First Woman President . . . in India

It's an oddity that the United States is behind in this contest.

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India's selection this past weekend of Pratibha Patil as its first female president was a landmark of sorts and a reminder of another sort.

Sure, it is noteworthy that India has its first woman president. But in India, control of the country belongs to the person with the title of prime minister. India's presidency is more akin to our vice presidency, or our pre-Cheney vice presidency. To wit, India's presidency is more of a ceremonial position.

Beyond that, India has already had a female prime minister—and not just any old female country leader but one of the earliest (elected in 1966) and most powerful of all women to lead a major nation thus far:Indira Gandhi. The Gandhi family (actually the Nehru/Gandhi family—Indira was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and is no relation to Mohandas Gandhi) is so potent in Indian politics that Indira Gandhi's daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi is that country's Congress leader.

It's also noteworthy that Patil's selection (she was not elected by popular vote but by a vote of national and state lawmakers) comes as our nation is contemplating the election of its first female president. The average American woman enjoys much more freedom than the average Indian woman—in the economic, legal, and workplace realms. But it's still an oddity of international politics that India should best us by way of elevating women to the highest posts in government so much sooner than the United States.

I hope we get to the point where a politician's gender is so immaterial (because women in power will be so commonplace) that we will barely notice whether the candidate is a man or a woman.