28 March, 2011

"Whom Did You Vote For?"

I met Geraldine Ferraro exactly twice.

The first time was at a reception that followed her speech on campus in the late 1980s. That was a few years after her trailblazing, albeit unsuccessful, run for the vice-presidency in 1984. I don't recall if I introduced myself or if someone who knew her introduced us. Probably the later - perhaps Rev. Baissa who knew her well. We chatted a few moments about my role as chief academic officer of the college, and I asked her for her autograph. I had brought from home the copy of her 1985 book Ferraro: My Story that I had given my wife a few years earlier.

She took the book from me and just as she was about to sign it, she looked and me, smiled, and said, "Wait - whom did you vote for in 1984." I assured her I voted democratic, and she signed away. She would, of course, have signed anyway, but I have always remembered her sense of humor.

The second occasion was 1996 or 1997. As the president of the Board of Directors of the Resource Center for Independent Living, I was one of two called upon to introduce her for a speech she was giving at a fundraiser for RCIL. In my remarks I noted that I didn't think she would recall but that I had met her seven or eight years earlier. I related the story about the book and the autograph request. The audience loved that she teased about not signing if I hadn't voted for her. I think my exact remarks to the audience when I mentioned her asking me whom I voted for were "I won't tell you [the audience], but she did sign the book."

I meant to imply I had obviously voted for her (or she wouldn't have signed). When she stood to speak, she admitted not remembering the encounter, but based on my not telling the audience, she assumed I voted for the other guys. I assured her again that she had me in her column on the ballot.

I can't say she was a friend; that would be an overreach. It might even be an overreach to say she was an acquaintance. What I do know is she was a class act - a warm, intelligent, knowledgeable, and dedicated American, and she will be missed.

Did I say will? She is missed. When I look at those most visible few who supposedly represent the new female face of politics - Angle, Palin, Bachmann, O'Donnell - well, ... let's just say Geraldine Ferraro has been missed for a while. Why do we continue to elect those who celebrate ignorance and attempt to make it a virtue?

Geraldine Ferraro is and will remain a great role model, but we've lost her wisdom and voice just when we need them most.