Why has it taken so long for a woman to rise to the highest level of politics in the United States? When Nancy Pelosi rose to be Speaker of the House, it was considered a breakthrough for the female gender.
"Only women have to prove they are man enough for the job," says Marie Wilson, President of the White House Projects, "We have not done enough to get women into politics."
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright thinks we are way behind other countries in this respect even though another woman is presently occupying the secretary's office. Women heads of state have served in Israel, Great Britain, India, Germany, etc. Today 88 percent of Americans are willing to vote for a qualified woman candidate from their own party. The election of 2008 may be historic as it includes among presidential candidates, a woman, an African-American, a Hispanic, a Mormon, and an over 72-year-old.
Other signs indicate America is moving beyond stereotypes. Half the president's of Ivy League colleges are women. In the Muslim world we are most critical of the way women are treated. Yet the countries with the most Muslims - Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Turkey have each elected a female head of state. In the seventh century Islam granted women political, legal, and social rights unheard of in the West. The Prophet's wife was a successful business woman.
Last November two new female senators and 10 new female members of Congress were elected. More significant is that these women are committed to work in a bipartisan manner. They meet monthly for lunch. One exit poll indicated that voters think female lawmakers are three times more trustworthy than their male counterparts.
For some reason, women are perceived as more sympathetic to suffering than males. Last December, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, was meeting with her counterpart, Israeli Foreign Minister, Tsipi Livni, for talks on peacemaking in Palestine. The warfare last summer between Hezbollah and Israel in Lebanon demanded a new approach to what many think is the key to change in the Middle East. Is it possible that women may have a different approach to resolving ongoing conflict that men have failed to resolve?
The variety of candidates for the presidency may be one of the surprise breakthroughs needed when corruption and partisan rivalry have disgusted the American people. Race, gender, and religion should not determine qualification for office.
I can recall when Al Smith lost the presidency, at least, in part, because he was Roman Catholic. A few years later John F. Kennedy successfully overcame that prejudice. Between now and 2008 polls show it is very likely that some of the mentioned stereotypes will break the barriers and open up elections to the balance of race, gender, ethnicity, and religion that has made our democracy great. It is about time.
Amen until next Wednesday.
The opinions in this column are solely those of the writer. Wolf is a retired minister and lives in Valparaiso. Write to him c/o The Times, 1111 Glendale Blvd., Valparaiso, IN.