My heroes could not be more different in appearance or background or more alike in focus, tenacity and doing whatever it takes to improve people’s lives.

Let me tell you a little about two of my heroes: Golda Meir and Nancy Pelosi.

Golda (funny how comfortable I am using first names) apparently was the master of the well-placed, low-key wisecrack, which she used frequently in negotiations with surrounding enemy countries (which is to say, in her time, virtually every country near Israel).

Golda Meir was more than a Milwaukee schoolteacher who emigrated to Israel and became an activist. Her road was much harder. She was born in Kiev, Russia on May 3, 1898. On Easter, 1903, posters appeared announcing A Proclamation Inciting a Pogrom of the Jews.

Pogroms are attempts by the powerful to terrorize struggling people and divert attention from the advantages of the privileged (In the U.S., think Ku Klux Klan and throw in the atavists who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6). Pogroms against Jews were considered entertainment, much like lynchings in the American South.

Meir emigrated to the United States with her family in 1906, was educated here, and became a teacher. She married and had children. After leaving her family behind (her husband and children eventually followed) for Israel, Golda Meir became an Israeli teacher, politician and stateswoman, and eventually became the fourth prime minister of Israel. 

She wrote that in spite of the place which her children and the family as a whole took up in her life, her nature and being demanded something more: “I cannot divorce myself from the larger social life. I cannot let children narrow the horizon. And for such a woman, there is no rest.”

She attended the Evian conference in 1938 where it was hoped many countries would offer to take in Jews who were in the throes of Nazi extermination. It didn’t happen, and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s interesting that as Golda was speaking and pleading to take European Jews to Palestine, the representatives of America, Britain and France walked out. 

By the way, the Statue of Liberty poem is written by Emma Lazarus, a Jew.

Let me say first about Nancy Pelosi that while I would kill for her wardrobe, hairdresser and makeup artist, I could never be able to get in her daily 5-mile walk/run along the Potomac. (Golda Meir, on the other hand, was a chain smoker who traveled the world while being treated for cancer.)

These women are a different breed.

Nancy Pelosi has had a life of privilege and protection, yet she seems, at least in politics and government, to be afraid of nothing and no one. Never will I ever forget her tearing up Trump’s State of the Union speech as he handed it to her. 

I am also positive that if she and Golda Meir spent time together, they would not have discussed clothes. Golda would have walked away with financial commitments for several projects, and Nancy would have rushed away to finish whatever deal she was putting together in the House of Representatives.

I miss Pelosi’s wardrobe of masks. Impeachment(s) to insurrection, she always looked pulled-together. Until vaccinations finally won over the vast majority of her House, Speaker Pelosi wore a mask to match each outfit. 

Mothers everywhere should be hoping their sons grow up to be like Golda Meir or Nancy Pelosi.

Note: Props to our own Harriet Hausman, whose frequent state-of-the-union columns in this paper keep us informed and inspired. 

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Mary Kay O'Grady

Mary Kay O'Grady is a former high school English teacher and later owned her own public relations business, The O'Grady Group. She has lived in Oak Park for almost fifteen years. She is currently the chairperson...