As happy as city leaders are that the District’s “Taxation Without Representation” plates will appear on the presidential limousine, Sarah Shapiro is happier.
Shapiro is the longtime Foggy Bottom resident who, back in 2000, first came up with the idea of putting the “Taxation Without Representation” message on D.C. license plates, thus creating hundreds of thousands of mobile billboards advertising the District’s status across the nation.
“I was absolutely thrilled,” she said in a Wednesday telephone interview. “Every once in a while I get another 15 minutes of fame.”
But the biggest part of the thrill, she said Wednesday, was that Barack Obama’s embrace of the plates also served as rebuke to her old Yale University classmates.
A explanation: Last month, the D.C. Vote nonprofit announced it was starting an online petition to force the White House to respond to demands that the “Taxation” plates go on the First Limo. Shapiro saw this and forwarded it to the Yale Class of 1972 e-mail list.
No one replied in support, she said. But about a half-dozen classmates — all male, which is not surprising given that ’72 was among the first Yale undergraduate classes to include women — replied to make various points about how the District doesn’t actually deserve congressional representation.
Their arguments, Shapiro said, included holding forth on the District’s dependence on the federal government, noting the District’s size compared to the states, and linking its status to the dismal quality of the city’s locally elected leadership. “I couldn’t believe that college-educated people could be so completely wrong,” she said. “It never dawned on me that anyone with a brain would think that D.C. doesn’t deserve representation. That was a mind-blowing experience.”
The exchange, Shapiro said, left her “downhearted” until she heard about the White House decision from a friend.
The presidents’ move might have been overdue, she said, but she appreciated it all the same: “Even if my classmates hate me, the president loves me.”