Sunday, March 27, 2011

GERALDINE FERRARO'S LEGACY OF HOPE

On July 4, 1984 I was one of 23 elected and appointed women leaders who called on Senator Walter Mondale (Dem. MN) in Minneapolis-St. Paul hoping to convince him to choose a woman as his vice-presidential nominee.

We did not ask for a particular woman but we did speak strongly in favor of a woman vice-president. The rest is history since he chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate.

The women involved in meeting with Mondale were strong and experienced believers in women’s leadership capabilities, recognizing the potential women offer for more balance in the political world. Mondale's selection of Ferraro a week later gave us hope for the future of women leaders but it took 27 years for it to happen once again.

Gerry Ferraro has always been known for her candor, something that is not always appreciated by politicians and many cultural leaders. It seems that the “family secrets” are supposed to remain just that: secret. Sensitive issues, especially sexism and racism, are taboo because society has worn blinders on those subjects for centuries on end.

In 2008 when Gerry commented that Obama’s candidacy was historic, she was immediately attacked as a racist. Here is how she responded (and it is an outstanding example of her no-nonsense candor):

"Why is his candidacy historic? Can you give me another reason why it is an historic campaign? Why are we afraid to say this? I am absolutely stunned by this whole thing. I’m not saying he isn’t qualified, never did I say that. He is very smart. He has experience issues, but if George Bush can learn to run the country, so can this guy."

What is significant in her statement is that she pointed out many times in the last 27 years that her selection as the vice-presidential nominee by Mondale was based on her being female.

Lynn Sherr, former ABC News correspondent and author, writes in The Daily Beast March 26 about Gerry’s comments election night when the Mondale candidacy carried only his home state of Minnesota:

"The days of discrimination are numbered," she said. "American women will never be second-class citizens again."

Ferraro’s wisdom about her candidacy is revealed in her New York Times obituary today. She wrote a letter to the Times about her place in history in 1988 by pointing out that she would not have been selected by Mondale if she had not been a female. On the political realities of 1984, she candidly addressed the Reagan factor by saying that he had been at the height of his popularity, the economy was moving again, inflation and interest rates were down. The final clincher:

"Throwing Ronald Reagan out of office…..(at that time)….would have required God on the ticket…and She was not available."

Even today, in 2011, the United States remains one of only three major countries without ever having a woman at the helm (the others are Italy and Japan).

It is time to correct this long-standing problem by remembering Geraldine Ferraro's legacy to women and to the world.

Note: Many years have passed and I do not remember all the people at the Mondale meeting but I do remember Lt. Gov. Marlene Johnson (MN), Judy Goldsmith, president of NOW, and Bob Bechtel, Democratic party consultant and Fox News consultant, like Gerry.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Road We Have Traveled

The weekend of March 19-20, 2011, is a big one in several ways.

First, the biggest full moon in 18 years is set for Saturday March 19, a moon that portends to create highly emotional events.

Second, the Spring Equinox is Sunday, March 20, an event that signifies rebirth and new beginnings.

During times like these, crashing economies, failing banks, earthquakes, nuclear holocaust possibilities, tsunamis, and manmade wars in the Middle East warn us that we have not gone down the good road to success, peace, and prosperity for quite a while.

Instead, we have gone down the road of imbalance in all things. Three millennia of all male leadership in business, politics and religion with rapidly occurring personal, spiritual and physical conflicts are an indication we need drastic change.

The best possible change includes balancing leadership between the sexes. When the World Economic Forum strongly suggests more women are needed in leadership positions, there is hope that balance between the sexes will finally be achieved.

Women's History Month generates more interest every year about the achievements of women throughout history. People are hungry to know more about what women can do and actively seek out the information. We have come a long way since the 1970s when women finally began to be written back into the historical saga.

On a personal note, my sister Dottie sent a May 7, 1972 clipping from the Arkansas Gazette recently that is one of the best historical reports on just how women were trained and viewed before the equality race became a necessity.

The Gazette society page featured the 1972 Junior League of Little Rock provisionals with photos of all 36 women, two of whom were still single. Each married woman is named by their married names in the article and cutlines. I was named "Mrs. Charles D. Hughes" instead of my name Julia Rumph Hughes.

In case you do not get the meaning of this, all women at the time were considered appendages and accessories to their husbands, not individuals with their own talents and skills. Our value was found only in how we accommodated everyone except our personal selves. We women did not value ourselves in a relationship with husbands at all: we valued the needs of the husband as we were taught to do. We were there for the benefit of husband and family only.

Today we women value our ideas, goals, and dreams. That valuation is the difference between the 1970s and today after years of fighting for equality in all things.

In 2008 Hillary Clinton faced the brunt of that valuation of her personal being as an accommodation and accessory only in relation to her husband.

As a result of this 2008 slapdown by both men and women in her own party, she has become a world leader extraordinaire where everyone recognizes her as her own person, not an appendage.

Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor in their recent book Traveling with Pomegranates have coined a perfect description of Hillary Clinton that reveals what she has done for the world of women:

"Women who bear the weight of opposition"..."create a shelter for the rest of us."

When you are in doubt about what we must do as women to promote peace and prosperity in this world of ours, remember the Hillary shelter.