Published on February 17th, 2013 | by Sarah Melecki

Who Was Barbara Jordan?

 

Who was Barbara Jordan?

A basic Internet search will tell you that she was “an American politician and a leader of the Civil Rights movement.”

Who was Barbara Jordan?

If you dig a little deeper, you will find that she “was a lawyer and educator who was a congresswoman from 1972 to 1978 – the first African-American congresswoman to come from the deep South and the first woman ever elected to the Texas Senate (1966).”

Who was Barbara Jordan?

Molly Ivins said, “Barbara had a really strong sense that never deserted her of who she was and who she was fighting for. She was always on the side of people who never got a fair break, and she was absolutely convinced that this system, this democracy, if it lived up to its ideals, would provide liberty and justice for all, and she never wavered in that faith, and she worked like hell to make it come true.”

Who was Barbara Jordan?

I think about her a lot. I was first introduced to her in 2005, while attending a high school leadership conference in Washington D.C. I was assigned to a room named after her, but I knew nothing about her. When I got home I asked my parents why a room would be named after a person named Barbara Jordan. My parents were mortified – they had let me go 18 years without learning about her and everything she stood for. They literally assigned me a research paper to learn about her.

Once you’ve read her speeches, and especially once you’ve heard her voice, you don’t forget her.

At the LBJ School orientation, we watched an excerpt of Barbara Jordan’s acceptance speech for the Sylvanus Thayer award at West Point. She said, “If you accept that challenge, a lifetime of public service, you will be held to the higher – highest ethical standards of anybody, and you should be, should be. Those who serve should be held to the highest ethical standards because they also have accepted public trust.”

Saying she had a way with words would be an understatement.

In her 1976 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, Barbara Jordan said, “A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good. A government is invigorated when each one of us is willing to participate in shaping the future of this nation.” She sure knew how to make a person understand the importance of making the most out of life.

Barbara Jordan Week is an important tradition at the LBJ School, because it gives us a chance to honor the legacy of a woman, a public servant, a teacher and an incredible human being. But before we honor her legacy, we must introduce ourselves to Congresswoman Jordan.

Who was Barbara Jordan?

On Monday, February 18, the Policy Organization for Women will host a lunch panel entitled “Change Set in Motion: Barbara Jordan Retrospective.” Panelists DeAnn Friedholm and the Honorable Max Sherman were close friends of Ms. Jordan. They will share stories and experiences to help us gain a personal knowledge of Barbara Jordan.

DeAnn Friedholm, an LBJ Alumnae, was Barbara Jordan’s first Teaching Assistant. She often traveled with Ms. Jordan, and spent countless hours at Ms. Jordan’s home. Today, DeAnn serves as the Health Reform Campaign Director at Consumers Union, the policy branch of Consumer Reports. She has three decades of experience in health and human services policy, advocacy and administration at the state, federal, local and international levels of government and in the non-profit sector.

The Honorable Max Sherman is a former member of the Texas State Senate who served with Barbara Jordan. He was president of West Texas A&M University in Canyon and dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin from 1983-1997. Mr. Sherman is the author of The Future of Texas and editor of Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder, a collection of Congresswoman Jordan’s speeches.

Who was Barbara Jordan?

I’m going to ask you after the lunch panel on Monday. And I hope you have an answer worthy of the woman herself.

 

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One Response to Who Was Barbara Jordan?

  1. Lance McNeill says:

    Sara, excellent article. I enjoyed reading it.

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