Political pioneer to share story
Franklin helped pave way for women in D.C.
Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 00:02
Barbara Hackman Franklin, former Secretary of Commerce, will visit the Bush School on Tuesday to discuss her experiences as a woman in government and the book by Lee Stout, “A Matter of Simple Justice: The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and a Few Good Women.”
Franklin, a staff assistant in President Richard Nixon’s administration, is known for recruiting women for high-level government jobs — a first for the White House. Through Franklin’s efforts, the number of women in these high-level positions has nearly quadrupled.
For her presentation, Franklin said she would be discussing the book and its relevance today, even 40 years later.
“[I’ll discuss the] women appointees at that time who broke through barriers were put into jobs that women never held and they were successful,” Franklin said. “There are lessons in this for anyone today. This is hopefully a story that inspires women in this generation.”
Franklin said she believes “one person or a few people can really make a difference” and that college students today can learn a lot from the story she has to tell.
“I think it’s relevant because it’s an inspiring story and it demonstrates how important leadership is,” she said. “[Students here are] going to school and hopefully each and every one of [them] will be a leader. The women [of the book] were very supportive of one another — I would hope women today would also be supportive of one another.”
Through her time as an influential woman in government, Franklin said she learned that she enjoyed helping people through everything she did.
“I’ve certainly learned that public service is a noble calling and it is very gratifying,” Franklin said. “I hope more young people think of it. It’s part of any good life. It was enormously satisfying because I felt I was doing good.”
Macy Hurley, speaker pro tempore for Student Senate and junior political science major, said she plans on working in a legislative office in Austin when she graduates. She said Franklin’s efforts in the political world helped change the face of politics.
Hannah Weger, student services chair for Student Senate and junior political science and communication major, said she has been involved in government-related activities since high school. Women like Franklin, who get involved in government — local, federal or otherwise — are crucial because they can impact legislation that directly affect women, Weger said.
“I think it’s very important to have women involved in government,” she said. “A&M’s composition is about 52-48 women, so women take up half of the population. The goal of Student Senate is to represent the student population and it’s hard to not have women in that picture when we make up over half of the population.”
Because Franklin broke barriers both during and after Nixon’s administration, Weger said women could not only thank her for leading the way for women in politics, but also gain valuable lessons from her experiences.
“[Franklin was] coming up into an age when women in higher positions or governing roles was something that wasn’t as common,” Weger said. “She has a lot to teach us. She was just coming around that corner. Women today don’t necessarily have as large of a stigma, so it’s a motivational thing because if she can overcome the boundaries, then women have a greater chance of becoming involved and motivating others to get involved [in government].”
Franklin said she hopes students can take away, from her story, that being a leader is crucial.
“Leadership, wherever it happens to fall, really counts,” Franklin said. “Integrity counts, high ethical standards count and what you end up with is your reputation.”
The discussion will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the George Bush Presidential Library Center. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required and can be made at the Bush School website.