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The Nassau County League of Women Voters (LWV) recently held its 22nd Annual Women's History Month Celebration and Dinner at the George Washington Manor in Roslyn. The theme of the well-attended and festive event was "Making a Better World." Barbara Fairfax, Women's History Committee chair, presided.

The keynote speaker was Kathleen Rice, the first female district attorney in Nassau County. Rice said, "At first I don't think I understood the historical significance. It wasn't until an hour or two after the election when they all wanted to know how it felt to be the first woman DA in Nassau that it dawned on me." She added, "I am incredibly proud and humble and I feel so fortunate to be home where I grew up and to be able to affect so many lives."

Rice, who was introduced by LWV-Nassau President Riza Laudin told the predominantly, but not exclusively, female audience, "I want to talk about the contribution of women. We are arguably a superior species, but we love men and we thank you for supporting us." Rice said that the woman she admired most was her own mother, who passed away about a year ago. Rice said, "To me the greatest woman contributed so much to the world without running for office or earning a million dollars on Wall Street. She gave birth 10 times and her children were her contribution." She added that both her parents were very progressive. "There was no distinction in the Rice household between the boys and the girls. We were all expected to go on to college and have a career and give back to the community." Rice added that her mother, who was born in 1927, had a career before she married.

Rice, who has been criticized for some of her decisions regarding women in the district attorney's office (for example, eliminating part-time litigation positions), pointed out that she has appointed the first two female executives that the office has ever had, which she called a "significant step." She added that half of the bureau chiefs are now women. She discussed some of the major issues that her office is focusing on, among them DWI, which she said is "nothing short of an epidemic in Nassau County." She added, "Too many people are dying. There is no more significant fight than this one." Rice also talked about identity theft and danger to children on the Internet." She said, "I am dedicated to the most vulnerable-the seniors and the children."

Rice summarized by urging the participants to "make the people you elect accountable to you." She concluded, "I serve the community in the best way that I know how. Let me be the kind of public official that the taxpayers want."

LWV-Nassau gave awards to the Interfaith Nutrition Network, which began in 1983 as a single soup kitchen and has grown into the a multi-service agency, the largest of its kind in Nassau County; ERASE Racism, a regional organization dedicated to promoting racial equity in housing, public school education and healthcare; and Círculo de la Hispanidad, which provides a wide range of comprehensive services to underserved communities on Long Island. The awards were accepted respectively by Jean Kelly, INN president; Elaine Gross, ERASE president; and Gil Bernardino, Círculo Hispano's executive director. Individual honorees included Patricia Wood, founder and executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education and a visiting Scholar at Adelphi University; Sarah J. Meyland, Esq., a longtime environmental activist who helped to write environmental law and is currently director of the Center for Water Resources Management; and Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. Tyson told the Port News, "This is the first time I've received an award, and I'm very excited about it." All of the honorees and the organizations with which they are affiliated certainly represent the theme of LWV's Women's History Month celebration: "Making a Better World."

Shirley Romaine, actress and TV host of Artscene Long Island, read a number of inspirational poems by and about women, including a wonderful one by Nikki Giovanni. Romaine also talked about Carrie Chapman Catt, the founder of the League of Women Voters, who, she said, "Traveled the country to educate women on how they could empower themselves." After the women got the vote, Romaine told the group, "She turned to revulsion at the carnage of World War I." Chapman Catt focused her attention on anti-war activities, saying "We have to act. God is giving us the power to say to men, 'No, you shall no longer kill." Romaine commented, "She did not stop another war, but she tried;" adding, "She is one of our most remarkable forebears."

Proclamations were presented on behalf of the Town of North Hempstead by Councilman Fred Pollack, then-clerk Michelle Schimel (now State Assemblywoman) and then-Councilman Wayne Wink (now Nassau County Legislator).

Fairfax, an accomplished singer and a relatively new member of the LWV, commented afterwards, "I am very pleased. We accomplished all our goals, and people tell me this is the most successful Women's History Month event ever. I didn't do it by myself. I had a wonderful committee, which included a representative from each of the seven chapters."

LWV-Nassau comprises seven local leagues: Port Washington-Manhasset, Central Nassau, Greater Five Towns, Great Neck, Greater Westbury, East Nassau, and Long Beach. For more information, see their web site at http://www.lwvofnassaucounty.org/ or call 516-431-1628.


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