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  • Sex and the Sole Female Presidential Candidate

    February 13, 2016

    shattered-glass-wallp-long-goodbye-920x350

    Oh, my goodness, we women do have a way of holding each other back from crashing through the glass ceiling.  It’s almost as if those who manage to shatter a small part of that thick glass wind up impaling themselves on the shards, or getting stabbed in the back by women on the rungs just below.

    Is that too harsh?  Well, consider the contretemps over the “women’s vote” and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton.

    Pundits are making much of the fact that the “younger women’s vote” is trending quite aggressively toward Senator Bernie Sanders, a progressive lefty whose age and gender seem to make no difference to younger voters, and that’s as it should be.  Yet, gender seems to make all kinds of difference for former Secretary of State Clinton, and her age also gets mentioned more than it should.  Call out the double standard and risk being seen as weak, paranoid or sour grapes.

    Candidate Clinton got it just right in the PBS Democratic debate when she said that we women should vote for whomever will make the best president, the candidate best qualified to be commander-in-chief, the person with skills and experience, not judged by biology.   But of course people make decisions based on superficial characteristics all the time which is why racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination continue to stunt the growth of so much potential.

    And that’s the reason why women and men both should analyze the candidates carefully for their ability to stand up to the pervasive and insidious forms of discrimination that still haunt so much of American society.  Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stepped on a landmine in New Hampshire when she said, using a phrase she has used often in the past, that, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”  Twitter exploded, Snapchat roared, and guess what — rightwing pundits had a field day watching women rip each other to shreds over the implication that women should vote for the woman candidate.  Commentaries abound about the “problem” of older, privileged white women who carry the feminist banner from the ’60’s claiming to know better than women of other ages, races and social class levels what’s best for them.  Is that any different from Donald Trump insisting that he knows what’s best for you?  So the argument goes…

    But Secretary Albright made a great deal of sense in her subsequent op-ed in the New York Times when she wrote,

    “What concerns me is that if we do not pay careful attention to this history, the gains we have fought so hard for could be lost, and we could move backward… The battle for gender equality is still being waged…When women are empowered to make decisions, society benefits. They will raise issues, pass bills and put money into projects that men might overlook or oppose.  Despite decades of progress, women still make less money than men for equivalent work. Paid family leave remains an elusive dream. Sexual abuse against women continues to plague our communities.”

    Women should certainly vote for whomever they wish, but we also need to bring the perspectives and concerns we share to the table and insist that all candidates give us fair and honest answers.  We hear candidates bellowing about how they will destroy healthcare reform, for example, with no good substitute on the horizon.  Healthcare is a huge issue for women, we must pay attention to what the candidates are saying about their plans to improve it.  We’ve heard precious little from any candidate about improving the conditions for affordable housing in communities, creating better paying jobs, ensuring equal pay for equal work, improving child care services and, perhaps most important, plans for education at all levels.  So much time in the debates has been allowed to dissipate in personal attacks and shameful grandstanding, yet we know very little about plans to build a much better American society in the future.

    What do you care about?  Trinity Women have always been at the forefront of American political debate.  We are so fortunate to have on our faculty today former Congresswoman and Distinguished Professor Barbara Kennelly, Class of 1958, who is a voice of clear wisdom on many issues including the imperative to have women present at the table when important legislative decisions are made.   Our Alumna Nancy Pelosi, Class of 1962, the first and only woman to be Speaker of the House, continues to do amazing work at the Democratic Leader.  She is an ardent champion for women’s rights and never tires of reminding us that women must be present every place where decisions are being made on issues that affect women, children and families.

    In the days to come, we will have opportunities on campus to discuss more about all of the issues in the current campaign.  Please be actively engaged — whatever candidate you favor, whatever positions you espouse, what’s most important is to be involved, speak your mind, and in the end, please VOTE!

    Your thoughts are welcome on this blog, please comment using the link below.

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    And They’re Off! Primaries, At Last!

