Great Dames event focuses on political world

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Bethany Hall Long

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The after-effects of a contentious election hung over the final Great Dames Powerful Conversations series of 2016.

But the four speakers from the world of politics saw reason for hope at the sold out event on Monday night.

The name of President-Elect Donald Trump was not mentioned, but there was talk about the objectification of women and whether the narrow loss of Hillary Clinton was a setback in the battle to break the “glass ceiling.”

Speakers were Lynn Yeakel, a long-time women’s activist and U.S. Senate candidate in Pennsylvania; Priscilla Rakestraw, who served for 37 years as Delaware’s Republican National Committeewoman; newly elected Wilmington at-large council member Rysheema Dixon; and Lt. Gov.-Elect Bethany Hall-Long.

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Hall-Long filled in for Congresswoman-Elect Lisa Blunt Rochester, who was summoned to a House caucus meeting in Washington, D.C. Blunt Rochester is Delaware’s first female member of Congress and the first African American from the First State to be elected to Congress.

Rakestraw, who serves as development director for the Ministry of Caring, Wilmington, says women have to support one another, a theme that was repeated by all panel members.

Yeakel – who ran against powerful Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Arlen Spector, after his aggressive questioning of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the 1980s – said the objectifying of women goes beyond presidential campaigns and extends to every area of society.

Yeakel says women have to “act like the majority,” rather than vote along party, ethnic or religious lines.

All panelists agreed that women have to work harder and speak up more to succeed in business and politics.

Although Rakestraw and Hall-Long are members of different political parties, both agreed that resources will be limited in dealing with the state’s problems, due to state budget shortfalls.

Hall-Long said legislators need to consider funding preventative programs in areas such as substance abuse and mental health. The cost of such programs is far less than hospitalization or treatment.

Dixon said the city faces many challenges that include low voter turnout in some districts and council members that do not respond to the concerns of residents. The apathy and the lack of response by council members leads to council districts being treated differently when it comes to issues like blight and trash, she added.

Sharon Hake, founder and CEO of Great Dames, announced that the organization has achieved non-profit status and is launching a fund to expand its programs. Membership options are also on their way, Hake said.

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