“It’s time for women to make their voices heard. Their silence on the subject of war and peace is deafening.” Helen Thomas.
I doubt that there is an Arab-American, or any DC Metro area resident, who has not heard of Helen Thomas. However, she deserves mention again and again for her marvelous contributions to the female journalists of the United States, as well as for her contributions to her Arab-American community. Born in Kentucky, Helen was the daughter of Lebanese immigrants. They arrived to the US at the turn of the twentieth century from a Lebanon that was in the throes of witnessing the end of the Ottoman Empire and the beginnings of a French Mandate.
Helen’s parents moved to Detroit, where she went to school and where she decided that journalism was her avocation. Maybe the immigrant experience played a role in that as she decided to speak for the voiceless, and stand up to the Powers-That-Be by questioning them relentlessly? From Kennedy to Obama, Helen carried on her mission of fearlessly speaking out. It was admirable and quite gutsy at that time to be so outspoken. Here are some of her sayings:
“I don’t think a tough question is disrespectful.”
“You don’t spread democracy through the barrel of a gun.”
“But when will our leaders learn – war is not the answer.”
Her actions and her words earned her numerous awards as the pioneer for women journalists and as a trailblazer for those women in the profession who came after she had “broken that glass ceiling,” so to speak. Maybe her most amazing quality was that she never forgot her Lebanese and Arab roots. In fact, her commitment to the Arab cause, and her outspoken expressions of that obligation, are what caused her, towards the end of her life, to be maligned by many in the world of journalism
In 1975, Helen was elected President of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner Association, which no woman had chaired before her. She was also the first female officer of the National Press Club. Moreover, she authored many books about her experiences.
Helen was 51 when she met and married Douglas Cornell. Another trailblazing event at the time, when women over a certain young age were considered “Unmarriageable.” The woman was certainly a terrific role-model. Douglas was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and died four years after that. Helen cared for him until he died, and lived for many years after that, dying at the age of 92.
The American nation that she loved mourned her, as did Washington DC in whose environs she would arrive to all her political convictions. Most of all though, she was mourned by the many women who admired, respected and loved her, and by the Arab-American community that will be eternally grateful for her life, courage and her many achievements.
In gratitude for this heroine of our community, please look her up for more information, and for the list of books that she has authored.
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