Last week marked the 30th anniversary of Geraldine Ferraro becoming the first woman to be named a vice presidential nominee on a major party ticket.
Looking back three decades later, it’s evident that she was not just a symbol or a blip in history, but a trailblazer who inspired women regardless of their politics.
While my estrogen levels don’t exactly qualify me as an expert on women’s rights, hearing the reactions of prominent women after her death in 2011 and upon the recent anniversary of her historic night certainly crystallizes her impact for even the most casual observers of politics.
Ferraro paved the way for women such as Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Sarah Palin and likely countless others who were inspired to run for local bodies such as city councils and school boards.
She was the first to ever be on such a grand stage as a presidential ticket. Now, there are more women serving in Congress than ever before – comprising about 20 percent.
More women are also now in leadership roles in the U.S. House and Senate, and five women currently serve as governors of states, including here in South Carolina with Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.
In retrospect, it is hard to calculate the impact of a campaign that ultimately didn’t win.
The 1984 election that saw Ferraro as the running mate for then-Democratic Party nominee Walter Mondale ended with Republican incumbent Ronald Reagan winning all but one state in route to a blowout victory.
It also took 24 years for another woman to be nominated on a major party ticket – when Sarah Palin was nominated to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008.
But if we remember anything from Ferraro’s historic night, it’s how far women have come in the world of politics.
To listen to those talk about the Democratic convention in 1984, it was certainly like nothing anyone had experienced before.
A few years ago, journalist Cokie Roberts described Ferraro as coming out on the stage looking like a “little figure in white,”particularly with the giant stage behind her, but that it was ultimately an unforgettable moment.
That night, Ferraro stated clearly and proudly that she stood before the crowd to proclaim that “America is the land where dreams can come true for all of us.” Through hard work and self-determination, that proclamation still rings true.
But while it’s imperative that we elect the best person possible – regardless of race or gender – women, and every group that’s underrepresented, certainly bring a different experience to the table. Perhaps we’ll know what it will be like if a women is elected on one of the presidential tickets in 2016.
Regardless, we should mark the 30th anniversary of Ferraro’s selection with a renewed sense of what it meant for society.
It undoubtedly helped shape a younger generation of women who were interested in politics.
But it also made us rethink how the public could be effectively represented at all levels of American politics.
Michael Ulmer is the opinions page editor for the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter @MikeUlmer.
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