After four years of hard work on a book that has received some very nice reviews, it's now my moment for seizing. Watching the governor showed me that to be successful, I must be as unabashed as she is -- as fearless and confident and proud about my own writing and the message I bring to my audiences.
And you know what? It's working. When I step to the podium now, I no longer wonder about my right to be there or worry that I'll disappoint. In my own way, I'm channeling the woman from Wasilla's certitude. And for this, I owe Gov. Palin a great big thank you.
Nena Baker is the author of The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-Being (North Point Press/Farrar, Straus and Giroux).