Arnold AFB's Women's Equality Day speaker calls on others to seize opportunities

Release Number: 208158

An author, world traveler and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist encouraged men and women to meet life's challenges head on during AEDC's annual observance of Women's Equality Day at the Arnold Lakeside Club Aug. 26.

On Aug. 26, 1920, the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution affirmed the right of women to vote in all public elections. Women's Equality Day is celebrated nationally to commemorate that historic event.

Lisa Lednicer, a reporter for the Port¬land Oregonian who shared in the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service by help¬ing the Grand Forks Herald staff cover the Red River floods, spoke about her life's journey into uncharted waters.

Lednicer's parents, who are both well-educated professionals, expected their daughter to attend college and seek out the American dream. She chose to pursue a career in journalism, studied hard and landed a good position in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"I wound up with a prestigious job af¬ter college and got a cool apartment near the beach in Florida," she said. "I was resolved to becoming a great newspaper reporter - everything was going accord¬ing to plan. But, you know what, I was miserable - I hated the job and living in Florida."

Three years later, Lednicer got her first opportunity to take a different course in her life; one that her colleagues said was a bad move which would make it difficult for her to return to journalism.

With no experience as an educator and knowing no other language, shebecame an English trainer for the Nambian Broadcasting Corp. Then she changed course again and helped to design a national second¬ary school curriculum and start a primary school library in a village near the border of Angola.

Later, she returned to Africa, this time in Lesotho, where she helped build a dam and establish a garden for spring plant¬ing. She said, in essence, another seed had been planted, the determination to look for opportunities, to take the road less traveled.

Lednicer said each experience left her with greater self-confidence and valu¬able lessons she wouldn't have learned any other way. Despite all the warnings about being unable to reenter her original profession, she not only returned, but earned a Pulitzer, and with Dan Huntley, coauthored a book, "Extreme Barbecue," in the process.

Master Sgt. Kimberly Pfender, law office superintendent at Arnold's Judge Advocate General Office, said Lednicer's talk resonated for her and brought back some memories.

"To hear about her life and learn about some of the neat things she's done, par¬ticularly the Grand Forks flood - that was kind of close for me personally," she said. "We've got some friends who were stationed there during that time and went through a lot."

Sergeant Pfender said she, as a woman, could also identify with Lednicer's expe¬riences of meeting life's challenges, both professional and personal. Lednicer, at 41, recently became a parent.

"For any of us who are working, both as a professional and a mom, trying to learn to balance everything, to meet all of those needs at the same time - you can identify with those challenges," Sergeant Pfender said.

John Sutton, the acting AEDC Execu¬tive Director, said that women have made tremendous gains over the years, but it is a journey that must continue.

"Significant progress has been achieved over the past couple of decades, but there's still more to do," he said, adding that Hillary Clinton's recent presidential bid, although unsuccessful, is paving the way for America's future.

"I think the prospect of having a woman as president is long overdue for this country," he said. "Democracies in other parts of the world have been led by great leaders such as Margaret Thatcher in the UK, Golda Mier in Israel and Indira Gandhi in India."

Sutton said he is encouraged by chang¬es in the workplace and in the political arena.

"I believe we're finally seeing women reach the top of many professions that were previously dominated by men," he said. "That's a very positive sign for our country's future, and I thought Lisa Lednicer had an inspiring message. It reminded me that you're never too old to open new doors and embark on new journeys."

Dr. David Elrod, ATA general manager at AEDC, agrees that women have made considerable progress, but not without overcoming ongoing gender-specific hurdles.

"Over the years, women have made significant gains across the workplace in general and at AEDC specifically," he said. "Women are now represented to some extent in essentially every aspect of our workforce. Even so, there are unique challenges, obstacles, and issues faced by women that cannot be ignored.

Lisa Lednicer's talk was right on target in maintain¬ing visibility toward those topics."

Lednicer got a chance to meet a wider spectrum of the center's work force and learn more about Arnold's mission - pro¬viding her with new insights - another opportunity she appreciated.

"I got a tour of the base yesterday and I saw a test today - on the Minuteman," she said. "The setting here is beautiful - it was interesting - all the testing and technology involved."

Lednicer said she enjoyed learning about Arnold's mission and how the ground testing done at the center has an impact that is unquestionably "world¬wide."

"I noticed that Col. Art Huber's chief of staff is a woman - Lt. Col. (Elaine) Posanka came up to me after my talk and we had a nice chat," Lednicer said. "She said, 'I see a lot of myself in you and know how important a supportive spouse is - there are still a lot of 'traditional' attitudes towards women and what they 'should' be doing.'"

Colonel Posanka said that the military has made great advances in providing career opportunities for women, including positions where women can take a more active role in combat, as well as combat support. However, she emphasized that having a supportive spouse was a terrific advantage, making service - especially deployments - survivable.

Lednicer made a point of looking for signs of diversity of among center em¬ployees.

"I was very impressed - I really saw that here," she said. "In my profession, there is not always as much diversity as we want - that's true in many professions, there isn't always a diverse workforce. Here I saw black officers and enlisted and lots of women in different roles."

Miriam Harris, AEDC's chief of mili¬tary personnel, is an African-American woman who has served as an Air Force officer and knows first-hand about the transformation in attitudes and opportu¬nities.

"I grew up in a military environment...so women were beginning to break ceil¬ings in the early 90s," she said. "Now, for my daughter and my little Girl Scout Troop, my hope is to have them see women in all sorts of roles, capable of achieving their goals."