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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Women Shaping Politics

Living in Montpelier, the capital of Vermont there is always a plethora of political endeavors stretching across town. Last night for one a legislative reception sponsored by the Vermont Historical Society was flowing with many of Vermont’s legislative leaders and other dignitaries. Events welcoming legislators all throughout town keep the capitol city buzzed with activity. Last night, former Governor Madeleine Kunin delivered a passionate speech on the progression of women in politics.

The event sponsored by the Vermont Historical Society was themed after Clarina Howard Nichols, a prominent woman’s suffragist from Vermont. History had been for years taught in manner that did not connect the dots from those of the past to the trends of today. Governor Kunin did just that and connected the past to the present. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, and other woman political leaders would not be where they are today “if it were not for the foremothers.”

In the past, women had been virtually left out of the male centered power structure and history has treated women as a figure of irrelevancy. Many of the women who bravely stood up never got a chance to see the progress they set forth in society. The struggle for change was a movement that lasted hundreds of years and it is often overlooked how important it was. Women like Clarina Howard Nichols, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Alice Paul and all the way through the modern times of Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinman and political leaders such as Geraldine Ferraro, Madeleine Kunin as Governor of Vermont and Gaye Symington, Vermont Speaker of the House had set forth the path for woman like Nancy Pelosi to ascend to her position today. Clarina Howard Nichols “paved the way” for the dreams of today.

Woman today can become President, and then she stated “the importance isn’t the Presidency it is the dream.” As witnessed with Nancy Pelosi’s invitation to include children at the gavel on her inauguration day, women are connecting the importance of children and social needs to the political spectrum. Not withstanding that some men have as well, but in general women have crossed party lines and brought out a more compassionate understanding of the social needs of society.

I briefly conversed with Governor Kunin afterwards and expressed my gratitude for her words and commitment. In particular I was thrilled about her remarks during the last election cycle when she endorsed Congressman Peter Welch over a woman. Instead of endorsing Martha Rainville she stated how she always wants to see a woman win but in that case “I would rather see the right man win.” Too frequently there have been those who have overlooked the credibility of an individual and chosen someone of a particular demographic group just for the sake of it.

As witnessed in recent political discussions a woman and an African-American have become serious contenders for the presidency while their political leanings have been over-looked. I for one would rather see the right person ascend to the presidency rather than a candidate who continues the brutality of today’s political world. We as a nation have progressed and advanced to the point where these candidates are giving the chance to serve, but if they are not offering any thing new to the discussion how different are they from the powers that be. The system has been broken and a wolf in sheep’s clothing is not an answer to today's vast problems.

As our society has progressed there have been marketable improvements in equality. One could look at the still abundant inequalities and look at it in pessimistic way. While the world is exhausting from global warming or under constant threat of war there is a disconnection of humanity within politics; women can be that bridge. Our children and women of society “can not be bystanders to their I-Pods and U-Tube, when young men are dying in Iraq; we can not be bystanders,” she charged as a calling for women and others of conscious to be involved.

With the influx of woman in politics, “they can by with their individualized energy create hope and change.” As society has seen some great advances particularly with the advancements of women in society there are many faults that still need to be addressed. The continued degradation of our environment, low wages that are withholding the abilities of life liberty and happiness and the entrenched war in Iraq are issues that need attention. As history has shown with the women’s suffrage movement change does not happen overnight but that it takes commitment from many people in order for society to advance. There is no magic button but if each individual acts eventual change will happen. “Make an impact, make a difference be a whole human being,” she passionately urged those in attendance.

Robb Kidd

“Women need to see ourselves as individuals capable of creating change. That is what political and economic power is all about: having a voice, being able to shape the future. Women's absence from decision-making positions has deprived the country of a necessary perspective.”--Madeleine Kunin


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