    February 1, 2016

    iowaIowa can appear, on the surface, to be a lonely state with vast open farm fields and few population centers.  More than two times as many people live in New York City (8.5 million) as in Iowa (3 million).  More than three times as many people live in the District of Columbia (658,000) as in Des Moines (207,000).  So why should we care what happens when the people of Iowa gather in caucuses tonight to declare their preferences for the presidential nominees of each party?

    The Iowa Caucuses — not really primary elections, but a citizen-driven choice process nonetheless — are a quintessential American political event.  Since 1972, these local gatherings of voters throughout the state of Iowa have become the opening bell for the presidential primary season.  While the results of the caucuses rarely anoint the ultimate nominees of either party, the process has a way of winnowing the field, strengthening the positions of some candidates and posing complex challenges to those who might appear to be front-runners.

    Yes, it seems like we’ve been in the presidential primary season for decades, and yes, it would be so good if we could get to the party conventions more quickly.  The media din, dominated by too many shrill voices and not enough insightful analysis of issues, has made this season even more tedious and distracting.  The primary season thus far has seemed more like a reality TV show that has run its course rather than a profoundly serious effort to discern who can truly lead this nation in such difficult times.  Should the loudest voices win?  Should the candidate with the deepest pockets dominate?  Have we really heard how the candidates will tackle some of our most pressing national issues — jobs, poverty, education, gun violence, racism and declining equal opportunity?  We seem to hear a lot about building walls to keep people out but little about how the next leader will serve the people who are still living inside these borders.

    You may never set foot in Iowa, but you should pay close attention to what’s happening in the Iowa Caucuses tonight — and in the New Hampshire primary next week  on Tuesday, February 9.  This nation is about to elect a president — always a consequential choice, but in this historic era with so much change in the wind, a choice that could truly determine the fate of our lives for decades to come.  Pay attention!  More to come on this blog as the election season moves ahead…

    If you were at the Iowa Caucuses, for which candidate would you stand up to be counted?  Comment on the link below….

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    What Would Dr. King Say?

    January 18, 2016

    Martin-Luther-King-Jr-Quotes-1006(photo credit)

    Listening to the ugly, inflammatory rhetoric of some of the candidates in this presidential campaign season, I sometimes feel that the progress clock has rolled back, not just a few years, but half a century or more.  Certain candidates cavalierly dismiss the hard-won gains in civil rights of the last 50-75 years as mere “political correctness.”  Those same candidates call for increasing our society’s disposition to violence by arming more citizens with guns; for pretending to make everyone feel more secure by raising fences higher and keeping out people who don’t look like “us” whomever that may be — how can you tell who looks like “us” or who worships like “us” in a nation deliberately composed of people from just about every race, religion, nationality, custom and culture in the world?  The Civil Rights Movement succeeded in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s because of a strong national belief that democracy demands the unyielding commitment to freedom and justice for all people; that our diversity is our strength.

    That belief in the moral imperative of justice for all did not just emerge in peaceful osmosis; generations of human suffering in slavery, the slaughter of the Civil War and atrocities against African Americans committed in the decades after emancipation exposed the human consequences of the evil of racism and hatred.  In the 1950’s, this nation was also coming to grips with the realities exposed at Dachau and Auschwitz, the Holocaust, the heinous effort of one xenophobic dictator who managed to convince millions of his own citizens to commit unfathomable acts to eradicate an entire race of people in an effort to build a “racially pure” society.   We all should go back to class to study the lessons of History more carefully.

    On this 2016 observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I find myself wondering what he would say to the politicians who are stoking the coals of racial and ethnic fear and suspicion once more, who are engaging in reckless rhetoric that encourages more violence and raises the spectre of repression of human rights and civil liberties in the name of national security.

    In April 1957, after the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education but years before the force of the civil rights movement led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to the Citizens Committee of Greater St. Louis.  In a prescient speech that has so many themes that echo still today, Dr. King warned of the tendency to think that a few gains, such as school desegregation, ended the quest for real civil rights.  “Peace is not merely the absence of tension, but it is the presence of justice,” he declared.

