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PRESIDENTIALLY SPEAKING: The Power of Soulful Partnerships

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(reprinted  with permission from One Planet Magazine, Jan. 2008 edition)


by Meryl Ann Butler

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History shows that high profile couples in deeply connected, soulful partnerships can empower the world through the ripple effect of their relationships, raising their roles of leadership to enhance the greater good.


When two people mutually empower each other, they are honoring self as well as the other and have a deeper ability to appreciate each other’s dreams and aspirations. And they are eager to celebrate each other’s successes. These attitudes spring from each partner’s worldview, are supported by an outlook that focuses on joy and wellbeing rather than fear and lack, and invite the happiness and empowerment that many couples, presidential or not, have experienced in successful relationships.


Rev. Ronald McFadden [1] says that “the difference between united and untied is in where you place the ‘I.” Effectively enhancing self-empowerment in others begins by honoring one’s own sense of connection: the “I” must be placed up front. This is the deeper truth within the flight attendants’ reminders to “place the cup over your own mouth FIRST, before assisting others.” Ironic, as it may appear, attending first to one’s self, results in being self-less rather than selfish!

Couples who consciously make this choice invite the magic of synchronicity to dance into their everyday experience. So-called miracles present themselves more often than we could ever expect. However, if we are not “tuned in” to their frequencies, these phenomena simply don’t show up on our radar. As Sir Winston Churchill said, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened

Centered and balanced couples often report experiencing miraculous timings, “chance” meetings, or love at first sight. For instance, when young Jimmy Carter [2] returned from his first date with 17-year-old Rosalyn Smith [3], his mother asked him how it went. He responded that he knew that she was the girl he wanted to marry.





Colonel George Washington [4] asked for Martha Custis’s hand in marriage on his second visit to her home. And, in spite of the fact that they didn’t even converse the first time they met, Elizabeth Harper and presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich both recognized the moment as a “meeting of souls,” and were married three months later.

America’s 4th President, James Madison—the “Architect of the Constitution”—and Dolley Payne Todd, weren’t very far behind. When they officially met in 1794, they seem to have fallen for each other immediately, but kept it a secret—at least they tried! Rumors found their way to Martha Washington, who questioned James.


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Although he gallantly denied the rumors, he and Dolley married less than four months later. Dolley said, "our hearts understand each other," and their biographers frequently mention how blissful their partnership was. Her active involvement and support of her husband’s activities was very unusual 200 years ago. Dolley’s assistance during James’ successful campaign for the presidency provoked his opponent to quip, “I was beaten by Mr. and Mrs. Madison. I might have had a better chance had I faced Mr. Madison alone.”

Like the Madisons, Dennis Kucinich [5] and his wife, Elizabeth [6], are an inspiring example of a dynamic couple with a synergistic relationship.


While Kucinich has always exhibited a brilliant mind, and given dynamic and passionate speeches, those who have followed his career notice that these qualities have been enhanced since his marriage to Elizabeth in 2005. Los Angeles City Councilman, Bill Rosendahl, who has known Kucinich for years, sees a quantum leap in the Congressman’s “Calm strength, centeredness, warmth of his smile, and twinkle in his eye. Love is the key to anyone’s success, and Elizabeth brings that and so much more to their relationship—which is characterized by an intimacy that is rare in politics.

An internationally-traveled advocate for human rights, environmental sustainability and global prosperity, Elizabeth holds a B.A. in Religious Studies and Theology, and an M.A. in International Conflict Analysis [7]. When she emerged from her final exam, “Conflict Resolution in World Politics”—held on September 11th, 2001—she found a changed world that she yearned to comfort.


I asked Elizabeth, “How do you and Dennis empower each other?”

Oh, in a multitude of ways—first of all in our love—love, itself, is so empowering! And we share a vision of the future, one that we each held before we ever met, but which is now our mutual vision. We both have an understanding of what is possible, and that understanding, itself, calls these exciting possibilities into being. And we empower each other through our mutual support, through our protection and advocacy of each other, and through our genuine and joyful celebration of the other’s successes.”


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Many of those who have seen both Kuciniches separately on the campaign trail remark on the uncanny reflection of the soul of the other, so visible in their compassionate and articulate deliveries [8]. It is exciting to imagine the results of having that kind of synergistic energy in the White House, again.  



Abigail Adams [9] also had a “remarkable alliance with her husband, (2nd president, John Adams)… a relationship that acquired historical importance owing to the depth and subtlety of its sentiments,” according to Maureen Dowd, who notes that, in the couple’s letters, “they make marriage sound like the most alluring and ennobling institution ever devised by humankind.” He is her “dearest friend”; she is his “dear soul.”[10]


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Abigail brought a keen intelligence and feminist perspective to their union, which, Dowd continues, “was a marriage of the mind and of the heart, enduring for more than half a century. (Abigail was) an invaluable partner to him as he developed his political career.

Martha Washington burned nearly all of George’s letters just before she died, unwilling to share their intimacies with the world. Only two missives escaped the flames, and in one, George gushes, "I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time or distance can change.[11] And Martha’s returned affection can be read between the lines of their lives: during the Revolutionary War, she followed George from camp to camp, tending to the wounded, mending their socks and soothing their spirits.


Her presence contributed immeasurably to the success of the Revolution, and she was revered by the soldiers for her sunny disposition. And no wonder—her wise credo was, “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”




During the Carters White House years, it was well known that Jimmy consulted with Rosalyn regularly, seeking her advice on his domestic and foreign affairs, speeches and appointments. She attended cabinet meetings and traveled the nation serving as his liason with the public. Rosalyn also made the most “overtly political international missions ever assumed by a First Lady[12] in Central and South America. Jimmy liked to say that his wife was "an equal extension of myself," and their biographers wrote [13], "Their outward similarities of character appear to be so noticeable that one interviewer, after talking to each of them separately, declared that he had just met 'two Jimmy Carters.”

After returning to private life, the couple partnered in creating the Carter Center [14], developing projects that garnered them acclaim as international humanitarians. On his 75th birthday, President Carter was asked to name the most important thing he had ever done in his life. Without hesitation he replied, "Marrying Rosalynn."

From the springboards of dynamic, centered, empowering partnerships, these influential couples have elevated the role of leadership to new heights. Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich’s dynamic and mutually empowering relationship offers the potential to be one of the most significant, healing and compassionate presidential partnerships the world has ever seen. I’m on the edge of my seat.




Image of President James Madison in 1812 used with permission

Washington Posed in Military Uniform image used with permission

Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter March 19, 2003. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, pose at the Atlanta Symphony Hall in the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia, at an event celebrating President Carter's Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in December 2002. Photo Credit: Stephen Cord/The Carter Center

Other images: Public Domain.

[7] University of Kent, U.K.

[8] Videos of speeches by the Kuciniches: Dennis Kucinich's appearance at the "Global warming & America's energy future," a presidential forum co-sponsored by Grist and PRI's Living On Earth. The forum took place at the Wadsworth Theater in Los Angeles on Nov. 17, 2007. Elizabeth Kucinich Talks About Universal Health Care, Nov. 11, 2007, Denver, CO.  

[10] “Liberties; The First Farmeress” Maureen Dowd June 17, 2001 NY Times

[13] Bruce Mazlish and Edwin Diamond

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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