When I was at Gannon University in the early eighties, our country had it’s first female vice-presidential candidate running, Geraldine Ferraro. For reasons I can’t imagine or remember, Ms. Ferraro came to Erie, Pennsylvania to speak during the campaign. I was a Junior at Gannon and I remember walking to Perry Square to give a listen.
She was running mate to Walter Mondale, I was twenty years old, a Republican and naive to just about everything that was politics. My only concerns at that point in my life were my boyfriend and circle of friends, my job and my college classes–probably in that order. But I was also a young woman, learning how to think about the world, independent and strong minded. Geraldine Ferraro was intriguing to me and as the first female candidate running at this level, I wanted to hear what she had to say.
There was a small group of young men who were chanting and carrying signs, young Republicans who were opposed to something. Ferraro as candidate? Anything from the Democrats? Mondale/Ferraro politics? I can’t remember the detail but I do remember looking at them and then looking at Ferraro and thinking, “those young men are all anyone leading this country has ever looked like and here stands before me someone like me.” She was the strongest representation of POSSIBILITY I’d ever seen.
She was more than the first female vice-presidential candidate, for me she represented something much more personal. She was the opening up of the future for me and women like me, she was a mirror and a passport and a possibility. Seeing her gave me concrete proof that I could achieve and be all that I wanted to be. For a young woman with ambition and hope and strength, it was all I needed to make me believe that anything was possible in my own life. I’m sorry to hear of her passing and grateful for what she did while she was here.