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Jewish World Review June 29, 2001 /8 Tamuz, 5761

Stanley Crouch

Amity Shlaes
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The soul and pluck of women are to this nation's development -- Two Manhattan events this week that included former President Bill Clinton in one instance and Oprah Winfrey in another should make us think about how important the soul and pluck of women are to this nation's development.

American women, more than the women of any other country, have helped to define modern life by their achievements in this freest of societies. In the worlds of politics, business, sports, art and so on, they have been central to furthering America's greatness. That is because this nation moves forward, for all its mistakes, through the challenges to its conventions that are raised by those who are excluded from at least a fair chance to win, lose or draw.

It was a female student named Sophia Velez who got Clinton to go to a high school graduation ceremony by hand-delivering an invitation to his home in Chappaqua. What other ex-President would have gotten up off his rusty dusty and gone to an event where students from the Professional Performing Arts School received their diplomas?

That is one reason Clinton, for all the ways he disturbed and disappointed the nation as he entangled it with his personal appetites, will continue to grow in stature now that he has left Washington. He can be touched by a student willing to believe he might respond. In our democracy, acknowledging the best dreams of others is part of reinforcing the resolve that betters this country on level after level.

Winfrey, whose importance to women of all colors and to this culture at large is probably greater than any woman's since Eleanor Roosevelt, brought her radiance to the graduation festivities of the Young Women's Leadership School, where she was keynote speaker.

Who could be a better choice? Winfrey has won just about every battle she has fought. But she has gone beyond what is expected even of someone with her special genius. She has become the populist driving force in American publishing, her book club guaranteeing the well-being of books just as the cynics were gleefully counting the printed word out, calling it a casualty laid low by other media.

Speaking to the 32 graduating girls, most of whom were black or Latino, Winfrey told them that excellence is the best weapon against all forms of prejudice. She was right. This graduating class all of whom are going on to college or the military took the position that not being distracted by boys had worked in their academic favor. That's significant, because civil liberty groups and feminist ideologues had raised the issue of bias against boys when this girls-only school was launched. The opponents' stuff got snuffed, as well it should have.

That a Jewish philanthropist, Ann Rubenstein Tisch, helped found this school is another example of farsighted alliances that function in the best interest of America. It is also further proof that the yahoos among us never gain much ground when faced with those for whom the development of our human potential is far more important than any exaggerated responses to our differences.

JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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03/16/01: Bush still has some pretty serious image problems he better address ASAP
03/09/01: Of gangsters, gangstas --- and spin

© 2001, NY Daily News