Eleanor Smeal: Past NOW President
Founder and president of the Feminist Majority and former NOW President
I went on June 29 to my first National Conference. Rode there with Lorraine and Leela Petrie for which I am grateful.
Checking in was relatively uncomplicated, although not all the credentialing staff knew what they were doing. I heard on Saturday that I needed a star on my badge to vote and got it, but wondered why I didn't hear about that when I checked in on Friday. This is the sort of thing that everyone in the credentialing staff should have known from the beginning, although I voted a few times before Saturday and nobody questioned the lack of a star on my badge.
The plenary sessions were all quite interesting and thought provoking. We sat in areas designated for our region and the Mid-Atlantic region was right up front. I sat in the third row for most of the plenary sessions.
The plenary session which featured Eve Ensler's keynote speach was great. Her speech held everyone's attention for the duration.
I attended a few breakout sessions with mixed feelings. There was one on "Reproductive Justice: Messaging, Mobiloizing and Building a Stronger Movement" that I felt had no connection with reality. They suggested wording ones thoughts in certain ways to get the pro-choice message out. In my time as Clinic Defense Coordinator, I never met anyone who needed or would accept that message. The people with whom I came into contact were either pro-choice or staunch anti-choice. I never met anyone who needed to be persuaded or that could be persuaded.
In the "Modernizing NOW's Structure" sessions, members gave their opinions based on two questions: What do you like about NOW? and What do you not like about NOW?. We broke up into smaller groups which got input from everybody and then presented those ideas to the whole session. All of those ideas will be sent to the committee who are debating National bylaws changes. Hopefully, we'll all be asked to vote on those changes at the next National Conference.
Friday evening, I went out to dinner with Dea Evans, Michela Colosimo and Tina Lyons to G & M Restaurant. That place was VERY busy, but we got a table almost immediately and had some wonderful food. Their crabcakes are fantastic as are their calamari. Trouble was, there was no room for dessert. The hotel provided our transportation to the restaurant and back and we had a delightful time.
The hotel provided a free breakfast buffet for up to two people in a room. If there was a third person in the room, that person had to pay $10. That seemed a bit unfair. I was the only person in my room but I had 4 tickets for the buffet. Dea Evans was in a room with two other people so I passed on my extra 2 tickets to her. I feel that's something that National should have worked out better with the hotel.
When it got down to voting for the resolutions presented to the membership, those sessions dragged on and on and on and on. The first one was especially tiring. It was one sentence, "BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Organization for Women (NOW), at its annual conference in Baltimore, MD, enthusiastically urge the NOW/PAC to endorse the Obama/Biden ticket for reelection in 2012. I don't think anyone opposed that resolution, but the comments favoring its adoption went on, it seemed, for hours. Subsequently, it passed, and then someone had the idea to say that if a resolution had the need for opposing comment or any amendments, they would be entertained, but if not, we'd consider the resolution passed by acclamation. That motion passed and there were 2 or 3 resolutions that were passed without comment.
I enjoyed meeting some people from National whom I had known only by email, and even some members of the New Jersey delegation whom I hadn't met before.