It was not too long ago, before I became a writer of books, that I crisscrossed the country traveling on business. There was not a week that went by that I was not on a 5 AM flight out of my local airport going somewhere. My business travels often took me to Manhattan for meetings with clients. As a highly compensated consultant for the company I worked for at the time, I had a generous expense account, and many of my client meetings ended in lavish, expensive meals at top rated restaurants.
It was at one such meal with one such client that I had an encounter with Ivanka Trump. The client, a large multi-national US corporation, and the people within their organization that I consulted with, had very high expectations, and always chose the latest critically-acclaimed, “must go” restaurants recommended in the New York Times. Generally, there were from 8 to 10 people joining us from their department, most of them eager to try something they would have no way to afford without my generous accommodations.
We were having dinner in early September at the latest mid-town Manhattan, farm-to-table craze. Coming from the rich and fertile mountains of Western North Carolina, where all the food is “farm-to-table”, I was intrigued, and gladly made the reservation, hoping for brilliant inspiration from their newly anointed “star” chef. We were a table of twelve, and had consumed cocktails, appetizers, entrées and several bottles of wine, when in walked Ivanka Trump with her then fiancé, (and now husband) Jared Kushner. She was absolutely stunning, and carried herself with great poise and dignity, even though she knew all eyes were upon her. A buzz spread through the room, quiet and somewhat jaded as New Yorkers generally are when in the presence of celebrity, and I pointed her out to my client sitting next to me, who, although a knife-edged female executive and lifelong New Yorker, squealed in drunken delight, “I love Ivanka!”
Several of her colleagues sitting at the table, embarrassed by her outburst, attempted unsuccessfully to shush her, as she continued to squeal in subdued, Beatle-mania style ravings. Shortly after Ivanka was seated, and she and her fiancé began perusing the menu, and everyone had insisted that the woman who loved Ivanka could not go up and introduce herself, in walked a young Hollywood actress, whose name I will not reveal. The actress, upon seeing Ivanka, stopped to say hello. Ivanka graciously invited the actress and her husband to join them, and the actress readily agreed, looking awestruck too, seemingly relishing the opportunity to be seen in Ivanka’s company. We all watched this transaction take place. The young actress rather rudely instructed the maître d’ to go away, after he hesitated a moment, unsure if Ivanka and her fiancé really wanted these two lesser mortals to join them.
As we all surreptitiously watched the foursome at the table, my client began to tell me, and everyone else at the table within close earshot, stories about the actress, what movies she had been in, who her husband was, what the scuttlebutt was on their marriage, who Ivanka’s fiancé was, and how much she admired Ivanka for all the things she had done for women. I was intrigued. What had Ivanka done for women?
“Well, you know, her shoe business and her jewelry business,” she answered. After all the details she had sprinkled upon the avid listeners at the table about the lives of the foursome, I was surprised that all she could come up with was that Ivanka owned a business. I don’t discount that running a business is a great achievement for a woman, and I pointed out to my client that I was even wearing a pair of her shoes, but I still wasn’t sure what that meant in terms of what she had done for women, other than proving that a woman can run a successful business. I pushed her a little more, but she couldn’t come up with anything else, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. She was my client after all, and you must not offend your client. Maybe it was the two bottles of wine and two cocktails she had drunk that was clouding her thinking.
Something about Ivanka stuck with me from that night, and not just the memory of my squealing client, but something about her that is rarely seen in modern day celebrity…something intangible. I watched her in the early days of her father’s campaign, when I was still interested in what he had to say, and have caught her wincing slightly at some of his rhetoric, holding on to her husband’s hand as if it were an anchor, the only thing keeping her from running in disgust from the stage. Thus it was when Ivanka Trump took to the podium at the Republican National Convention that I listened with avid interest, wondering what she could possibly say that would ever redeem her father, for I will admit without any hesitation, that I absolutely cannot stand him. But I fell in love with her that night.
Her speech, which in my view, was the best speech of the entire convention (not a high bar, I admit) did indeed show her own deep passion on the subject of women’s rights, and her personal understanding of the struggles that women of every socio-economic level encounter because of their gender. Ivanka’s speech, which highlighted the benefits that she claimed her father would fight for in making women equal and children cherished in our society, was in truth a reflection of her own thoughts, experiences, and deep conviction that it is high time to right a wrong too long neglected in our society. Throughout our American history, women have had the short end of the stick, shouldering the overwhelming burden of responsibilities in childbearing and caregiving without help from their government, their employers, or their children’s fathers. While not every woman can hope to be born into a family where concerns for childcare come with a high-priced nanny, Ivanka nonetheless understands the much higher price women pay to become independent, capable and successful in earning a living.
Unlike the flakes that have come and gone under the guise of progressive (yet backward) women republicans, Ivanka Trump is a woman who could bring the Neanderthal, sexist, misogynist, Roger Ailes-dominated, Lee Atwater-schooled Republican Party into the new, 21st century world (I honestly wonder, if her father were not running for president, whether she would instead be supporting Mrs. Clinton.) If she desires a life in public office, she will have to put in the time and effort to stand on her own two feet politically, she will have to distance herself from her father’s ridiculous rants, and develop a record of her own that she can point to. She could do it. She commands respect, holds herself with dignity and grace, and thinks and speaks clearly, and I get the sense from her that she would be unprecedented in her ability to forge consensus. She has the best qualities and capabilities from both of her parents. She has learned charm, wit and strength (yes, her father, at one time, had all those qualities – though it is sometimes hard to believe it now), and she has rejected the worst aspects of their personalities.
One day, she might be the Trump I could vote for.