Project's goal: woman president


WASHINGTON -- Like many fifth-graders, Alex Desaulniers dreams of becoming president one day. But on a recent trip to the White House, the 9-year-old girl was surprised to see that none of the presidential portraits were of women.

Alex helped launch a campaign yesterday to increase the number of women who run for president and to instill realistic presidential aspirations in young girls like herself.

"One of the most important things the White House Project will do is give us permission to dream about making the world a better place," said April Bethea, a North Carolina high school junior who was also at the group's first public event yesterday.

The project's founder, Marie White, president of the Ms. Foundation, described it as "a nonpartisan initiative that is going to create a climate where we can elect a woman president." White's last project, "Take Our Daughters To Work Day," is now in its sixth year.

The White House Project's first step will be to showcase female role models and leaders for the benefit of both young girls and typical American voters.

According to research done by the White House Project staff, 75 percent of American voters would vote for a qualified female candidate, if they knew who the candidate was and what her qualifications were.

A recent poll in USA Today pitted Elizabeth Dole against Vice President Al Gore for the 2000 presidency and found the race too close to call.

The White House Project plans to offer a ballot of its own this November over the Internet and at malls and polling places in 12 states (though not Maryland). The ballot will list 20 U.S. women and their qualifications, and voters will be asked to choose the five women they would most like to see run for president. Results will be announced in December.

In the meantime, members of the project intend to get the word out about women leaders and the advantages they would bring to the Oval Office.

Pub Date: 6/12/98

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