Global Summit spotlight shines on first ladies


Anna Malesiewski, Features Editor

The Jefferson Educational Society held a panel discussion about first ladies and their roles throughout history at Gannon University on Monday night as part of the Global Summit — a series in which experts from around the world speak on a broad range of social and political issues.

The discussion, held in the Yehl Ballroom, featured panelists Anita McBride, former assistant to 43rd President George W. Bush and chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush, Stacy Cordery, author and professor of history at Iowa State, and Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at University of Virginia, who joined virtually.

Steve Scully, longtime Global Summit chairman and senior vice president of communications for the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington D.C., was the panel moderator.

The First Ladies Associattion for Research and Education (FLARE), American University and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine sponsored the panel. FLARE is a newly launched initiative headed by McBride, with assistance from Cordery

“It is our goal that FLARE will spark interest in an examination of the role these women performed in the White House, and in American society, and how first ladies are not only a mirror of their times but have been leaders on issues of national importance,” McBride said.

The panel was one of the first in-person events the Jefferson Society has held since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Ben Speggen, the organization’s vice president.

“We’re glad to have folks back — it’s been a long time since we’ve had a chance to see them in person,” Speggen said.

“So, we’ve seen a lot of family races at the Jefferson Educational Society.”

2020’s Global Summit was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2021’s earlier event was held virtually.

However, the 2020 lineup agreed to continue to hold their involvement in the series in 2021, thus allowing for the Global Summit XIII Series.

Safety is of utmost importance to the Jefferson Educational Society. Attendees were required to either be fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test.

The speakers discussed first ladies such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Laura and Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama and talked about their roles within their husbands’ administrations.

Cordery said that holding events like this and discussing first ladies is important in maintaining their legacies.

“Almost none of this is written down in the history books,” Cordery said.

“Maybe a handful of first ladies have been mentioned, and I want to be sure no one forgets the work of these very important women.”