On the presidential campaign trail, Elizabeth Warren wanted to show girls everywhere that running for president is something girls do. She made "a zillion" pinkie promises so they would never forget.
And now, in between Senate votes, she's sending a reminder.
"One of the hardest parts about losing was thinking about all those little girls that I had reminded, 'This is what girls do,'" the U.S. senator told TODAY. "So I decided to write this book for them."
Her new children's book, "Pinkie Promises," illustrated by Charlene Chua, tells the story of Polly, a girl who is told girls can't do a lot of things. Polly makes her own pinkie promise and is inspired to show everyone, including herself, just what girls can do.
When she was a girl, Warren never imagined she would one day run for president. "I grew up in an America where mamas told their daughters they could do two things: get married and have babies. And that's what my mother told me," she said.
But she credits Mrs. Lee, her second grade teacher, with helping her realize her potential by putting her in charge of a reading group and helping other children sound out words.
"One day, she she pulls me in close and whispers in my ear, 'Miss Betsy, you can be a teacher.' She changed my life," Warren said. "From that moment forward, I saw myself as someone who could do something, something more than the plan that had been laid out for me. And it changed everything I did."
Warren wants to send a similar message to young girls now. These days, there are many more women role models for little girls. But they still hear about things they can't do, Warren said.
"And I think it's important to be open about that, and push back. Little girls need to hear this. And so do little boys," she said.
Warren's persistence has inspired other children's books, including the "She Persisted" series of picture book and chapter book biographies written by Chelsea Clinton, as well as the picture book biography "Elizabeth Warren's Big, Bold Plans."
Illustrator Charlene Chua was excited to collaborate with Warren on "Pinkie Promises" because of the book's positive message.
"It also helped that Senator Warren has a gorgeous dog, Bailey, and I was excited to draw him!" she added.
Bailey pops up throughout the book, including in a reference to his famous burrito-stealing incident.
In "Pinkie Promises," Polly meets Warren and is inspired to take on challenges in her own life, like starting a new school, taking a shot in soccer and running for class president.
"It's about Polly squaring her shoulders, standing up straight and trying," Warren said. "It's not whether the kick scored a goal. It's that she got out there in front of a whole bunch of people at a very nervous-making moment and kicked it, because that's what girls do."
Warren's childhood experience with Mrs. Lee taught her another lesson — a lesson about the stories we tell ourselves.
"It taught me how important it is to tell yourself a story about what you can do," she said. She encourages parents to tell girls and boys that "opportunity is yours for the taking."
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