Archive for March, 2011


Lemme Just Say, “Thanks, Geraldine Ferraro!”

When I heard of Geraldine Ferraro’s death, I remembered her generosity when I asked her if she would write the foreword for a book I wrote that chronicles the lives and communication styles of five women who ran for president. At first she declined, but we traded a few emails and I expressed to her that when I graduated college in 1984 her vice-presidential bid made me feel as though the world would be wide open for me. Before long she graciously agreed to lend her significant name to my book project.

In her foreword to Paving the Way for Madam President (Lexington Books, 2006) she marveled that the “choices are unlimited” for women. No doubt we owe Geraldine Ferraro for expanding our opportunities. She courageously campaigned –and held her own—as the first woman on a major party ticket in 1984. Never shy or retreating, she often directly confronted her critics. Once she phoned the Archbishop of New York directly to explain her position on abortion. Her fast-spoken statements were often accentuated with slang phrases “Lemme tell ya” and “Lemme just say.”

 If elected, she promised to protect women’s rights. As a vice-presidential candidate she said, “Women are not better off with a president, an administration, and a party united against the Equal Rights Amendment. When I take my oath of office for my second term as vice president, I want to swear to uphold a constitution that includes the ERA. Name a program that helps women. This administration has tried to slash it. Name a policy that treats women fairly. This administration is against it. This administration is for the gold standard for the economy and the double standard for women.” On the campaign trail she repeatedly reminded voters that Eleanor Roosevelt was thirty-six before she was allowed to cast her first vote. She would add, “Not only shouldn’t she have been barred from choosing public officials, she should have been one.”

She felt encouraged that women no longer had to live in “either-or” situations. In the foreword for my book she wrote: “We could be whatever we choose to be. We can win Olympic medals and coach our daughters’ soccer teams. We can walk in space and help our children take their first steps. We can negotiate trade agreements and manage family budgets. We can be corporate executives and also wives and mothers. We can be doctors and also bake cookies with our six-year-old future scientists.”

Her own life was evidence. She was an elementary school teacher, a lawyer prosecuting criminals in the D.A.’s Office in Queens, a three-term member of Congress, Vice Presidential candidate, a candidate for the U.S. Senate and C.E.O.of a consulting firm. She was also a wife, mother and grandmother. She always said that politics is not a spectator sport.

She enjoyed the rough and tumble of fighting for the things she cared about. She believed that “becoming president isn’t an impossible dream for women. It isn’t a matter of if; it is a matter of when.”

Lemme just say: Thank you, Geraldine Ferraro for showing us the way.


For Great Public Speaking and Life in General: Rome Rules!

Oh, sweet cause for celebration!  A twenty-fifth wedding anniversary trip to Rome brought us up close and personal to  the beauty and the romance we only heard, read and dreamed about. 

 And Rome delivered! Rome is romantic and beautiful and, after a few days of taking in the gorgeous scenery, eating the delectable food (including a lot of gelato),  and visiting historic sites, I started to think that students of public speaking (and life in general) could learn a thing or two just by imitating the Italians we met in our travels. 

Why am I surprised?  Long before Rome was an empire, the government relied on rhetoric as a potent tool for change.   Schools knew then what great schools know now:  no speech class, no graduation!  Both well heeled young men, and even some women back in Roman times learned to speak persuasively in order to enhance their chances of success.  

 Among the ruins of the Forum, I thought  I could hear the passionate pleas of Cicero, Quintilian and Caesar. 

For certain I could hear and see the passions of the current residents of Rome through their powerful speech and movement (especially of their arms and hands). 

Here are my public speaking  (and life in general) “Vacanze Romane” take-aways:

We were not even five minutes away from the Leonardo DaVinci Airport when the driver, who took us to the charming Gambrinus Hotel in the Villa Borghese area, started waving his hands (yes, both of them) and shouting “Mama Mia Sunday Driver!” as he swerved around a bus  (It was Tuesday).  Obvious dangers aside, I was impressed by his passion.  Out of the window we saw (blurs of) couples of all ages kissing passionately! 

 Roman Rule No. 1:


I also noticed how definitively Italians spoke.  There was no hesitation at all.  Whether they were discussing plans for the evening or politics, they knew where they stood and they stood firmly.  When we were trying to decide what to order in a restaurant (that we liked so much we returned to three times) the owner said, “You’ll have the penne pasta and peppers!”  That was easy. 

Roman Rule No. 2:


OK, I know I already mentioned the passionate kissers, but it does bear repeating:  show your passion.  Find something you love and pour yourself into it.

Roman Rule No. 3:


And here’s something that’s just nice.  After most dinners in Rome, the waiter presented me with a fresh rose.   I’m not sure how to describe why this contributes to a great life, or effective public speaking, but that darn rose worked every time.  The dinner,  the weather, the conversation, the moonlit walk back to the hotel, all seemed a little better because of that rose. 

Roman Rule No. 4: 


No doubt about it.  Rome Rules.



No “He-cession” For the First Male Social Secretary

Like many Americans I was delighted to learn that  The White House named a man as President Obama’s Social Secretary.

Jeremy Bernard, a senior adviser to the U.S. ambassador to France at the embassy in Paris, will become the first man and the first openly gay person to hold the position of Social Secretary.  He seems like an outstanding choice for the job.  As social secretary, Mr. Bernard will  supervise many official White House events, including state dinners, the annual egg roll and garden parties.

No doubt, his appointment is a wonderfully historic moment.  

Still, I couldn’t help but think that before we break out the bubbly and plan a lunch for fifty, we need more historic moments in the glass ceiling department.  

 A woman has never been Secretary of Defense, The Treasury or Veteran’s Affairs. One look at the Web site for the Department of Defense  gives anyone the impression that women need not apply. According to We-news,  the war in Iraq includes the largest deployment of women to a combat theatre. I’m immensely proud of my outstanding sister Teri, also known as Lt. Col. Theresa DelBalso, commander of the 424th Military Police, (a Penn State alum) who made two tours.   There are twenty percent of women in the military yet the Department of Veteran’s Affairs  keeps a male focus.  And although women have an increasingly strong role in the economy of the country, all  seventy-five secretaries of the treasury have been men.  

 There have been some important breakthroughs:  For example, Elizabeth Dole is the first woman to serve two different administrations in two different cabinet positions, and Hillary Clinton is the first former first lady to be Secretary of State. 

 But the optimism dims when the reality that  we’ve never had a woman president hits.  As Susan J. Carroll points out “women are relative newcomers among state elected and appointed officials.”

I am  very happy for Mr. Bernard and I wish him well.   One bit of advice:  watch the party crashers. 

 It would be nice, though– it is “Women’s History Month”– if more women could crash the men-only parties that have been going on way too long in many areas of the United States government.

March 2011
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