by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
August 13, 2009
REMARKABLE WOMEN ARE IN THE NEWS
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- In August of 1983, Benigno Aquino, an opponent of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, returned home from three years in exile. He didn't even make it into town - he was shot and killed at the airport.
A few days later, his wife, Corazon, returned to lead his funeral procession. Millions joined her. Marcos called an election. Aquino opposed him. Marcos tried to steal the election. The rest is history.
"The lady in the yellow dress, simple, bespectacled, plain not just in her housewifery but also in her demeanor, (was) a contrast in every way to the stylish Imelda (Marcos), who was still stuffing the boudoirs of the presidential palace with frocks and furs and shoes, shoes, shoes," wrote The Economist in its obituary of Aquino last week. "The power, however, was with the people, and the people were with Cory."
Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco Aquino, who died on August 1 at the age of 76, became the first female president of the Philippines and the first female president of any country in Asia. And the airport is now named after her husband.
Aquino showed that "nonviolent social change could no longer be dismissed as wishful thinking," wrote novelist and columnist James Carroll in the Boston Globe. "A modest woman who overcame her fear to speak truth and uphold justice started something that is not finished."
What happened in the Philippines has not yet happened in, say, Iran. But it gives us hope.
Another remarkable woman, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, died this week at the age of 88.
As a Kennedy, Shriver survived great trauma. But as the founder of the Special Olympics, her achievements possibly outshine even those of her accomplished male siblings. They certainly have touched, and changed, the lives of millions of people. The Special Olympics are now held in 160 countries. More than one million athletes participate.
Not all the remarkable women in the news are there because they died. New Supreme Court Justice Sonia Maria Sotomayor, 55, was sworn in on August 6th as the Court's 111th justice, its first Hispanic justice, and its third female justice. (Yes, only its third!)
Aside from her impressive academic credentials and resume, Sotomayor has now attracted widespread admiration for the graceful way she endured what was a remarkably silly confirmation process. Along the way, Hispanic women in New York are now proudly wearing t-shirts proclaiming they are also "Wise Latinas."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, also did herself - and all of us - proud this week.
On Tuesday, on her African trip, she met with Congolese President Joseph Kabila and traveled to a large camp outside the city of Goma, where about 18,000 displaced people have sought refuge from insurgents and other armed groups.
"She said the United States is offering Congo $17 million to fight sexual violence, including about $10 million to train doctors to treat victims of sexual attacks," reported National Public Radio's Corey Flintoff.
This offer was not widely reported by others in the media, who focused on a translator's error. But am I wrong in thinking that only a female secretary of state would have taken on this issue so directly?
Clinton also connected violence with the trade in "conflict minerals," such as tantalum, tungsten and tin, which are used in making components for electronic goods.
"Clinton's visit to Goma, aboard a United Nations plane, was the first by a U.S. secretary of state to the city that has been at the center of the long-running war," Flintoff reported. "According to the Associated Press, some of Clinton's top aides opposed the stop in Goma, citing concerns for her safety in one of Africa's most volatile war zones."
"It shows what a high priority this is for her," Jendayi Frazer, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs during the Bush Administration, told Flintoff. "It's always very difficult to get clearance for a trip like this."
Here's a startling fact: according to projections by the U.S. Census, white Americans will be in the minority in the United States as early as 2042. And more than half of all U.S. children are expected to be from minority ethnic groups by 2023.
What is this country coming to? A black man as president. A Latina on the Supreme Court. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state running around Africa condemning rape. Nancy Pelosi running the House of Representatives and being third in line for the presidency. Gays getting married and having children.
No wonder Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs feel as if the world is coming down around their ears. No wonder they distort, lie and incite hatred, rage and violence to keep even a semblance of their dwindling power.
Luckily, younger people overwhelmingly reject this kind of conservative manipulation.
The world has changed, and amid all the shouting, the lives and the lasting achievements of people like Aquino, Shriver, Sotomayor and Clinton give us a glimmer of hope for a better future.
Joyce Marcel is a journalist. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.