“If women are to be truly accepted as leaders in this country, nothing is more important than seeing women in high political office.” (The White House Project)
For more than a century, the nation’s women’s colleges have been particularly devoted to educating women of high ambition and great leadership ability. Our graduates have been among many “women firsts” across the national landscape of professional and political achievement. Yesterday, I received messages of congratulations from presidents of other women’s colleges as we all celebrated the latest round of achievements of our alumnae.
A Trinity Woman now stands on the highest rung any woman has ever achieved on the public leadership ladder, beholding the “marble ceiling” that once denied high Congressional leadership to women. When her peers formally elect her Speaker of the House in January, Nancy Pelosi, Class of 1962, will shatter that ceiling completely. She will be the most powerful legislator in the land. She will be second in the line of presidential succession, after the vice president of the United States. Her achievement raises the bar for all women who aspire to public leadership; her new title will proclaim the fulfillment of potential so long denied to women who aspired to high national office.
Robust debates may ensue about the politics of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, majority and minority parties. The fog of political war will soon obscure the electoral victories of the moment, and today’s winners may someday rue the day the voters favored them so kindly. Political victories are fleeting, but human achievement remains.
In the days to come, this singular achievement of a Trinity Woman will be a beacon in history for the aspirations of women through succeeding generations.
To understand the importance of this achievement for women’s leadership, consider the fact that even after this election, women still account for only 16 of 100 Senate seats. Only 86 women are among all 535 members of Congress, even though women are more than 50% of our nation’s population.
Only 8 women are currently governors of states, including Trinity Alumna Kathleen Gilligan Sebelius in Kansas. In all 225 years of U.S. history, only 25 women have ever been governors.
Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly said, “We have made history; now let us make progress.” There’s a lot of progress yet to be made on women’s ability to achieve high office in this country. Congresswoman Pelosi and Governor Sebelius have marched far from the Marble Corridor of their student days at Trinity, shattering the glass and marble ceilings they have encountered along the way. Thanks to their achievements, women have taken a giant step toward equality of opportunity in elected leadership.
See New York Times