Occasionally in American pop culture, an icon emerges who captivates us and provides a vivid snapshot of who we are and the changing times in which we live. In her role as Olivia Pope, Scandal’s unflappable political fixer, Kerry Washington has used her grace and vibrant magnetism to transcend age, race and gender, and to provide a new mainstream media lens through which to view modern womanhood and professional excellence.
Setting aside the “scandalous” melodrama necessary to sustain a fictional series so titled, Kerry has offered up a fresh new archetype for what it means to lead while combining courage and compassion, strength and vulnerability, passion, steely discipline and unfailing loyalty. It is a role that makes full use of her distinctive talent for drawing in audiences with such authenticity that we often forget she is acting.
Kerry’s work with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities since 2009 is also a source of deep inspiration, using arts education to close achievement gaps and ignite passion among young people.
In a world that too often tells little girls to choose between womanhood and success, between femininity and a seat at the head of the table, both onscreen and off Kerry Washington embodies the promise that lives in all our young people to shape their own destinies and succeed as “gladiators” for the causes in which they believe.
Jarrett is a senior adviser to the U.S. President