    He warned of becoming complacent in the face of still-overwhelming evidence of violence against Black persons (“Men and women are being shot because they merely have a desire to stand up and vote as first class citizens…”) and extreme poverty afflicting the Black community.

    In 1957, Dr. King noted that, “…just twelve percent of the Negro families of America make five thousand dollars or more a year, while forty percent of the white families of America make five thousand dollars or more a year.”  I wonder what he’d say about a 2013 Pew Research Study that shows the racial wealth gap wider than ever, with White households having a median net worth of $141,000 while Black households have a median net worth of just $11,000.  He would say, as he said in 1957 in St. Louis, “We’ve come a long, long way, but we have a long, long way to go in economic equality.”

    Dr. King’s 1957 speech could be given today.  He said that,  “We must face the fact that segregation is still a reality in America” and so it is today in too many neighborhoods and public schools.  He noted that, “The underlying philosophy of segregation is diametrically opposed to the underlying philosophy of democracy and Christianity.”  Yet, he also was realistic about resistance to change:  “History has proven that social systems have a great last-minute breathing power and the guardians of the status quo are always on hand with their oxygen tents to keep the old order alive.”

    The “old order” is rearing its ugly head in the 2016 presidential race, nearly 60 years after Dr. King spoke in St. Louis. The Supreme Court has already undermined the Voting Rights Act, and Congress looks the other way.  In 1957, Dr. King forewarned the rise of reactionary organizations — “the White Citizens’ Councils” — determined to maintain segregation.  Iin 2016 the reality of whites-only organizations may be found everywhere from militias in some regions even to secret organizations on university campuses.

    In 1957 in that speech in St. Louis, Dr. King noted that the majority of the world’s citizens are people of color, and that oppression (colonialism, imperialism in the language of those times) is an international problem.  He said that the oppressed peoples of the world look to the United States for leadership, but so long as the U.S. treats its own people of color disgracefully, the threat exists that the world’s oppressed people will look elsewhere for leadership and liberation:  “Oh, the hour is getting late.  The clock of destiny is ticking out.  We’ve got to say this to the nation that we are not fighting for ourselves along, we are fighting for this nation.  For if America doesn’t wake up, she will one day arise and discover that the uncommitted peoples of the world have given their allegiance to a false…ideology…. the civil rights issue is not some ephemeral, evanescent domestic issue that can be kicked around by reactionary and hypocritical politicians.  but it is an eternal moral issue which may well determine the destiny of our nation in its ideological struggle…”

    The ideology at the center of the struggle in 1957 was communism.  Today that ideology is the nihilism of terrorism as practiced by ISIS, Al Quaeda and other rogue international groups.  These groups feed off the fear of people who feel oppressed and maltreated by governments.

    If he were alive today, Dr. King would surely call upon the presidential candidates to tone down their rhetoric of fear and violence and racial hatred.  Even more, he would demand that equality and justice be put back into the center of political discourse, that the primary goal of the election should be to find a leader who can restore America’s moral authority in the world as a place of true justice and equal opportunity for all.

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    Sisters of Notre Dame

    January 12, 2016

    Love this photo of our alumnae Susan Tew ’62 and Louise Hallahan Stakelin ’76 visiting Sr. Margaret Claydon!

    Susan Margaret LouiseAnd if you have not already seen Sr. Margaret’s video greeting for the new year, please scroll down to the next blog…!

    Last week, I wrote to our large Trinity family about a change in the residence of the Sisters of Notre Dame who are now living at Trinity.  The text of the letter is below.  The SNDs mean so much to all of us who have shared in their mission and ministry at Trinity, and we are working to be sure that their influence and presence continues in many ways on campus.  We are so fortunate that Sr. Mary Johnson, SND and Sr. Camilla Burns, SND are on our faculty.  Sr. Mary Johnson, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies, is a nationally renowned scholar on religious life, and her recent book New Generations of Catholic Sisters is widely acclaimed.  Sr. Camilla Burns, Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, is a highly respected theologian and expert in ministry.

