THE WOMEN OF TOMORROW:
An Interview with GERALDINE FERRARO
The Only Woman to Ever Run for Vice President of the United States!
By Julianna Joyce Perkins

 

 

Here we are, in the last year of the twentieth century. We. are at the end of an incredible era and about to step into a future that our grandmothers couldn't have even imagined. Who are we as women now? What does it mean to be a woman in this changing world of ours? What paths can we walk and what differences will we make? Even more important, how are we going to do it?

These extraordinary times have afforded the opportunity for women to rise to the top. One perfect example is Geraldine Ferraro. This granddaughter an Italian immigrant has the distinction of being the first woman nominated by a major political party for the office of Vice President of the United States of America. This wasn't just any campaign. Her opposition was probably the strongest Republican ticket in recent times, the Reagan/Bush team. I don't believe there was another woman in 1984 that could have gone toe-to-toe in that political arena and held her ground as did Geraldine Ferraro.

What went into the development of this determined woman that set her apart? Her grandmother had to provide for her ten children alone because of the illness of her husband. Gerry's mother at the age of fourteen had to quit school to help. It was a hard life, but a firm foundation was set which included a high standard of work ethics. Gerry's mother's life was also destined to prove a challenge. When Gerry was nine years old, her father died and her mother became the sole provider. She continued the legacy of determination by raising her children and giving them her best. Even with all the struggles and hardships, she still managed to put Gerry and her brother through college. She propelled her offspring into a new world . . . a world on the brink of opportunity and choice.

What did voters see in Geraldine Ferraro that compelled them to elect her to three terms in the House of Representatives? What compassion burned within her that gave her the desire to accept the appointment of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission? If we could just identify what lies at the core of this second-generation American woman, perhaps we could unlock the barriers that hold so many people back today.

In reading Ms. Ferraro's recent book, "Framing a Life" (see review on page 7), I realized that beyond the tribute Gerry pays to her own mother and her immigrant heritage, she was also giving us a glimpse into the dynamics within her family. There were many questions I wanted to ask, and was fortunate enough to get that opportunity. My basic agenda was to find out what will it take to produce more Geraldine Ferraros!

To my delight and honor, I was granted an interview:

AWARENESS: So many children today aren't from homes that teach the ethics you were raised with. How can these qualities be instilled? How can these children grow into productive adults?
GERRY: Children need role models. Basic values should be learned in the home. When they aren't, we as a society, must help these children learn. We can't just ignore them. Whether it is government, church, community, or individuals involved in mentoring, we need to reach out and equip these children to succeed in life. Structure is essential to develop the desire and discipline for a productive life. It's going to take involvement. There are many churches that are doing great jobs reaching out into their community and helping young people.

Government programs are important. Supporting and becoming active in your own community to incorporate existing programs will give that child a place to find the work ethic and sense of responsibility. There are many organizations that offer this opportunity. One in particular that my daughter, Donna, introduced to me is Students/Sponsor Partnership. You commit to becoming involved with one high school student. During that time you mentor, encourage and find ways to help the student develop study skills, and basically help him or her to believe in themselves and their possibilities. You help them find funding and scholarships for higher education. Many parents of these students would not have known how to accomplish this on their own. You can make a big difference by reaching out child by child. For more information on this program, please call (212) 986-9575, or contact Julianna Perkins through Awareness Magazine at (800) 758-3223.

AWARENESS: Can young girls today who are from low-income homes achieve what you have achieved?
GERRY: That and more. This is a different world. Between Title 10, Affirmative Action, and other programs, educational access is now available. With the right guidance and support, young girls have more advantages today than ever before. We all can help by making sure they know how to avail themselves of these offers.

AWARENESS: We are being told that the degeneration of America today can be linked to 'latchkey kids' and absentee fathers. Your mother lost her husband and still managed to raise you and your brother. What can young mothers do today to help their children?
GERRY: The work ethic! My mother and grandmother put their children first. They had to work; they were the providers of the family. And they spent time at home with their children. My mother hardly went out during the years she raised us and put us through college.

Young mothers today must develop a desire to move their family forward in life. If they work, it is important they have good day care. If they don't have safe childcare, then I would encourage them to take advantage of government assistance programs and spend the first years at home with their children. They need to be encouraged to learn good parenting skills. During their time at home they should learn a marketable skill. This way when the child reaches school age, the mother is equipped to get a good paying job. A woman needs to have the opportunity to obtain a realistic salary through skill or profession in order to raise her children on her own.

AWARENESS: Is there a woman who who you would like to see run for President or Vice President? And would you ever consider running again?
GERRY: I would like to see more women prepare themselves for this goal. Most of our presidents come from the senate or from governor's mansions. We need more women in these positions first. A viable candidate needs the right education and experience to attain this goal. Once women do this, then it is very realistic that they would have the chance to run and to be elected.

At this point I would have no desire to run again. I'm not sure what I'll do next, but I am considering an academic career. I would like to see Diane Feinstein of California as a candidate in the next Presidential election.

AWARENESS: What one thing would you still like to achieve?
GERRY: I would have to say policymaking; I'm very open to that.

AWARENESS: How can wo-men make a difference in the new millennium?
GERRY: By participating politically. By this I mean getting out and voting, working with the local school board, being involved. Anyone who thinks the government isn't running our lives needs to realize that it is. And if you want to make an impact you must educate yourself and support the areas you care about. You can do it and you can make a difference.

AWARENESS: What achievement would you like to be remembered for?
GERRY: Donna, John and Laura, my children.

NOTE from AWARENESS: Gerry's genuine warmth and integrity permeated her words to me. She spent more than our scheduled time sharing stories and enthusiastically telling me of ways that prove the American dream is still an obtainable goal. She encourages women to grasp the many opportunities that are available.

Ms. Ferraro is sensitive to the plight and treatment of the women, children, ethnic groups and immigrants. She connects with people. She works to implement policies that enhance the human condition. She encourages the spark and desire in others to get out there a make a difference.

I can't help but wonder what Ms. Ferraro could have done if she had gone to the White House. It wasn't Geraldine Ferraro who lost in the election; it was the American people. Fortunately for us, she is still a powerful force who continues to make a difference.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We plan to continue bringing you articles featuring the "Women of Tomorrow" - those individuals who making a real difference in our world!


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