Bernard Shaw, CNN Principal Washington Anchor
Landon Lecture Series
November 20, 1992
An Uneven Playing Field in American
Thank you very much and good morning. To President Wefald and your colleagues of the faculty and to you, Madame President, and to you, ladies and gentlemen, and especially the ladies and gentlemen who came up from the elementary schools across this state, good morning and I thank you. My wife, Linda, says hello and that she regrets that she could not be here with you this morning because our two young people, our son and daughter, are in school, and one of them is having a test today.
I must tell you, I have not been this pensive since October 22, 1990. That was the afternoon I had been driven around Baghdad for about 45 minutes because of President Saddam's preoccupation with his personal safety I wonder why we were taken to a house along the Tigris River and it was well guarded. We were convinced that the man was going to show up and, indeed, he was going to do an interview with me and my colleague, Richard Blythestone. We stood on a highly polished white marble floor, and all of his lieutenants and sub-lieutenants were scurrying about in this immaculate mansion. Then we heard the screeching wheels of cars, and I looked through some curtains and saw three or four olive drab Mercedes Benz drive up, and he got out and walked up. When he entered the hallway, you could hear the clicking of heels and as you looked into the eyes of this man's top advisors, you knew that he commanded total respect. And, in some instances, as we know, respect on pain of death. As I say, I have not been that pensive since.
Ladies and gentlemen, I come to you at the invitation of one of the finest universities to grace this land.
I come to you as a fellow midwesterner just two states away an Illinoisan who is fond of simplicity and directness, two of many characteristics you Kansans appreciate.
I come to you as a fellow American, proud that our nation once again has changed presidential leadership without one mortal shot fired in the process and relieved that a numbingly too long campaign is over!
There were two surprises in this election: Bob Dole was re-elected and Kansas voted Republican!
You know, in capitals around the world, leaders and their advisors are squirming. Most were pulling for our incumbent president. Had you polled them after the euphoric Desert Storm victory in the Gulf War when George Bush was riding an 80 percent plus popularity wave, those leaders would have said Bush was a re-election certainty.
But as our electoral marathon for the White House unfolded and as candidates dwindled, so did the certitude in world capitals about who would be raising his hand to take the oath of office on January 20, 1993.
Overseas observers seem to forget that Americans are utterly serious about choosing a president, that they are capable of surprising holders of the smart money, that Americans are capable of electing a general, a peanut farmer, an actor, a haberdasher, and a governor from Arkansas.
Generally, as a people, we have been blessed to have had solid performances from the 41 presidents in our nation's history.
Democracy is not a smooth sauce.
Democracy is a chili of different currents, changes, and contradictions.
Democracy is the lone dish in constant need of seasoning, stirring, and tasting.
Democracy is never, never done.
The United States of America were not always united. We were not and will never be a nation of one race, one religion, or one tongue. Some think, indeed some say, if only we had the homogeneity of the Japanese, the Chinese, the Germans, the British, we would not be bothered by problems which slow us down. That cannot be because that is not our history.
Our richness is directly because of what we are: many forming one. Our nation's greatness is its potential to become greater. Each of us is an instrument for change.
Most of us want to awaken one morning, in our lifetime, to say, for example, our long racial nightmare is over, our fire in the night has been put out.
But as we begin streaming by the millions into cinemas to see the movie Malcolm X, as we wonder when and where will the next Los Angeles explode in deadly fury, as we struggle to dissolve with reason and understanding racial and ethnic stereotypes, we know the next generation will receive from us the state of the nation as we leave it for them.
If you, an American, fear for your country, if you, an American, agonize over our faults and fissures, remember this: no other nation no other nation on the face of this earth is struggling to do what we as a people profess to believe in and have undertaken to make reality. No other nation.
"You ought to believe something in life . . . believe that thing so fervently that you will stand up with it till the end of your days." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said those words.
Alfred M. Landon believed and acted out those words. Landon. King. Two Americans who made their lives instruments for change. What they felt, the many causes they fought, held this nation's and this world's interest and attention. We, all of us, are the beneficiaries of their legacy. It is regrettable that we sometimes take for granted what two of our finest sons did unselfishly to make life better for all.
But you know, globally we Americans have been selfless to a fault. Japan's and Europe's ashes of war became our challenge to help rebuild with billions of dollars in massive aid and assistance. Some argue we did the job too well. Today the playing field is not level.
Europe is acquiring economic and trading muscle that cannot be ignored, and Japan's proficiency in the international marketplace is legendary.
For decades we helped the world community, while paint was peeling off our walls back home. We have sent life-saving care and medicines abroad, knowing full well that our own people in urban and rural communities were and are in need.
World events whipsawed our leaders in Washington. First things first: our collective defense of ourselves and our allies had priority.
Communism's demise has been the most expensive death in the political history of mankind. Our federal treasury bears the bruises of this long, worthwhile fight.
Our national debt, our federal budget deficits are the shrapnel of battle. Those world leaders and their advisors worry because regardless of the language they speak, they understand clearly what the American people said when they voted on November 3rd: instead of fixing the world's problems, fix our problems now.
In those capitals they do not know what to expect from us now. They do not know what to expect from the new 103rd Congress when it is sworn in. They do not know what to expect from the 42nd president of the United States of America. And because of that, human beings fall tentative in the face of the unknown. And yes, even some of our international friends lapse into taking us for granted sometimes. And yet, back home those same Americans, those same voters know their nation's role is too pivotal to toler-ate withdrawal symptoms, too crucial to relax vigilance. They know that United States leadership is costly, but they are demanding and expecting action here on the home front.
Ironic isn't it? Ironic that the relatively peaceful and prosperous corridors we helped carve out around the world are now the very gauntlets along which we must compete for jobs and market share. Ironic.
