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Pearls, Politics, and the Power of Public Service

What an historic day to speak to a group of eighth and ninth grade girls about getting involved in politics. I’ve decided to make my contribution to community service by sharing my experiences with students—ranging from my ten year old granddaughter’s class, to college students. Today was special. I could barely contain my own excitement about the convergence of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and Barack Obama’s inauguration. They sensed the importance of the moment. One-eighth grader said she had never thought that politics was interesting or important until this election. The entire school, like schools all over the country, is going to watch the inauguration ceremony tomorrow. My assignment was to talk about women and politics because the students had read excerpts from my book, Pearls, Politics and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead. I pointed out how few women are elected to public office in the United States compared to other countries (17 percent in the Congress, compared to 25 percent in Iraq and 27.5 percent in Afghanistan). They understood how women make a difference because they bring different experiences into the political debate, using sexual harassment as an example. One student asked, “What advice would you give to us if we want to get involved?” My first response was to tell them to know what is going on in the world, read the newspapers or follow the news online. “You have to be informed, and information is power.” I explained that I had majored in history in college and got a master’s degree in English literature and journalism. “You use everything you ever learned,” I told them. There are also non-academic skills, like curiosity, a liking for people, the ability to listen, and to empathize with people who are very different from you. I explained that they had a choice in life. They could either live it on a very narrow level with blinkers on, or they could expand their horizons to include the world. “It’s like the difference between eating a peanut butter sandwich every day, or going to a banquet, getting a taste of everything,” They seemed to understand. I urged them to hold on to their dreams, to speak out, to not be afraid of disagreement, and most of all, to speak up for their beliefs. I told them how Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech was a memorable moment for me. Tomorrow, Barack Obama’s inauguration speech will have the same place in history for them. The two are intrinsically linked, because Obama would not have been able to take the oath of office, if King had not illuminated the way.

Tourist Eyes

For two weeks my husband and I traveled to London, Paris, Zurich and Bern—familiar haunts where one can drink water from the tap. Read More..

Gays in the Military

We’ve come a long way in the sixteen years since the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” was adopted to deal with the question of gay and lesbian members of the military.

This time, advocacy for repeal did not come from any outside group; it came from the apex of the military establishment itself. Read More..

The Supreme Court and Corporate Electioneering

The Supreme Court decision which will allow unfettered campaign contributions from corporations and unions poses a threat to the very workings of our democracy.

Read More..

In the Wake of Massachusetts

A political earthquake hit Massachusetts last night. The tectonic plates of the Democratic Party shifted with the election of Republican Scott Brown to the United States Senate and left untold amounts of debris in its wake. Read More..

Greeting the New Year

This time of year we automatically say "Happy New Year" to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, days after the champagne corks have popped and the fireworks are but a memory. It has become a standard greeting for the first days of January, partly to cheer ourselves up so we can face the rest of the winter. Read More..