Yes She Can

Ages: 12 and upPublisher: Random House Author: Molly Dillon


In Yes She Can, 10 young women give readers an insider’s view into their day-to-day work during President Barack Obama’s Administration. Compiled by Molly Dillion, the narratives tell stories of the fun and frustrations, the tireless hard work, the menial and meaningful tasks, and the persistence and resilience required to survive get the job done.

Who are these young women? Not cabinet members or high-powered appointees, many of them were unpaid interns. Yet, these women, of different backgrounds and ethnicity, tackled important jobs and, in doing so, learned empowerment.

Vivian Graubard, in her 20s, helped to create policy that fights human trafficking through digital technology. Nita Contreras, 25, was the assistant staff secretary who assembled President Obama’s daily briefing binder. Taylor Lustig helped to organize the White House’ South Lawn ceremony during Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States.

To some degree, the book reads like young women talking to other young women, whether that particular day they should be wearing more comfortable shoes, or if they double-checked their wake-up alarms before pulling up a blanket on their office couch to sleep, or ticking through a packing list to make sure they had an ethernet chord, pens, paper clips, binders, etc., for a presidential trip.

Dillon, who at 25 was Obama’s “Policy Assistant for Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity Office, Domestic Policy Council” worked on policy for kids in the foster-care system. Her chapter begins: “I am not a morning person. But my favorite time in the White House complex is before sunrise, when the grounds are quiet and still.”

Some of this is charmingly about the long hours, the routine and mundane; some is pure inspiration. But, throughout, there’s a strong sense of purpose and public service that’s admirable. While learning that politics can be treacherous, these young women also discover that public service can be creative and rewarding.

Don Oldenburg ©2019 Parents’ Choice

A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of “The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion” (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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