But we as a people know what is happening. The alarms have long since sounded. We are mobilizing. Our schools must be and are becoming better. Our production lines are leaner and more efficient. Everyone, everyone hearing my voice, knows that competition is global.
But ladies and gentlemen, we in this great country are not putting on the field all our players, nor are all those players being rewarded fairly, and that is what I really have come to speak to you about this morning. We cannot win this fight if we do not change our attitude about women in our nation.
Sexism is a poison we have been drinking far too long. Twenty-two months ago, the United States led 27 other nations in the Gulf War. Erase the hot exchange of words, put aside Saddam Hussein, and you see why that war was fought.
The Gulf War was about a resource precious and essential to the industrialized world: black gold, oil. Ponder this if you will. In the fullness of time, everyone in this auditorium will be dead. Everyone listening to my voice will be dead. Everyone looking at my face will be dead. Now just ponder this.
To learn about us, people will either read or they will watch hours of video images. "They fought a war to protect a valuable resource," some will conclude. But some, some looking more closely at how our society functioned, looking more critically at our society, some will say, "But why, why weren't those Americans as fierce and as passionate about their greatest resource: their people?" Especially why, why did they abuse women in principle and in fact? Why?
In a letter to her husband John, Abigail Adams wrote, "If particular care and attention are not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation." She wrote that more than 100 years ago.
In Washington, before election night, November 3rd, Mrs. Quentin Burdick of North Dakota, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, and Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas were surrounded in one of the most exclusive male-oriented clubs in this country.
Now they have company, from Illinois, from Washington State, and from California. Regardless of your opinion of how the all-male members of the Senate Judiciary Committee comported themselves in the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last fall, the manner in which law professor Anita Hill was questioned and treated had a profoundly catalytic and, yes, explosive impact on American politics and American women. This nation will never be the same.
More than one Senate candidate said she was outraged by the tough and rude handling of Professor Hill and what she was insisting happened. Resonating throughout this election campaign was and is one undeniable truth: most American men possess in their psyches a winking double standard for the charge, the complaint of sexual harassment.
Reminder: in the 1988 presidential election, women outvoted men by nearly six million, or by almost 20 percent. Ladies and gentlemen, women now constitute nearly 50 percent of the United States workforce. Yet where they work full-time, women barely earn an average of 75 cents of the dollar taken home by their co-workers. Why? Ask yourself, why does this exist? Why does this persist?
And then, there is the stench of discrimination in promotions along executive row, described by one of the most odorous euphemisms ever thought up: "the glass ceiling." Promotion. Pay. What do you think of these words from Dr. Fran Conley? She is a neurologist at Stanford University. "I have been told over the years I do not need to be paid as much because I am a woman, because I am married. They are married," she said.
Women are fighting this poison in our workplace on all fronts, enduring the frustration of proving job discrimination, of proving sexual harassment and abuse, of resisting the dumping ground for female managers, and women in the military have it especially hard because of the military command structure. Talk about barriers to the top.
The Center for Creative Leadership says on an average nine out of ten female managers are pushed into staff jobs such as human resources and public relations. Positions that do not lead to the top of corporate America. If people are not given work experiences to broaden themselves, how can they ever get the opportunity to be more responsible?
Presently, fewer than six percent of all the top executives in the United States of America are female. This problem, this crisis, this scandal, is exacerbated by a natural human tendency: to surround yourself with people like you. Labor Secretary Lynn Martin says, "If the person at the top is male and white, invariably he picks people around him who are just like him." And as this happens each day in our cities, each day in our counties, and each day in our states, each day we as a nation of people suffer. And when this great nation suffers, we lose another step in competition because we are failing to use fully our most precious talent and resource our own people.
Federal, state, and local laws are there. But laws are given life and force by people and companies and universities willfully looking after their best interests, and fortunately that is happening. But it is happening too slowly. Some companies and some executives are acting with conscience to change the way the workplace and society treat women, Some. Not a majority.
Folks, we are talking about our very existence, our survival as a competing nation. A nation whose greatness is its ability to become greater. But the hour is late. I have discussed very briefly, matters of money, position, and wealth, but what of the essence of life and health? Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of American women?
Sixty-one percent of the people dying from strokes are women. According to studies, heart disease many times goes undetected in women until it is virtually too late.
The director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Bernadine Healy, says, "As a result, 49 percent of women suffering heart attacks die within one year, compared with 31 percent of men."
One reason for this gap is that over the years, billions more research dollars have gone into studying heart disease among men than women, especially women over 65. That is a damned outrage.
Women outlive men, and they have heart attacks later than men. My point in all this is simple. We must change. We must change now. Our attitudes must change in some most basic of ways. Most elementary of ways.
Same example: My boss is Ted Turner. When we are together, I do not greet him by saying, "Hi, Ted honey or darling or sweetie." And I do not have a compulsion to get physically so close to Ted that I can put my arm around his waist. If I do not do that with him or with other males with whom I work, what makes me think I should be able to do that to a person just because she is a woman? We must stop subjecting women to subtle and blatant abuses we men would never, ever tolerate.
I will recognize the instant that time arrives especially in the business I know, television news. This point: there are men over age 50 on television reporting news. They are wrinkled. They are gray. And they have this appearance of being very experienced because of their wrinkles and because of their gray.
It is time for television and our nation, in general, to stop this deluding fixation, this silliness, this preoccupation with youth. It is time to respect the right of women, especially in television news, but in other professions. It is time to respect the right of women in television to wrinkle and to gray on the job.
Ladies and gentlemen, we must change so that those who study what we did back now in this time, in our lifetime, we must change so that those who study what we did correctly conclude that our society matured and our society affirmed that a woman does not have to out-man a man to be respected and respectable.
Those were thoughts I wanted to share with you this morning, and I thank you for inviting me.