Great Dames event focuses on political world


[Not a valid template]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.

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.