Nov. 10-16, 2000
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Distinguished alumnae offer advice to the new U.S. president
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Engineering faculty at work, advancing technology one step at a time
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Since U Asked ...

Distinguished alumnae offer advice to the new U.S. president

Women's Center's distinguished alumnae
Peggy Harrison
Honoring U.Va. women
Five of the nine women who have received the U.Va. Women's Center's Distinguished Alumna Award met for the first time, sharing laughs and morning sunshine on the Lawn: (from left) Elaine Jones, Kathryn Thornton, Mariann Stratton, Hanan Ashrawi and Dr. Vivian Pinn. They returned to the University for the Nov. 2 conference, "Women 2000: Shapers of the World," in recognition of the Women's Center's 10th anniversary, 20 years of Women's Studies and 30 years of full coeducation in undergraduate programs at U.Va.

By Charlotte Crystal

Six distinguished women graduates of the University -- all leaders in their fields -- gathered in Charlottesville several days before elections for a conference where they offered advice to the new president of the United States. The Nov. 2 event was part of the U.Va. Women's Center's 10th anniversary celebration, "Women 2000: Shapers of the World."

The women, previous winners of the U.Va. Women's Center Annual Distinguished Alumna Award, spoke on diverse topics, from health and responsibility in wielding power to education and choosing judges. Women may be doing better in the U.S. in many areas, but it is more important than ever for women, and men, not to be cynical, and instead get involved in improving their communities and the lives of others, the women said. The president -- and we -- also need to be concerned about the horrendous realities for women around the world, some pointed out. Excerpts from their remarks follow.

Mariann Stratton Mariann Stratton, retired Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy

Mr. President, I am a typical American in that I have many overlapping identities. I'm a woman, a citizen of these United States of America. My background is very multicultural in that I am Portuguese, I'm French, I'm Scottish and German and British. I'm a retiree. I'm a mother and a grandmother. I am responsible for the well-being of elderly family members and for youngsters in the family. And so my concerns are many.

I ask for a president who remembers that it is "we, the people" he is representing. It's not big corporations. It's not labor unions. It's us. And I ask him to display courage and to risk his political future in doing the right thing. FDR said that the president of the United States is a moral barometer. We need someone we can be proud of, someone we can look to as a strong, courageous leader.

Vivian Pinn Vivian Pinn, director of the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women's Health

Of all the things we should ask our president to think about in the next four years, health has to be central because without good health, we're really not in a position to carry out our other desires. It's extremely important to think about our changing demographics. We're seeing an increase in the number of elderly, people of color and women, which means that we really need to pay attention to health care problems and to the disparities that exist among the different populations in this country. The central focus must be to support research to help us fill in knowledge gaps and to make sure that there is access to health care for all Americans.

Hanan Ashrawi Hanan Ashrawi, founder and member of the executive committee of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights

U.S. foreign policy should demonstrate a responsibility of power rather than an intoxication with power. Peacemaking is not something to be embarked on lightly. I would like to see an injection of morality and respect for human rights and for human sacrifice in American foreign policy. The U.S. should not superimpose a very simplistic paradigm on a very complex situation. One thing that's extremely dangerous is if the U.S. thinks it can isolate itself from the problems of the rest of the world or that it can be inured to the ramifications of short-sighted, irresponsible policies, particularly in the Middle East.

Elaine Jones Elaine Jones, one of the top civil rights lawyers in the country and director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

Mr. President, you are now the president of all the people. So, I ask you to find some way to strike a balance in the divided opinions of your people. How?

Please be careful about the quality of justice that you appoint to the Supreme Court of the United States. We are first and foremost a nation of law. In order for democracy to work the way that it must, we must have respect for the law and for our justices and judges. So, I ask you not to give an ideological litmus test on how a particular nominee would vote on a particular issue. But instead, look to women and men who understand the law, who have practiced the law and who, through their experience and intellects have shown that they would make this nation proud. And I ask you not only to do that for the Supreme Court, but also for the courts of appeal and the district courts.

On the issues of social justice and human rights you need to have someone close to you who has some legitimacy in the community and can cut through the layers of review to be your eyes and ears.

The United States signed an international treaty on the eradication of racism, but it took our government five years to submit a report. We have to abide by the same rules we ask others to abide by. So, ask the State Department to pay attention to these issues. And let's take a look at human rights issues in the United States.

Kathryn Thornton, former astronaut, now U.Va. professor of aerospaceengineering and director of the Center for Science Education

For me, the No. 1 issue is education. We need bipartisan support for strong educational programs at every level. Kids can't learn if they're in schools that are falling apart. They can't learn if they don't have teachers who are well-trained. They can't learn if they don't have a home environment that allows them to come to school ready to learn.

The world is becoming more technological every year. And we're splitting into two groups of people -- those who are keeping up and those who are not. There are a lot of moral, ethical and technical issues that are going to be facing us as the electorate and we need to deal with them. Otherwise, a technological elite will develop that will decide those issues for all of us.

Val Ackerman Valerie Ackerman, president of the Women's National Basketball Association

It's vital for the president to communicate leadership. People expect to be led. They expect to be inspired. They want to see the tone set from the top. We as a people have tremendous capacities, tremendous resources and strengths. The idea of giving back by volunteering is a responsibility that all of us have. The government should be exhorting all of us to think of ways to give, to make our communities better, to make our cities stronger.


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