On Thursday evening I attended the Ford Hall Forum's presentation of the 2008 Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award to Anita Hill, lawyer, civil rights activist, professor at Brandeis, and a living historical figure.
Prof. Hill's testimony against the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court opened the national dialog on sexual harassment law and civil rights in the workplace. This happened not too long ago; 1991 was within my own lifetime but I still learned about it in 8th grad civics. It is so easy to distance yourself from history. In my cushy white-collar workplace, most of my peers and I take for granted the ideas of equal pay and PC office decorum.
She was without question an inspiring speaker who shared her motivation and reflections in a frank and open manner, although she did demur from answering which Democratic presidential candidate she supported when prompted by the discussion moderator.
In her parting words to the audience, Prof. Hill said that she continues to be a public speaker because there is still work to be done, noting incidents such as the recent Ledbetter v. Goodyear case. It was an important reminder least we forget that the rights we enjoy today were won by those who fought before us, and that others can only share in those rights if we continue the fight.
If you'd like to listen to the presentation and discussion, you can find it at WGBH Free Online Lectures.
Photo courtesy of NOVA.org.