For one glorious year, while an assistant professor at the University of
Oklahoma (ou), each Friday afternoon I ceased being a scholar and be-
came a Girl Scout. As a Girl Scouts Pathways volunteer, I brought the
Girl Scouts curriculum to third and fourth graders at a predominately
black elementary school on Oklahoma City’s northwest side. Each week,
equipped with worksheets on self- esteem and the words of the “Girl Scout
Promise” carefully memorized, I listened to the girls articulate their varied
interests and whisper secrets about each other, and I accepted their invita-
tions into learning about their dreams for the future. “Dr. Marcia, I went
to the ou girls’ basketball game.” “I’m going to be a veterinarian and take
care of puppies.” “I’m going to be a teacher, like you.”
Of all the moments I shared with the girls, among the songs celebrat-
ing friendships, the games designed to instill confidence in them, and the
skits directed by me and the co-leader that filled the hour- long meetings,
I was most struck by one gathering in the winter of 2009. I often led the
Scouts through a quick current events lesson, and on the tail of a presiden-
tial inauguration I had a few questions for them. First question: “Who
are the new president and first lady?” “Barack Obama and Michelle,” they
answered with such enthusiasm I feared the librarian would ban us from
the library indefinitely. I had no idea what was in store when I asked the
second question. “And who are their daughters?” In a burst of energy that
can only be described as ecstatic and never appeared again even on Girl
Scout Cookie Day, the girls jumped up and down and cheered: “Sasha
and Malia!” The mere mention of the first daughters led to a flurry of facts
and anecdotes they had undoubtedly gleaned from months of watching
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