“First 100 Days” mugs, mousepads, bumper stickers – Maslow’s hierarchy at work?

By Jean Latz Griffin

The New York Times asked about a week ago, what with all the hype about President Obama’s First Hundred Days, “Can 100th Day mugs be far behind?”

It was already too late.

Bold as brass on the pages of a well-known online store, there it was for $15.95, a white, black and gold mug with a pensive President Obama looking out a White House window at the Washington Moment and the inscription, “The First 100 Days.” A similar mouse pad with the same somber Obama, finger to lips, could be had for $11.95. The wrap-around mug also had a Presidential seal. Under it was a date, Feb. 16, 2009. The mouse pad also had that date. They were two-fers and had been on sale for months: a mug and mouse pad for both Obama’s first President’s Day in office and his First 100 Days as President.

Can you imagine archivists generations from now scratching their heads? “First 100 Days? February 16? That’s only Day 28.”

Confusing dates aside, however, what is it that drives us to buy mugs and mouse pads to celebrate a first Presidents Day or first 100 Days of a presidency? By yesterday, there were more 100th Day mugs for sale online, as well as bumper stickers, posters, caps and ties.


Don’t get me wrong, My fingers are as itchy as anybody’s to tap out the letters on the keyboard  that will send a shiny 100 Days mug, cocooned in bubble wrap and nestled in a brown cardboard box, to my home. It can hang on my mug rack next to the one with Michelle and Barack exchanging the celebratory fist bump or sit beneath my black and white Barack Obama yin yang button.

I just want to understand the addiction.

Why were “That One ’08” bumper stickers and t-shirts selling briskly barely a day after Sen. John McCain referred to then- Sen. Obama that way in a presidential debate? Why did the Sarah Palin action figures sell out before I could get mine in time for the election? (They are now again available.)


Beyond fund-raising during campaigns and showing support, some suggest hero worship could be one cause of our need to acquire objects that depict our leaders, rock stars, celebrities, or favorite villians. It may also stave off alienation in our over-mediated 21st Century to wear the same buttons and shirts as a few million other people we’ll never meet.

Could Maslow have had something like this kind of belonging in mind when he outlined his view of humanity’s hierarchy of needs in 1943? Does drinking a hot cup of coffee or tea with these iconic images on it make us feel safer, stronger, more daring? Why?

Let’s see what we think. Please take this totally unscientific but fun poll. Comments on these thoughts and the answers to the poll strongly encouraged.

About jeanlatzgriffin

Jean Latz Griffin is the owner of CyberINK, a small business that produces quirky skeleton-themed products. She has finished the first draft of a historical fantasy and received comments from her agent. She has turned to Orson Scott Card for tips on the second draft. She is author of "In the Same Breath," and "One Spirit: A Creation Story for the 21st Century." She has a certificate in creative writing from the University of Chicago's Writers Studio. Griffin is a member of the growing community of former Chicago Tribune reporters, enjoys Weekend Writing Warriors and the Story Studio in Chicago. Her Sheltie, Thunder, likes to "type" on her computer keys, and Dr Wu, a Weimaraner, likes to lick her ear when she is trying to think. Her husband passed in June of 2011. Her three fabulous grown sons live nearby. She plays violin in an amateur string orchestra.

4 Responses

  1. We want to be part of something larger than ourselves (your assessment is so right). A moment of great moment in history or a person of great moment qualifies. Maybe many people feel like something that engages huge numbers of people confers a more valid sense of belonging than do the small groups and events that I, as an “obscurist tourist”, tend to be involved in. Eastern Michigan University, by the way, has an enormous collection of political ephemera.

  2. Virginia Woolf said, “Nothing has really happened until it has been described.” From rock concerts to inaugurations to the Chi Omega spring beach party, perhaps the modern update to this is: nothing has really happened until it has been put on a t-shirt.

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