Helping Women Succeed: Gentlemanly and Patriotic

Today is the anniversary of Sandra Day O’Connor becoming the first woman ever appointed to serve the United States as a Supreme Court Justice.  It is also my father, Bob Hammitt’s 72nd birthday.  In my mind these are two important dates, and they are related.  My father has dedicated much of his life to coaching and supporting women’s athletics. This has helped women not only rise on the playing fields, but off them.  By making the bold decision to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court, Ronald Reagan helped pave the way for women to aim for higher positions in Government, business, and elsewhere.  This has not only been good for women, but good for our country.

It is important to recognize the number of women in high power positions in Government when President Reagan appointed Justice O’Connor to the Supreme Court:

— 23 of the 535 members of Congress were women.
— One member of the Cabinet was a woman.

Photo Credits: Jim Sellers, The New York Times

Granted, the numbers in 2017 are far from perfect.  There are three women currently serving on the Supreme Court, 84 in Congress, and four in the Cabinet.  We still have a long way to go towards having women properly represented in our government, but we have also come a long way.

When Reagan did this, he was fulfilling a promise made during the campaign of 1980.  When he followed through he took a ton of criticism from a wide variety of sources, including members of his own party.  It was a gutsy move.  Men willing to appoint and higher women to high level positions in and out of Government are not just doing a favor to women, but our country.

Why is it important to have women in government?

It is important for several reasons.  For starters, it adds the perspective and judgement of over half of our population.  Women offer insight on issues like health care, education, minority rights, and many others that will allow our government to make better decisions for all of our citizens moving forward.  By having women in government, we send a message to young women that they are valued members of our society who will be allowed to achieve to their fullest potential.  Young women can look up to women like Sandra Day O’Connor and other leaders and aspire to achieve in the same manner.  As we make our Government look more like the country itself, we become less hypocritical about the values of equality and justice this country was founded upon.

Most importantly, we increase the talent pool from which we draw.  We make America better by having the best and brightest run it.  When we draw from 100 percent of our available pool of talent, isn’t it common sense to realize that we are better off?   Imagine if a two large cooperations were in competition with one another.  Each had 50,000 employees.  One said it was going to higher the best possible candidates regardless of their gender, the other said it was going to higher only one gender.   Which company would have the greater chance for success? The answer seems pretty obvious.  The patriot wants what is best for their country, and that should include having the best people working for it.

My father and the men who coach women:
My dad started coaching softball in the 1970’s when he coached teams played on by my sisters.  He coached high school and summer teams each year until his retirement from Marist High School in Eugene, Oregon in 2010.  He also coached two of his granddaughters.  He was one of the winningest coaches in state history, but that is secondary.  What is most important is what he and other coaches of the era did to raise the level of women’s athletics, while providing opportunity and guidance for multitudes of young women.

Women’s athletics looked a lot different in the 1970’s than they do now.  Back then, there wasn’t much financial nor social support of young ladies playing sports.  Teams were underfunded when it came to facilities, uniforms, and coaches.  Young women also were victims of backwards stereotypes of the day.  They were supposed to be pretty and meek, more interested in things like dolls and sewing than sports.  These days, it is totally unremarkable to see a school’s best female athlete be a rugged, tough warrior on the playing court, while also being on the homecoming court.  That transition was not quick or easy.  It took a lot of bravery from tough women, helped along the way by leaders like my father.

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How has the rise of women’s athletics helped our country?
By playing sports, millions of young women across our country have learned to better develop the skills of teamwork, leadership, confidence, toughness, and resilience.  They have carried these skills into their personal and professional lives.  They have have used their experiences in sports to propel them into careers and lives that would have been much less likely a half century ago.  By raising up women, we have made our country better.  To make the point again, we have taken steps getting us closer to playing at full strength, and maximizing our talent pool.

Gentlemen and Patriots:
Most men I know would like to be known as gentlemen and patriots.  Being a gentleman means more than opening doors, offering jackets, and treating women in a respectful way. It means providing opportunity and helping them succeed to the fullest levels of their potential.  Patriotism means doing what is best for our country.  That includes helping our country realize its full potential by drawing from the talents, brains, and hearts of all of its people.  We need more true gentlemen and patriots.

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