All hail Madame Senator. That is, Senator Dianne Feinstein. Visionary. Courageous. Bold. How quickly we forget the contributions of women and rarely mention them in news reports or history books. Even I, a feminist from the days of women’s marches led by Gloria Steinem, now celebrating 50 Years of Ms. (as noted by the new book) didn’t remember how Feinstein was swept into Congress in 1992 in what was called the “Year of the Woman”. Wow, do we need that year now. Feinstein was among the female legislators voted into Congress by the anger of women towards the men of both parties overseeing the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. It took 30 years to notice that this man confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice consistently denied the truth, while the woman is discredited and humiliating. Sound familiar?
Senator Feinstein, both powerful and committed to the truth and equality for all Americans, departs the world leaving a great legacy as a public servant. I know few may know how commanding and influential Senator Dianne Feinstein was for more than 45 years. The past year it seems that the media only reported on her age, her poor health and the calls for her to retire. And now she is gone. I wish there had been more written about her great accomplishments while she was alive. This country owes Senator Feinstein their respect. We will miss the senior senator of California for her courage in standing up for the issues that others chose to ignore.
If the history books were to include more women leaders, Feinstein would surely be acknowledged for her leadership - beginning with becoming the first female Mayor of San Francisco in 1978 and serving for 10 years during the tumultuous time after the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California. If you are too young to remember that time, watch the film “Milk” starring Sean Penn. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 and was reelected five times. Throughout her career she continued to break rules and make history, authoring the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban and becoming the first woman to chair the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. She fought against U.S. torture, even going against leaders in her own party.
As Maureen Dowd quoted Feinstein in her outstanding “New York Times” editorial (9/30/23), which reminded me of Feinsteins’s greatness: “The longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve seen the happiness of people, the stability that these commitments bring to a life. Many adopted children who would have ended up in foster care now have good solid homes and are brought up learning the difference between right and wrong.” Dianne Feinstein was an empathetic leader and a great leader who embodies the most important characteristics of great leaders: vision, presence, mindset, communication, relationship building courage and confidence.
Long live the memory of Senator Dianne Feinstein and shall more of us follow in her footsteps and her values.
--Leslie Grossman, Founder, Her Circle Leadership