    Together, Sr. Mary Johnson and Sr. Camilla Burns, along with then-Campus Minister Sr. Mary Ellen Dow, SND, created the Billiart Center for Social Justice.  Named in honor of the founder of the Sisters of Notre Dame St. Julie Billiart, the Billiart Center provides a rich intellectual program of lectures, discussions and social justice projects to ensure the vitality of the mission and charism of the Sisters of Notre Dame at Trinity.  Check out the Spring 2016 line-up of lectures and events at the Billiart Center!

    Below is the text of my letter to the Trinity family concerning changes in the SND residence at Trinity:

    President’s Letter to the Trinity Family

    shield transparentJanuary 6, 2016

    Dear Alumnae, Alumni and Friends in the Trinity Family,

    In every season, some change is inevitable, and as the year 2016 dawns at Trinity, I wanted to share with you some news about the Sisters of Notre Dame in residence at Trinity. In the last few months, the SNDs at Trinity have engaged in a process of discernment about their future home. The sisters have found it increasingly challenging to live as a relatively small community in the very large spaces of Main Hall. The convent at Trinity once accommodated scores of sisters, but today just eight sisters remain in this very large residence. All but two of the sisters are fully retired. The discernment process led the sisters to decide to move out of this very large house into smaller and more manageable environments. Several will head to Villa Julie in Baltimore. Those who are still active in teaching and service to Trinity will live nearby in smaller residences. These moves will occur in the next six months.

    As you may recall, late last year Sr. Margaret Claydon moved to Mount Notre Dame in Cincinnati where she is receiving excellent care following a fall on campus. (I visited her just this past weekend and she is doing very well, and sent a video greeting that you can see on my blog.) She will remain in residence at Mount Notre Dame; we hope that she will be able to return to Trinity for events such as reunion and the dedication of our new academic center.

    The Sisters of Notre Dame are an integral part of the fabric of Trinity, and the values, faith and charism of the SNDs that inform Trinity’s mission are timeless. Trinity and the SNDs will continue our inseparable partnership even as the sisters retire from residence on campus. Sr. Patricia O’Brien chairs our board of trustees and other SNDs continue on the board. Sr. Mary Hayes continues as Trinity’s archivist. Sr. Camilla Burns and Sr. Mary Johnson continue as members of our faculty and leaders of the Billiart Center for Social Justice. The Billiart Center was specifically created to be sure that the animating values of St. Julie and the SNDs continue at Trinity even with new forms of relationship.

    All of us at Trinity owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Sisters of Notre Dame for their vision, courage and steadfastness in ensuring the vitality of Trinity’s mission. The best — and still most revolutionary! — idea at Trinity was the idea of the Sisters of Notre Dame to found this college. Thousands of Trinity alumnae and alumni have thrived thanks to the work of the SNDs, and their mission and influence in the world continues in the work of our graduates.

    Our gratitude to the Sisters of Notre Dame is immense, and we look forward to continuing to enjoy their moral and spiritual influence, wise guidance and passionate commitment to social justice as we work together in advancing the mission of Trinity in the years to come.

    With gratitude to the Sisters of Notre Dame,

    Patricia McGuire ’74
    President

    Share your comments and tributes to Sr. Margaret and the Sisters of Notre Dame by posting a comment using the link below…. or send me your messages (and photos!) at president@trinitydc.edu and I will post them here!

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    A Message from Sr. Margaret

    January 3, 2016

    On New Year’s Day I drove out to Cincinnati to visit with Sr. Margaret Claydon at Mount Notre Dame.  She’s in excellent health and wonderful spirits!  We had a lovely lunch and compared notes about many things (“two presidents” always have much to discuss, from accreditation to buildings to the state of higher education and the world!).

    Sr. Margaret is always a good sport and eagerly agreed to send the video message, above.  I know she’d love to hear from you, so please drop her a note at:

    Sr. Margaret Claydon, SND
    Mount Notre Dame
    699 E. Columbia Avenue
    Cincinnati, OH  45215

    And if you are in Cincinnati or happen to be nearby, she’d love to see members of the great Trinity family.

    Happy New Year!

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    Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
    Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: president@trinitydc.edu

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