by Andy Brownfield
Obama campaign's Women's Summit appeals to Ohio women to vote, volunteer
Actress and acclaimed rapper Natalie Portman played up her
Cincinnati ties in a Wednesday appearance at the Obama campaign-sponsored
Women’s Summit at Union Terminal.
The Academy Award-winner said her mother graduated from
Walnut Hills High School and her grandfather — Art Stevens — grew Champion
Windows in Cincinnati after starting as a door-to-door salesman.
“Because of that, I see President Obama’s support of small
businesses as so crucial to our economy,” Portman said, adding that Obama has
cut taxes for small businesses 82 times since taking office.
Portman said the Republican Party and their presidential
ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan did not have the best interests of women at
heart. She pointed to attacks on the Affordable Care Act’s mandates that
insurers provide birth control to women and ensure preventative care such as
mammogram screenings for breast cancer is covered, as well a bill sponsored by
Ryan and embattled congressional candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) that would
eliminate all abortion funding except for cases of “forcible rape.”
“We need to stand up for ourselves,” Portman told the packed
auditorium that was crowded with an audience of mostly women. “Our mothers and
our grandmothers made giant steps for us. We can’t go backwards. We need to go
Portman was joined by Obama Campaign National Women’s Vote
Director Kate Chapek, former Ohio first lady Frances Strickland, Ohio Rep.
Alicia Reece and Obama campaign volunteer Mary Shelton.
An Ohio Romney rep said the campaign did not have a comment
on the Women’s Summit, but is hosting a “Women for Mitt” call night featuring
former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao in Kenwood on Thursday.
“Ohio women believe in the Romney-Ryan
path for America that will result in lower taxes, less spending, less
government and more economic growth,” said a release from Romney’s campaign.
The Obama event on Wednesday catered to
women, with Chapek telling the audience she knew how difficult it was for women
to get there with jobs and the challenge of getting their kids to school. She
framed women’s role in the election as a conversation.
“The conversation starts like this:
women, turns out, we’re not a constituency,” Chapek said. “Who knew? Apparently
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, because they don’t realize that women are actually a
majority in this country.”
She told the women gathered to have conversations with their
neighbors and friends and encourage them to volunteer at phone banks or
knocking on doors.
Strickland talked about the need to reconcile qualities
traditionally seen as masculine — like power — with those seen as feminine —
She also took the opportunity to riff on a statement made by
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who said political wives were heroes because while they’re
husbands were on stage in the limelight, they were at home doing things like
“I even did the laundry last night so I could come here
today,” Strickland said. “Even (former Gov.) Ted does the laundry.”
Summit attendee Ray Boston, a 67-year-old retired writer for
AT&T, said Natalie Portman’s presence caught his eye.
“I’m a celebrity photo enthusiast,” he said. “Nothing’s
official until I’ve taken a picture of it.”
Boston said he didn’t vote in 2008, but felt the upcoming
November election was too important to sit out. He said he was leaning toward
voting for Obama and liked his health care overhaul, but was opposed to the
president’s views on gay marriage for religious reasons.
Gwen McFarlin, who works in health care administration, said
she was there to support President Obama. She supports his health care overhaul,
but thinks it’s a first step to further changes.
She said she was encouraged by the diversity of the women in
“For me, I’m sure the women who are here represent all
the world, not one issue,” she said. “We’re here as a group of women working to
empower all the U.S. and the world.”