Down the Ballot

Friday, April 1, 2011

Governor Barbara Roberts on Gerry Ferraro

My post the other day on Geraldine Ferraro and the Oregonian article by Emily Smith got me thinking a little more about what Ferraro's candidacy for Vice President really meant to some folks. I got the chance to find out a little bit more about what former Governor Barbara Roberts thought of Ferraros role in the 1984 campaign.

Here are her expanded comments on the convention, and the campaign.

Frm. Governor Barbara Roberts
1984 was already an exciting year for me.  I had won the Democratic nomination for Oregon Secretary of State in my first statewide campaign plus being chosen as a Delegate to the 1984 Democratic National Convention.  But the best was yet to come.
I will never forget the night Geraldine Ferraro was nominated as Vice-President.  Hundreds and hundreds of male Delegates had temporarily vacated their seats on the convention floor to allow women Alternate Delegates to be seated in their place while this portion of the convention took place. It was reportedly the largest number of women official delegates ever seated on the floor of a political convention in American history.  Excitement was in the air in every state delegation.  When Geraldine Ferraro stepped to the microphone following the nomination speeches, the convention went wild!  Thousands of women stood, many on their chairs, and began cheering and chanting and applauding. You could hear thousands of voices: "Gerry! Gerry! Gerry!"  Women were embracing, singing, weeping.  The floor demonstration went on and on.

For me, and for these thousands of women delegates assembled in that convention hall, this was clearly a special moment in history. We had been given "political maturity" by our party.  We were no longer simply "the girls" who licked stamps, made phone calls, walked door-to-door. Our party's nominee for Vice-President of the United States was a woman! Gerry was intelligent, articulate, politically experienced, and prepared to serve. I stood on my chair, shouting, waving an American flag, and totally amazed at what was happening. I slowly turned around, making a full circle on my chair,witnessing a scene that I wished to always remember. I returned to my position, facing the stage, viewing Geraldine Ferraro through my tears. There would be no turning back. For women, America had taken a giant step forward.
I campaigned with Mondale and Ferraro when they came to Oregon. I was thrilled and privileged to accompany Gerry on her campaign visit to our state.  We all know the result of that national race but regardless of the election outcome, women in politics won in 1984.  I was honored to win by race for Secretary of State as the first Democrat elected to that position in Oregon in 110 years. Pioneers like Gerry don't always win but they create the path, build the foundation, so those of us that follow can know success and make a difference. Geraldine Ferraro "carried our water."

Governor Roberts brings up a very important point, pioneers don't always win. Some are even forgotten. I attended a great McMinnemens History Pub in October 2010 on "Women in Oregon Politics from Suffrage to the ERA". Historian and Western Oregon University Professor Kimberly Jensen took us down the nearly 100 year struggle for equality in Oregon. There were many firsts for women and progressives that are not remembered by the vast majority of the population. The event focused on Esther Clayson Pohl Lovejoy. Most of us, even well informed citizens, probably don't recognize that name. Just as I am sure many younger people had never heard of Gerry Ferraro before this last week. I bet though most have heard of Hillary Clinton.

The women like Esther Lovejoy, Janette Rankin, Gerry Ferraro and even Barbara Roberts helped pave the way for what Hillary Clinton would accomplish in 2008. Hillary Clinton herself now joins them. All of them are pioneers. There are no big or small accomplishments in life, just accomplishments. It's not just women they are inspiring to reach higher, its all of us. We can always reach higher; and higher we must reach if we are to live up to our potential and their dreams for us.

Special thanks to Former Governor Barbara Roberts for taking the time to share with me some of her thoughts on 1984.
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