Lisa Witter is the chief operating officer of Fenton Communications, the largest public interest communications firm in the country. She heads the firm's practice in women's issues and global affairs for clients including Women for Women International, MoveOn.org, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association and many others. She is a co-founder of the award-winning website SheSource.org, an online brain trust of women experts to help close the gender gap among commentators in the news media. She was honored as an outstanding activist and expert on women's issues by Oxygen.com for her work on a national campaign against privatizing Social Security during the 2000 presidential election. Lisa is a blogger and political commentator with her work appearing on MSNBC, Fox News, The Huffington Post, AlterNet and Anderson Cooper 360. In 2004, she was a contestant on the Showtime reality show American Candidate. Witter is co-author of The She Spot: Why Women Are the Market for Changing the World and How to Reach Them.
She is on the advisory board for Indianapolis University's Women and Philanthropy Institute, Pop!Tech, Momsrising.org, Women for Women International and Climate Counts.
Question: How would you describe yourself politically?
Lisa Witter: I would say I’m a populist progressive with my feet on the ground, you know, I love sort of deep intellectual debate and discussion but I’m also thinking about my mother who, you know, one of the only reasons I was able to go to college is she had a good union job. So I’m thinking big and envisioning big and sort of thinking about radical change, where at the same time I wanna make sure that people like my mom and my dad who have really had to, you know, work hard that their needs are being taken care of and that the left in particular isn’t seen as a disconnected political elite that their feet are really on the ground. That’s why I really like the labor movement that’s going on with SEIU and Andy Stern, you know, I really feel like he’s fighting for the average working American and I don’t believe that you can have cultural change, I think politics is only as far ahead as the culture is and I think too much of the political work that we do is from election to election and we’re not focused enough on changing the culture, this is why I went on the TV show, this is what Hilary Clinton, why she won, even though she lost, she’s forever changed the culture of the country from a gender perspective. So I think we need to be looking at these longer cultural shifts and you can’t really change the paradigm for a country if you leave out 90% of the population. So we need to be thinking about culture shifts from the largest perspective.
Topic: Advice for Barack Obama
Lisa Witter: Well if I were to give Barack Obama some advice right now, I definitely think that he is connected very much on the intellectual level with a lot of people which is wonderful. After having eight years of the Bush administration, I want an intellectual in office and I’m really looking forward to that. But I want an intellectual who comes from-- who I can connect with, who I feel like came from where I came from and, you know, he has this beautiful story that I think he needs to tell a little bit more and that’s the story of his mother and the role that his mother played, you know, all of us have mothers and we are all really shaped by our parents. He wrote a book about his father, you know, dreams of his father but I think his mother is this very interesting character and I’m gonna be-- especially if he wants women to vote for him, I think he’s gonna-- I need to be respectful of his relationship and all of that, I understand that but I think the story of his mother, if he brings that out a little bit more that could be really helpful to him.